Expect all guns blazing as Sylvester Stallone and his crew of ageing mercenaries are back in the explosive The Expendables 2.

Co-written by Stallone himself there’s hand to hand combat, shooting, exploding vehicles, a helicopter crash and a boat chase – and that’s just the intro. This instalment sees the muscular ensemble that features Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews and Jet Li, reunite on a revenge fuelled mission against a greedy villain played by Jean-Claude Van Damme. The heavy weight cast also includes cameos from Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger while Liam Hemsworth is the new kid on the block as a serious ex-army soldier trying to make a few bucks.

The plot is full of cliches and unlikely coincidences, with characters frequently turning up in the right place just in the nick of time. But The Expendables 2 never takes itself too seriously, with plenty of one liners that nod to classic action movies and poke fun at the age of the leading stars – ‘I don’t get this back, you’re terminated’, Crews threatens Schwarzenegger in one of the movies most memorable lines.

The action is unrelenting but not repetitive and, as it powers along, The Expendables 2 needs a rolling death toll at the bottom of the screen just to keep track of all the bodies. But the action easily walks the tightrope between silly and serious, and as Jet Li slams a whole gang of baddies with a frying pan there’s a glance at the camera that invites the audience to smile.

The Expendables 2 is what it is, concentrating on entertaining its audience with action, one liners and surprise encounters, rather than getting tied up in complicated plot developments. With its experienced and professional cast, the characters become appealing rather than cheesy, without indulging in distracting backstories, making for a team the audience roots for.

If you want to see the finest action this year has offered, wait for The Raid’s dvd release later this month, but for pure action fun, The Expendables 2 is the next movie ticket you should buy.

VERDICT: ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪

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