The action-powerhouse known as €˜The Expendables II′ hit theaters Friday, August 17, 2012, and reunited everyone′s favorite action stars to once again save the day. The previous film posted relatively successful numbers, topping $100 million domestically, but considering its hefty $80 million budget, it ended up being a trade off. The first film was widely liked by audiences and continued to do well in the foreign market.

Its sequel opened at $28 million, which missed the $34 million mark set by its predecessor. Interestingly, €˜Expendables II′, while an enjoyable film, is not quite the marvel that the previous film managed to be.

€˜Expendables II′ starts in a crime-infested city in Nepal where the titular Expendables kick in the doors to rescue a client. After a spectacular opening sequence, riddled with violence and fantastic fight scenes, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and company rescue Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and a Chinese millionaire before escaping their pursuers.

Like the previous film, Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Hael Caesar (Terry Crews), and Toll Road (Randy Couture) are in tow. However, this time around there are two changes: Yin leaves right after the rescue and we meet Billy (Liam Hemsworth), an ex-Army sniper.

The crew returns to the states to celebrate their successful mission and Billy tells Barney he′ll go with them on one more mission before quitting to stay with his girlfriend in Paris. Barney then runs into Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), who is annoyed that the Expendables stole $5 million from him and killed a rogue CIA agent in the previous film, but he kept them out of jail because he wanted to use them later as a favor.

He orders them to retrieve the contents of a safe that were in a plane that was shot down. He also sends an expert safe cracker named Maggie (Yu Nan) to get the safe open. Barney reluctantly agrees and the team heads out on the mission.

They reach the plane and crack the safe, retrieving a miniature device with the blueprint to a mine full of plutonium. However, they are intercepted by Jean Vilain (Jean Claude Van Damme), who ransoms off Billy in exchange for the device. After they give it up, Vilain kills Billy and leaves. Barney and the crew are devastated and angry so they swear to kill Vilain before he can sell the plutonium to his buyers.

Like the first film, €˜Expendables II′ delivers on the high-octane action and impressive fight sequences. Each man pulls his weight in delivering the pain to the bad guys with absolutely no regrets whatsoever. It bears mentioning that initially, Chuck Norris wanted the film to be PG-13, but Stallone decided to keep in form with the first film′s R-rating and it is much appreciated. There are plenty of amazing actors and martial artists present that help make this cast one of the best in action movie history.

It is a welcomed sight to see Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis together, especially since there are a ton of in-jokes and film references flying back and forth between them. Additionally, Chuck Norris pops in twice to prove why he is one of the ultimate Internet memes and is a wonderful addition to the cast. Van Damme also proves the years have not taken away his ability to chew scenery and kick the crap out of anyone in his way.

However, while €˜Expendables II′ is tons of fun, it has its share of problems. The first is the death of Billy. The franchise is not shy about poking fun at 1980′s and 1990′s clichés, but it still falls prey to one of the big no-no′s in the writing world. That is, do not introduce a character only to kill them off twenty minutes into the film.

It is unfair to the character, the audience, and the plot itself. There were plenty of other ways to make a revenge plot without killing off Billy. It felt cheap and did not have much of an impact, since he only had about fifteen lines of dialogue.

Secondly, the CG was sub-par. The most noticeable instances were the fake blood spatters that erupted from bad guys when shot and the jungle scenes, which were badly rendered eyesores. The first film had a small problem with these effects but it got worse with this sequel because they used more effects that were not of high quality.

Thirdly, the dialogue is very hit-or-miss. The first film did not have brilliant dialogue, but it was serviceable and made better by one truly amazing scene from Mickey Rourke, who was sadly absent from this movie. There are several times where the characters are talking for little to no reason and their jokes are not very funny.

Lastly, the absences of Jet Li and Mickey Rourke are upsetting because both characters brought excellent energy in the first movie. Li′s interactions with Lundgren were hilarious and endearing. His disappearance is abrupt and it leaves a hole in the group. While Rourke′s part was small in €˜The Expendables,’ he is still sorely missed.

Overall, €˜Expendables II′ does what it set out to do, but it does not surpass the first one in terms of quality. Still, if ever there was an epic action film to see this fall, check it out.

Grade: 3.5/5