The Expendables 2 is a 2012 American ensemble action film directed by Simon West and written by Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone, based on a story by Ken Kaufman, David Agosto and Wenk. It is a sequel to the 2010 action film The Expendables, and stars Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film follows the mercenary group The Expendables as they undertake a seemingly simple mission that evolves into a quest for revenge against Jean Vilain, a rival mercenary that has murdered one of their own, and who threatens the world with a deadly weapon.
Principal photography took place over 14 weeks beginning in September 2011 on an estimated $100 million budget, with filming occurring in Bulgaria, Hong Kong and New Orleans. Controversy arose over environmental damage caused during filming in Bulgaria, and the accidental death of a stuntman. Brian Tyler returned to score the film.
The film was released across Europe on August 16, 2012, followed by a North American release on August 17. A tie-in downloadable video game was released on July 31, 2012, that served as a prequel to the events of the film.
The Expendables are deployed to Nepal in order to rescue a Chinese businessman. The team consists of leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), former SAS soldier and blades specialist Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), martial artist Yin Yang (Jet Li), weapons specialist Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), demolitions expert Toll Road (Randy Couture), and snipers Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) and Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), the group’s youngest and newest member. The mercenaries rescue the businessman, as well as Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Ross’s rival. Yang accompanies the businessman in his return to China, and temporarily departs from the group.
Afterwards, Ross is forced to accept a mission from Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) to retrieve an item from a safe from an airplane that was shot down in Albania. The team, accompanied by tech genius Maggie (Yu Nan), retrieve the item from the airplane. However, their victory is short-lived. Billy is captured by Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), who demands the item in return for Billy’s life. The Expendables surrender the item, however Vilain roundhouse kicks the knife into Billy’s heart anyway and leaves. Billy survives just long enough to ask Barney to look in his pocket. Barney finds and reads aloud the letter meant for Billy’s girlfriend. The group buries Billy and swears revenge on Vilain. Maggie reveals the item on the plane was a computer containing a blueprint to an abandoned Soviet Union mine which stores five tons of plutonium. Vilain, along with his right-hand man Hector (Scott Adkins), intends to retrieve the plutonium and sell it.
The team decides to travel to the mines, stopping at an abandoned military base where they spend the night. The next morning, the team are ambushed by Vilain’s army, the Sangs. Fortunately, the Sangs are quickly eliminated by Booker (Chuck Norris) single-handed, who departs the group shortly afterwards. Before departing, Booker informs the group about a nearby village with residents who are against Vilain. As they enter the village, the group discovers a number of armed female villagers who are guarding their children. The women tell the mercenaries that the men of the village have been taken to work at the mine and never return to their families. Eventually, the Sangs arrive to take more villagers, but the team successfully kills all of them, saving the village. The group stages a surprise attack on Vilain at the mine, crashing their plane into the caves. Vilain detonates a set of explosions that buries the team and the miners underground. After Jensen attempts an unsuccessful escape, Trench and Church arrive to rescue the mercenaries and the miners trapped in the mine. The miners are reunited with their families while the Expendables pursue Vilain.
Church, Maggie, Booker, and Trench say their goodbyes to Ross, with Church giving an ancient Soviet biplane to Ross (as a replacement of the team’s destroyed airplane). The group leaves a large sum of money to Sophia (Nikolette Noel), Billy’s French girlfriend, as well as a picture of Billy and Billy’s final letter to Sophia. As the team departs in the plane, the Expendables give a final toast in honor of Billy.
- Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross:
- The leader of the Expendables. Stallone insisted on performing his own stunts, ignoring the advice of his doctor following several surgeries to repair a neck injury and broken back he had received while filming The Expendables.
- Jason Statham as Lee Christmas:
- The Expendables’ knife expert. Statham described his character as “kind of a workingman’s hero… a guy you’d want to go out and have a beer with.”
- Jet Li as Yin Yang:
- The Expendables’ hand-to-hand combat expert.
- Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen:
- A volatile member of the Expendables, nearly undone by years of combat stress and alcohol abuse. Lundgren’s personal history including his chemical engineering degree were integrated into the character’s story by Stallone. Lundgren had been hesitant to participate in the film based on the first script draft, but rewrites and additional content for his character altered his stance
- Chuck Norris as Booker:
- A retired military operative on a mission to save his old teammates. The character’s name is a homage to the 1978 action film Good Guys Wear Black in which Norris portrays the character John T. Booker. At one point of the movie, Booker claims to have been bitten by a cobra which subsequently died as a result, a reference to the famous “Chuck Norris facts.”
- Jean-Claude Van Damme as Jean Vilain:
- The leader of an opposing team of mercenaries, and a former member of the French Foreign Legion. Van Damme had previously been offered a role in The Expendables but failed to come to an agreement with Stallone and ultimately never took part. Van Damme was intentionally distant from the cast and crew during filming to stay in character. Commenting on the role, Stallone said: “We’ll have a big showdown between me and Van Damme, which has been anticipated for a long time, so it should be a good one.
- Bruce Willis as Mr. Church:
- A secretive Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent. In late August 2010, Stallone stated his interest in having Willis return for a role in the sequel – expanding upon his brief cameo in the original – potentially as a “super villain”. Willis was confirmed to be involved in a “substantial” role on September 6, 2011. Commenting on the film, Willis said: “Hopefully, they’ll start shooting it while we’re young enough to survive.”
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trench:
- Ross’ arch-rival and occasional ally. Stallone noted his intention to have Schwarzenegger return for a sequel before the release of The Expendables, stating: “If this works, I would love to get him in the next one”. Schwarzenegger’s involvement was confirmed on September 6, 2011, his “substantial” role expanding on his cameo in the original film. Schwarzenegger filmed his scenes in 4 days.
- Terry Crews as Hale Caesar:
- The Expendables’ barrel-weapons specialist.
- Randy Couture as Toll Road:
- The Expendables’ demolitions expert. Couture described the character as “the glue that holds all of these dysfunctional guys together”.
- Liam Hemsworth as Billy the Kid:
- A former military sniper disenchanted after serving in Afghanistan. Hemsworth was confirmed for the role on September 19, 2011. Hemsworth had been cast in the previous film in a similar role as a different character,
but his role was ultimately written out of the script. Stallone remained in contact with Hemsworth and offered him a role in the sequel when production moved forward. Stallone described the character as the next generation of The Expendables who is not as “cynical as the other team members”.
Martial artist Scott Adkins portrays Hector, Vilain’s right hand man. Adkins had also been offered a role in the original film, but turned it down for Undisputed III: Redemption. Yu Nan portrays Chinese agent Maggie. The cast is rounded out by Charisma Carpenter reprising her role as Christmas’s girlfriend Lacy; Swedish actress Amanda Ooms as Pilar, a sniper; and Nikolette Noel as Sophia, Billy’s girlfriend. Professional tennis player Novak Djokovic cameos as himself. He was invited to participate by producer Avi Lerner.
Several actors were reported to be in talks to appear in the sequel at various stages of its development. In October 2010, Willis claimed that Steve Austin would be returning to the series as villain Dan Paine. In November 2010, Charlie Sheen was reported to be in consideration for the role of a CIA agent hunting down Willis’ character. In August 2011, Variety reported that actor, and expert martial-artist, Donnie Yen had been offered a role in the film. The role was a condition of a partnership between Nu Image/Millennium Films and an unnamed Chinese distributor that would see the distributor becoming a producer on the film in exchange for a Chinese actor being cast. The partnership was also considered to make a Chinese release of the film easier to achieve. Jackie Chan had been offered a role but was forced to turn it down due to his scheduling conflict with Chinese Zodiac. In September 2011, Stallone confirmed that he was in talks with Nicolas Cage and John Travolta, claiming the only obstacle to their involvement would be scheduling. In July 2011, Mickey Rourke was stated to be reprising his role as Tool, but by late September it was reported that he had dropped out of the film, and by October 18, 2011, this status was confirmed. Antonio Banderas was reportedly offered a role but was unable to participate due to other commitments.
On his approach to casting, Stallone explained that he was looking particularly for actors who had not experienced recent significant success in film, saying: “I like using people that had a moment and then maybe have fallen on some hard times and give them another shot. So we’re always looking for actors like Michael Biehn and Michael Paré. I like those kinds of guys. Someone did it for me and I like to see if I can do it for them