If Jason Bourne didn't take himself so seriously, he would have fit in with the RED crew. If the Expendables worried more about stories and less about resurrecting dead careers, it would resemble the RED series.
I would much rather see Bruce Willis continue in the role of Frank Moses over John
McClain. Willis definitely brings it when he can be himself. I can buy that he is a retired spy more so then an un-killable cop. At least here, there is implied training and experience that would back up a man's resilience. Dealing in international espionage carries a lot more weight than issuing traffic tickets and interviewing witnesses. The best thing about Bruce Willis though is that he is always best when he is playing up his Die Hard roots. He is not a fantastic actor, but has an un-replicated charm and personality.
His co-stars do their jobs. Although an ensemble cast, it is still Frank Moses we care most about. He is the Alpha of the group. Returning to join him is Marvin, played by John Malkovich. Marvin has lost a bit of his quirky edge. In the first film he was basically a militant with a tinfoil hat, in this one he is serving up relationship advice and does not seem to be a loose cannon. This is perhaps to serve Anthony Hopkins quirks.
Don't look for Lecter here. Seeing Hopkins play a comedic part took some getting used to, but as his role progressed it made perfect sense. Helen Mirren does a fine job as the MI6 operative Victoria. Her character has more balls than most young male characters in action movies these days. There are not many above 50 actresses that could have pulled this off. Mary-Louise Parker as Sarah is the least interesting of the main ensemble. She does what she has to do, but she had no back story. We are two movies deep learning about Frank and Co's past, but we get nothing new for Sarah. Byuung-hun Lee has the most action-oriented role. As an antagonist, he serves the same purpose that Karl Urban's guy did in the first movie. Catherine Zeta-Jones also shows up and looks good. She looks really young and perhaps someone who shows a bit more age would be better suited for her role.
The action is just as intense as the first, with some surprising violence served up with reckless abandon. The fight scenes were tight and chaotic. They were quite over the top and expensive. The car chase has some great moments. The cinematography looked great, the locations were well picked. The director did a good job keeping the action in tighter frames rather than panoramic shots.
The comedy was also in high doses. You never had to worry or reflect, you just got to be entertained by violence, or humour. There was no point where I had to gasp for air or anything, but it was amusing. It does lose some of it's charm from the first one simply because the first was the introduction to this world. Here we get a casual visit back into it, but don't really get to stay for dinner.
To be honest, I am not well versed in this universe. In preparation for the screening I had to watch the first film the day prior. I am aware it is adapted from a DC comics property, but that is it. I do not recognize the director, or even recall reading an article about the movies production. So with my mind being as fresh as it is, I could safely recommend this series. Also, if for whatever reason you are dragged into the theater without seeing the first, you aren't missing much in back story aside from how Frank and Sarah met.