When Sylvester Stallone dreamt up the original EXPENDABLES film, it was designed to be a throwback to the cheesy 80's shoot-'em-up spectacles that were low on plot and character and high on action and adrenaline and combine many of cinema's greatest (or at least somewhat famous) action stars in one film, and it succeeded in some ways and failed in others. The biggest problem that I had with the original is that there were too many patented Stallone-As-Screenwriter moments when he tried to make the film more serious than it EVER needed to be. But when the action was on, it was really glorious to watch all of the over-the-top silliness explode like a Wile E. Coyote cartoon on crank. Fortunately we're treated to much more of that silliness and much less of the seriousness in the Simon West (CON AIR, LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER) directed EXPENDABLES 2.
As the film opens with a terrific opening set piece of an assault on a fortified bunker, we are reintroduced to our team of Expendables: Barney (Stallone, not losing a step), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham, he of the mighty chin and eternal 5-O'Clock-Shadow), Gunnar (Dolph Lundgren, who's gone from potential villain to one of the good guys again), Yin Yang (Jet Li, still short), Caesar (Terry Crews and his loud auto-shotgun), Toll Road (Randy Couture... who's barely there), and the new kid on the block, Billy (Liam Hemsworth). The whole opening sequence is an orgy of heads and limbs popping off, kung-fu butt-kicking, geysers of digital blood, and big BIG explosions. It also reveals another bit player with a much larger role in this film, and that is the character of Trench, played by none other than the former Governator himself, looking to get back into film in a big (and fun) way. After a brief interlude, Yin Yang departs the film for... really no particular reason, and they're down a man. When they arrive home, Barney in confronted by the mysterious Company man Mr. Church (played with much more relish this time around by Bruce Willis), who orders his merry band to go and intercept a "package" that's been lost in a plane crash in a faraway land. Church also insists that one of his people, Maggie (the lovely and lethal Nan Yu, whose only other "major" Hollywood role was in SPEED RACER), goes along for the ride in order to secure the package. Before you can say "Time for the big villain entrance", it's time for the big villain entrance, and that is in the personage of Vilain (yes, that's his character's name) as portrayed by Jean-Claude Van Damme (clearly having a good time playing the bad guy). Vilain and his crew rather shockingly kill one member of the team, and that leads our Expendables on a path to vengeance. Vilain leads a vicious group of mercenaries and other cut-throat types whose current objective is to steal five tons of old Soviet weapons-grade Plutonium and sell it to the highest bidders. Church, Trench and another player who appears on the board named Booker (Chuck Norris, playing up his "Lone Wolf" image... get it? "Lone Wolf"?) all come together to take down Vilain and his operation and his seeminlgly endless parade of cannon fodder.
Basically everything that was good about the first film is better here. West has a much better and more dynamic style than Stallone does when it comes to having some flair about the action sequences. The film also knows when to lay off the more serious moments to create more forward momentum. Some may find this to be a disservice to the character, but believe me, if this film had gotten bogged down in this death and the reflection/meditation on life and death that the first film had, it would have done the film a greater disservice. The whole cast, particularly the old-timers, seem to be having a really good time here, even if some of them have less to do because of the inclusion of Schwarzenegger, Willis and Norris getting in on the action. The second act does plod on a little, but the film, coming in at a brisk 103 minute run-time, doesn't allow the film to plod for very long.
The other thing that is much more evident in this film is its self-awareness. This film, unlike the first film, is VERY aware that it takes place in "Action Movie/Video Game Land", as opposed to a semi-realistic setting. Just look at the opening sequence; the good guys fire their weapons with unfailing accuracy as they travel at fifty miles per hour while the throngs of bad guys couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. The sea-plane used in the first film has been retrofitted into an airborne tank. In the second act, one man is able to take down a few dozen bad guys AND a tank in a matter of about seven seconds. By the third act, you have our heroes crashing planes into the ground with no real consequences, drilling machines coming out of nowhere, and people RIPPING THE DOORS OFF CARS. This same idea also applies to the character motivations and dialogue: Vilain is evil because he's the villain and he knows it (It's in his name, for God's sakes), and even has the line "No loose ends" at one point. The good guys are super-quipping machines. Willis and Schwarzenegger share a scene where they throw each other's movie catch-phrases in their faces. This film has abandoned all pretense of reality and that makes it work SO much better than the first film. It's also a real thrill for those of us action fans who were coming of age in the 80's to see Sly, Bruce, Ahnuld, and Chuck killing dozens of bad guys together. The only notable absence from the first film is that of Mickey Rourke, who, admittedly wasn't much of an action star anyway, unless you want to count HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN or the Van Damme/Dennis Rodman action film DOUBLE TEAM. I think those films are better off forgotten, though, don't you?
The best sequels are the ones that learn from the mistakes of the previous films and improve on what made the original entertaining in the first place, and THE EXPENDABLES 2 absolutely does all of that and ends up being one of the more entertaining, if least substantial, films of the summer.
on January 27, 2013
Simon West (most noted as the screen writer of 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider') brings us the second instalment of 'The Expendables' franchise.
The film is a 'Who's-Who' action movie, featuring nearly every action hero from the last two decades, such as: Stallone, Statham, Lundgren, Li, Schwarzenegger and Willis all reprising their roles for this entertaining sequel. Completing the line-up is the legendary Chuck Norris making a great cameo appearance as the lone wolf.
Ross (Stallone) is approached by CIA man Mr Church (Willis), who calls in his favour and tasks 'The Expendables' to go to the former Soviet Union to retrieve something that was on a crashed plane. The team find the package but are then ambushed and have their sniper killed by the aptly named Vilain (Van Damme), who leads a group called 'The Sangs'. And so begins a chase to stop Vilain find the buried plutonium and sell it - with some great battles and climaxes. This film is not meant to be taken seriously and the one-liners set the movie off perfectly.
As reviewed in the February 2013 issue of An Cosantóir (The Defender) The Irish Defence Forces Magazine by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald - dfmagazine.ie - military.ie
on April 6, 2014
The Expendables was supposed to be a throwback to 80's and 90's action films, but for whatever reason has always looked like something that, due to budget and location, was meant for the DTV world. Lame jokes. Stiff acting. Dumbed-down plots. You say, isn't that what 80's and 90's action movies were known? Well, sure, but they did them in a way that wasn't self-parody. The Expendables IS self-parody and this latest entry was an abomination. Avi Lerner is the King of Low-Budget DTV fare and has brought that over to theatrically released films. This was a perfect action cast thrust into a poorly plotted, truncated time-wise (90 min or so for that many characters?), lop-sided film. The draw was Jean-Claude Van Damme going up agains Sly Stallone. A "love letter to martial arts fans" as Stallone was quoted as saying. Well, a six minute end fight, poorly doubled and choreographed with Van Damme is hardly a "love letter." The rest of the movie is okay, but the groans really come with the most thrown together, incoherent ending I've seen. All these beloved action heroes quoting each other's famous lines from other movies, many badly timed, and one lame joke after another. Action fans deserved better. Only the insanely large cast gets this 3 stars. As a movie, it probably is 1-2 stars. The blu-ray has minimal extras. If you want to see what extras should be like, pick up the director's cut of the first film.
on November 12, 2013
Look, the appeal of this film could not be any more obvious. But if you're somehow, for whatever psychotic reason, on the fence about seeing it, just read this paragraph and answer the question that follows:
Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis walk into a room with lots of things that can explode. They shoot everything in the room while cracking amusing one-liners at each other, quite a few in-jokes, and totally absurd noise and action. Jean-Claude Van Damme has a one-on-one showdown with Stallone at one point.
I just described exactly what the point of this movie is in three sentences. There is nothing else that needs to be said. So, ask yourself, does this scenario appeal to you, or are you of such astoundingly poor judgment that you expected something different, much in the same way someone looking at a clear day would expect a sky colored something other than blue? If yes, great. Ignore everyone else and go see it, you'll be entertained. If not, you're so narcissistic you never would have liked this film to begin with at any point, and your ego is eating itself if you give this film a poor review on grounds it never promised in the first place.
The only real problem in this film is that it's lacking in the Jet Li department. Which is really unfortunate, as he was great in the first one. Not sure what happened there, but he's not around for most of the film, which sort of sucks. So if you're here to see Li and to not see him would make you cry regardless of anything else, you should not watch this film.
That's as deep as it goes. If you saw it by choice, then you expected correctly what the film was going to deliver all along. If you expected differently, short of being deceived by someone else who lied about what the COVER was about, then it's very likely that you're suffering from a severe psychosis and could benefit from treatment. You're also probably a harsh critic of the Transformers films and referred to them as "dumb action flicks" as an insult. This is an added indication that you should never review anything, ever again, because you've failed to develop the basic cognitive ability to know that people can enjoy exactly those films, and your opinion on movies may as well be a review on how provolone cheese is better than Swiss cheese. It's just as valid, really.