Monday, August 20, 2012

Explosions! Gunfire! One-Liners! Chuck Norris!: Andrew's Review of "The Expendables 2" (2012)

Directed By: Simon West (Con Air)
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jean Claude Vanne Damme, name an action star from the past 30 years and he’s probably in this
Rating: R for strong bloody violence throughout
Run Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Synopsis: Barney Ross (Stallone) and his crew of mercenaries, The Expendables, are called into action and sent to Bulgaria to recover sensitive information that went down with a plane. When they run into a competing mercenary named Vilain (Van Damme) and their mission goes awry, Ross and his boys go looking for vengeance.
Sarah: Andrew is still away on work,but did he got the chance today to see The Expendables 2, starring just about every big action star of the 1980s and 90s with Liam Hemsworth thrown in for good measure. I mean they have to throw at least one young actor in there to get some of the younger crowd. This is not a movie that I will be seeing, one because I didn't see the first and two because it just doesn't really appeal to me.
But, Andrew, you've seen the first one and thought it was a fun action movie. What did you think of this new one?
Andrew: It was exactly what I was expecting. It was bigger, louder, bloodier and more explosive than the first one, often times in quite ridiculous ways, and I enjoyed it for that! To be quite honest the first film is altogether forgettable after you've seen it other than Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV) blowing the top half of some dude away with a big-ass gun. And I feel like it'll be the same for me for this sequel. But there are a lot of enjoyable moments in it.
S: Since this movie has such a massive cast: Sylvester Stallone (Rocky), Statham (The Transporter), Jet Li (Hero), Lundgren, Chuck Norris (of Chuck Norris Facts fame), Jean Claude Van Damme (Bloodsport), Bruce Willis (Die Hard), Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator). Did you find that it was too much or did it fit with the theme of the film?
A: It actually wasn't bad to follow all the characters and their stuff at all. Stallone's Barney Ross is the head honcho and gets the most screen-time, Statham's Lee Christmas comes in second as his right-hand man, and then the Terry Crews/Dolph Lundgren/Randy Couture trio kinda just hang in the background and get the occasional one-liner or kill. Much like the first movie they don't do much important stuff. An actress I had never heard of before, Nan Yu, plays Maggie - a new addition to the crew for the mission they go on. I liked the different elements she brought to the group, though her character development wasn't too strong. (Wait...none of the character development is very strong, who am I kidding?!)
For a lot of the movie it's actually just these five (plus Jason Statham), and that's not necessarily a bad thing. From left: Nan Yu, Terry Crews, Sly Stallone, Randy Couture, & Dolph Lundgren
Willis and Schwarzenegger get far more screen-time this go-around and that was a plus. It's certainly more than just a cameo for both of them unlike the first film. But they're only towards the beginning and end so they don't muck things up too much. Van Damme does a good job as the villain, aptly named Vilain (GET IT?), and his acting has never been strong but I liked him for what he brought here. His motivations are quite clear: he wants to get this plutonium buried in Bulgaria and sell it for loads of money. Quite simply really.
The main things with the actors that stood out to me are these things though: Jet Li and Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) get the least amount of screen-time. I was equally surprised and not surprised by this. And know what? I just realized this but Jet Li is only in the very beginning of the film! He has a pretty sweet fight where he kicks ass with some frying pans and then he's GONE. Never to be seen again, no explanation why. That kinda bugs me in hindsight. Hemsworth does fine with his limited time, I see why they brought him in, but he just didn't do a whole lot for me. I much prefer his older brother in terms of acting, particularly in stuff like this.
But the best part was Chuck Norris. Hands down his character, Booker, is the coolest part of the film. He's a lone wolf who shows up only when the Expendables really need him and he's always accompanied by the theme song from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. He gets an incredibly high kill count for his limited screen time and it's totally worth it.
I guess to answer your question, the plot doesn't matter. It's just fun to see these actors all get together and blow crap up.
S: It sounds like there's not much of a storyline to this movie. I'm glad you enjoyed it for the mindless action movie that it is. Since there isn't a ton of redeeming qualities to this movie, how do you think that the director gets all these famous actors to be in this franchise?
A: What do you mean there’s no redeeming quality here? There's a storyline, but it's totally secondary to the point of the films. And that's to round up all these action stars and just make a self-referential and over-the-top action film for the fun of it. They're not taking it seriously at all (for 99% of the film at least).
Liam Hemsworth plays the new addition to The Expendables, Billy the Kid. Isn't he dreamy, ladies? Well don't go see this just for him. He gets the second to least amount of screentime.
So what it really is is Sylvester Stallone asking his buddies and other famous action stars from year's past to join him in making a film reminiscent of the ones they all used to make. Statham is really the only one still making these things on a regular basis, though Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis all have some action films coming out in the next year.
Simon West, the director, really had no part in gathering all the players. It was Stallone, since the whole idea was his baby. He wrote and directed the first one, and co-wrote this one as well. So it was pretty simple to get these guys I'd imagine.
S: So for a muscle-guy, action flick it seems pretty fun. What are your final thoughts?
A: It's a heckuva lot of fun while watching it, but it’s ultimately forgettable. It was great to just sit and watch the ridiculous action and laugh at stupid one-liners. In particular I loved Sly revving a motorcycle and shooting it into a helicopter, Jason Statham pretending to be a priest and stabbing a guy (Andrew's note: If Michael Fassbender doesn't end up playing Altair in the Assassin's Creed movie, I wouldn't be opposed to Statham playing the role, I've decided) after saying "I now pronounce you man and knife," and Dolph Lundgren erotically try to say he wanted Chinese food as his last meal when he really meant it as a pickup line on Yu's Maggie.
I will say, I was a little bothered by how shoddy some of the CGI looked. I'm assuming The Expendables 2 was originally filmed to be a PG-13 movie because so much of the blood was clearly CGI, or maybe they just wanted it to look way stylistic, but it was very noticeable. Same goes for a water tower that gets shot over. I know it must have been cheaper to make it with CGI but it looks SO FAKE that I wonder why they didn't just knock over a real water tower. But that's nitpicking.
Overall, it was exactly what I thought it was and I can't knock it for that. If you saw the first one and enjoyed it, you’re going to enjoy this one just as much if not more. If you hated the first one, then skip it obviously. I honestly had to think long and hard about what grade I'd give it, and maybe we'll own it someday, but for now...
FINAL VERDICT: A great way to kill a Saturday afternoon!
(Out of Five clapboards)
Photo Courtesies: Collider, Indiewire, E! Online


  1. When they showed Jet Li in the ending credits I realized I had completely forgotten he was even in the movie! Not surprising considering all the cameos they shoehorned in.

    I was sad to see Hemsworth go :( He was passable but not great (too fresh-faced and peppy looking to be so 'tortured') but a) yes, yes he was fun to look at. More please. and b) he brought a different dynamic to the group. I didn't think Maggie accomplished much at all, with her non-existent personality and her COMPLETELY inexplicable, yet par for the course flirtation with - ewewewewewew - 66 year old Sly Stallone.

    Also I had NO idea JCVD was "Vilain" - I thought it was "LaLane." This makes much more sense. :p

    1. It wasn't until I looked at the poster for the film that I remembered Li was in the film. I'd seriously like to hear why he was in it for the first battle scene and then disappeared.

      Maggie....yeah, she didn't bring much. She was fine for the action scenes, but totally agree that her acting left something to be desired. Right from her first scene on the motorcycle, I kind of cringed.