Quick movie review this week of THE EXPENDABLES 2; the Simon West-directed sequel to the sausage-fest of septuagenarian superstars and quadragenarian karate-kings featuring ageless (or aging) action-adventurers Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van-Damme and special sexagenarian Arnold Schwarzenegger, plus a token kickass female (Yu Nan) and Gen-Yer (Liam Hemsworth of THE HUNGER GAMES, younger bro’ to Chris from THOR and THE AVENGERS.) Mickey Rourke didn’t make it to this one, as he was probably too bruised after being beaten up in IRON MAN 2. But the limited use of Chuck Norris more than makes up for it.
Since the good and bad of this one really depend on your own tastes, expectations and point-of-view, I’ll just list the facts and let you decide the pros and cons:
–The first 15 minutes of the film before the opening titles will give you your ticket’s worth of over-the-top action, violence, hand-to-hand combat, gunfire, bloodshed, vehicle stunts and absurdist situations. They could’ve ended the film there and most average male move-goers would be satiated.
–There’s so much testosterone in this installment that when we left the theater, my wife thought she’d grown a beard and chest hair. I tried to pick a fight with the popcorn machine.
–The fight scenes are lightning-fast and blazingly choreographed. Blink and you’ll miss at least three punches, kicks and knife-throws.
–Pretty much every famous cliché and catch-phrase from Arnold’s and Bruce’s past movies are thrown in for laughs (or groans, depending on your tolerance).
–Big guns, bigger guns, and huge guns. More phallic symbolism (and jokes) than a Freudian psychology class.
–In the end credits, the storyboard artist is listed after “Office Cleaning Lady”. No after-credit buttons or footage either.
–The big guest stars show up at precisely the right time with no explanation, other than to show up at the right time.
–Some heavy drama and an unexpected, important death early on.
–Jet Li drops out of a plane and isn’t seen again after the opening titles. (WTF?) But he does some badass battlin’ with frying pans.
–Randy Couture has about four lines the entire picture. Terry Crews maybe has double that. (His arms are as thick as Jet Li’s torso.)
–Jean Claude plays one of the meanest, most amoral, cowardly and hated villains I’ve seen in years. (Just to make sure, his character’s name is actually Vilain. Pronounced “Vil-ane”, but come on…)
–Dolph Lundgren’s character makes use of the actor’s genuine master’s degree in chemical engineering.
–As with the first film, the plot is straightforward, linear and lacking any major twists or character growth. (Except Bruce Willis’s character. Perhaps.)
–If you’re hard of hearing, you won’t need your hearing aid for most of this. If you’re not hard of hearing, you will be by the end!
–Arnold and Willis driving in a Smart Car while firing automatic weapons.
–Finally, a satisfying resolution with a bad guy, rather than the cliché.
–No nudity or sex scenes (not even a kiss!) No bodily function gags.
–With bullets falling like rain, only one member gets shot in the entire film–twice at the same time.
–Lots of self-aware humor, with several “old” jokes.
That said, I think I liked it as much or more than the first one. My wife actually enjoyed it, so I can’t call it strictly a guy’s film. You have to turn off your thinking cap, open your eyes and grab hold of the seat for the ride. (Of all the films I’ve seen in the last year, this is the first that would justify use of the “D-Box” vibrating seats at some theaters, depending on your budget.)
I’d love to see these guys go up against G.I. Joe’s COBRA, the A-Team, the Bourne agents or time travel to battle Nazis. The cross-overs write themselves!
One quick aside: The old-school-magazine-that-ignores-old-school-readers, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, recently ran a readers poll for “Favorite Old-School Action Hero.” Ah-nold was number one, but Jason Statham was number TWO. Excuse me? He’s just three years older than Matt (Jason Bourne) Damon, who isn’t even on the list! I think the maroons at EW just stuck him in there because he’s in the Expendables movie. Not a good reason–insulting to their readers’ intelligence (and basic math skills).
As always, let me know what YOU think in the Comments section.
P.S.: If you want a commission of any macho, gun-totin’ baddie or goodie, from The Punisher to Wyatt Earp to Captain America to Calamity Jane, I’ll give you your money’s worth and more. Just ask Craig here!