24 August 2012

The Expendables 2




Back in the late nineties and the early part of this century, Sylvester Stallone was the butt of a lot of jokes in the movie industry.  He had amassed the most Razzie awards (30), collecting them for acting, directing, writing, worst decade, and lifetime achievement to name a few.  The later Rambo and Rocky sequels contributed to a lot of that.  Ironically, Rocky Balboa and Rambo, the last in their respective franchises, revitalized  his career.  So, Stallone wrote and directed The Expendables back in 2010(for which he received his latest Razzie nomination), where he gathered together more testosterone than any other film.  He put together the Ocean’s Eleven equivalent of action heroes.  The Expendables was a box office success despite taking a critical lashing and broke $100 million domestically.  The only question was, who would be in the inevitable sequel?

The Expendables 2 quickly received the go ahead, and the search was on for actors to join the film.  To me, the two biggest problems in the original film were the direction and the choppy, uneven storytelling. Stallone was just too close and passionate about the film to direct it the way it needed to be.  The good dialog flowed into the half-hearted action became distraction.  Thankfully, in The Expendables 2, Simon West replaced Stallone behind the camera.  This seemed to kill both birds with one stone.  Unfortunately, The Expendables 2 had to create its own set of problems.

The Expendables 2 opens on the mercenary team infiltrating a bad-guy compound for an extraction.  All the originals are back (except for Mickey Rourke’s Tool): Toll Road (Randy Coture), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and team leader Barney Ross (Stallone).  As it turns out, they also save the hide of Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Trench was apparently on the same mission, but got caught in the process.  During the extraction, we get our first glimpse of new team member Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), a young ex-Army sniper.

Back in the states, the Expendables are having a drink at a bar, and we see that Christmas is engaged to Lacy (Charisma Carpenter) from the original film.  Billy asks to talk with Barney outside.  Billy informs Barney that he will be leaving the team at the end of the month. He says that the pay and team are good, but the lifestyle is just not for him.  Barney then goes back to his plane hangar, and is met by Church (Bruce Willis) from the first film.

Church tells Barney that his band of misfits are being sent to recover a package from a wrecked plane, and that once it is returned to Church, Barney is off the hook and out of debt to him.  The other catch is, Church is putting his own member, Maggie (Nan Yu), on the team.  So, the team sets out to retrieve this mysterious package from the wreckage.

Upon arriving and retrieving the package, Vilain (Jean Claude Van Damme) and his team of cronies intercepts the Expendables, and steals the package.  Another significant event happens (no spoilers here) and the Expendables are left trying to track down Vilain for vengeance and they discover that the package contains a blueprint of a mine where the Russians stored five tons of weapons-grade plutonium at the end of the Cold War.  The final showdown between the Expendables and Vilain’s crew happens at an airport.  Joining the fight for the good guys was Church, Trench, and Booker (Chuck Norris).

So, here is what is wrong this go around.  The dialog and acting are so tongue-in-cheek that it actually made me groan.  When Chuck Norris first appeared on screen, he tells a Chuck Norris fact.  It hurt.  The amount of self-awareness of the actors and their previous characters just gets old.  They reference Lone Wolf McQuade, Die Hard, Terminator, Rambo and Dolph Lundgren’s actual biography.  There is a long dialog about how Gunnar was a Fullbright scholar, a Chemical Engineer, and went to MIT.  That is really my only complaint.  In addition, Chuck Norris does no hand-to-hand combat.  That is a real shame.

West’s direction helped the movie flow well through its 103 minute running time.  He is no stranger to action.  He directed Con-Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and The Mechanic.  The story feels like a script that was written back in the late eighties and was dusted off and revamped for this exact group of actors.

The Expendables 2 did not have as big an opening as its predecessor, but it might have better legs.  There is no real big movie coming out in the near future to threaten it.  The Expendables 2 is a better made film than The Expendables.  I just hope that it makes $100 million since the rumor mill is already turning as to who will be joining the cast for The Expendables 3.  Not to mention, both Stallone and Schwarzenegger have a new action films coming out this winter, Bullet to the Head and The Last Stand respectively.  Then, they are in a film together sometime next year, The Tomb.  If The Expendables 2 does not perform well, it could spell the end of the nostalgia that got these three films greenlit.

If you are a fan of the original, then you will not be disappointed with its sequel.  It is very bloody, action-packed, and funny.  I highly recommend seeing The Expendables 2 if you have already seen The Dark Knight Rises, and The Bored Legacy.

RATING: 6.5/10

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