Monday, September 3, 2012

Review: The Expendables 2


A few months ago I finally go around to seeing The Expendables, the old-school-action-star-smorgasbord from the mind of Sylvester Stalone.  While it was somewhat amusing to see these old fossils dug up and playing over-the-top macho mercenaries, the movie just didn't work for me.  The story was kinda boring and it didn't seem that the actors were really into it at all.  With the exception of a few scenes that worked and Terry Crews' mega shoot-em-up at the end of the film, The Expendables was an overall disappointment.  I decide to give the concept one more try and thankfully The Expendables 2 improves on the original in every way and makes for a very entertaining trip to the theater.

Along with Stalone (who wisely chose to not direct this follow-up, turning the reigns over to veteran action filmmaker Simon West), we once again get to see Crews, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lungren, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Jet Li and the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger band together to fight the ruthless plutonium seeking organization known as The Sangs.  The leader of The Sangs is the still very much in-shape Jean Claude Van Damme who manages to dominate the screen in all of his scenes.  The plot itself is not that important as the story ends up with a monumental clash between evil and not-so-evil at an all-out bullet fest at an airport.  Two other new additions to this Expendable ensemble are the legendary Chuck Norris (who appears in only a few scenes) and Liam Hemsworth (brother of Thor and beau of Miley Cyrus).  Hemsworth and his brother Chris represent the next generation of action star and it must have been a thrill for him to be on set with all of these action legends.

West excells at filming big-budget action sequences and allows some of the less physical members of this group of mercineries to intimidate with their guns rather than their muscles.  You can totally tell that Arnold is waaaay past his prime as an action star.  He can no longer do the physical stunts that made him the blockbuster action star of the '80s and '90s.  Thankfully he still has that classic Arnold delivery in his lines and spouts off a few one liners that the American movie-going audience has missed over all the years he spent in office.  Couture seems a little over-matched throughout and I'm not really sure why he qualifies to be in this film.  Crews himself does not have a really great action resume, but he's hilarious and adds to the overall comic value that actually makes this movie far better than it has any right to be.  You can tell that all of these older actors have a sense of camaraderie on and off camera.  Lundgren plays the role of an airhead muscle man so well that you gotta wonder if there's anything really going on upstairs in real life for him.  There are several scenes of shit-talking between the group that really breaks up the action well.

Stalone and his band of brothers have created a far superior version of the first film.  With all of the 60's and 70's rock tunes blaring throughout, this is really a movie made for guys who long for the era of Stalone/Schwarzenegger big-budget cinema.  I never thought this group would make a second film but now it seems that a third movie might be inevitable.  I'm all for it as I personally want to get as much out of Arnold as possible while he can still walk around and wield a shotgun with a cigar in his mouth.   3.5 JR's out of 5 for the nostalgically good The Expendables 2.