Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis with guns blazing in The Expendables 2.
Stallone and his gang of aging action stars return for a second installment in The Expendables 2. This time around (after the prerequisite over-the-top opening action sequence) they face off against Jean-Claude Van Damme who is after a computer containing a blueprint of an abandoned Soviet mine storing plutonium. Not that the details of the plot matter much, like the first movie this is really just an excuse to feature as many fights and explosions as possible with these old timers cracking one liners as they battle their way across the screen from one end of the movie to the other.
It improves on the first movie in several ways. For one thing this time the script is in on the joke of just how over-the-top the entire movie is. The violence is even more overblown and cartoon-like than in the first Expendables but unlike that movie this one doesn't take itself a bit too seriously. Stallone delivers lines like, “Track 'em, find 'em, kill 'em.” and “Rest in pieces.” in that ridiculously deep, deadpan voice of his.
Another improvement is the expanded roles for Willis and Schwarzenegger and the addition of Chuck Norris. These three guys seem to pop up at just the right time and place and they get the best lines, especially Schwarzenegger who pretty much steals every one of his scenes. His wisecrack about how they all belong in a museum got the biggest laugh.
There is a death among the crew this time and things get a bit dramatic for a brief moment before the violence gets cranked back up past eleven. Like in the first movie Stallone and Jason Statham get the most screentime. They have great chemistry together as does the entire cast. The final showdown between Stallone and Van Damme is a bit of a letdown though. It just seems anticlimactic after all the mega-violence that has come before, or perhaps it is a scene that comes twenty years too late in both of their careers.
Mindless, escapist summer movies rarely get more mindless or escapist than this. Still it's a treat to revisit these old familiar faces (although several of them appear to have newer faces than others) and watch these action star veterans drag their ancient asses across the screen in an outlandish but still entertaining fashion. Thankfully Stallone let someone else direct this installment. Simon West found just the right balance between blood splattered carnage and campy humor. The resulting Expendables 2 is a fun time at the movies.
Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Expendables 2.
Patrick hit the right word when he said, “cartoon”. The action, the violence and the blood is so over the top that it's virtually animated. None of it is to be taken seriously. That much is made plain during just the opening sequence, which features a higher body count than most action movies do in their entirety. And it's not just the number, but the spurting blood, decapitations and exploding body parts that combine to form an orgy of violence. None of which should be taken any more seriously than your average Tom and Jerry cartoon.
The sense of unreality is heightened by the numerous references that are made to the stars' real life personas. With all the action stars showing up, Schwarzenegger comments, “Who's next, Rambo?” Chuck Norris is referred to as “Lone Wolf” a couple of times. Schwarzenegger uses his “I'll be back” catchphrase several times, until Bruce Willis tells him, “You've been back enough. I'll go this time.” Although these moments take you completely out of the story, these winks and nods to the audience are the most fun scenes in the movie. They're certainly better than the few attempts at drama.
Naturally this isn't a movie where you should expect logic, but nevertheless, there are a few questionable plot points. For instance, there's no good reason for Van Damme's character to leave Stallone and his men alive when he has them at his mercy. He's already proven that he's not bothered by killing, so his decision to just walk away and leave them, doesn't make sense.
I also agree with Patrick that the final battle between Stallone and Van Damme is a bit of a letdown. Despite the fact that 51 year old Van Damme is still able to perform some impressive kicks, the outcome is never in doubt. When you have Stallone, Statham, Schwarzenegger, Norris, and Willis against one Euro-trash kickboxer, it doesn't exactly take a genius to see which side is going to come out on top.
Although the movie's best moments are played for laughs, you do have to seriously applaud these guys for one thing. Most of them are in their 50s and 60s, but they're still in pretty good shape. They may creak and take a little longer to get going than they used to, but they do look like they could still kick some ass. So long as they keep their sense of humor about it all, there's probably room for another installment in this series. Surely they can't end it until Steven Seagal has made an appearance.
Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren and Terry Crews in The Expendables 2
The Expendables 2 is a guilty pleasure for fans of 1980's/early 90's action films. The plot is riddled with ridiculous holes and the writing is as sloppy as they come. Still, if you can leave all sense of logic at the door, you will be taken away on a violent, entertaining ride with some old (and I do mean old) familiar faces.
Patrick mentioned a death that causes a brief dramatic scene. The build up to it is almost laughable. It is reminiscent of Hot Shots (1991), where a character named Pete 'Dead Meat' Thompson is a walking cliche of foreshadowing a character that is going to die. It is almost that obvious here. He has a heart to heart with Stallone, about wanting out and how he is in love. He tells his back story to someone. Hell, even JCVD compliments him before putting a knife through his heart. His death is more obvious than an extra crew member being beamed down with Kirk in the original Star Trek television show. If you do not see it coming you have not seen many action films.
I was not so much bothered by the fight scene between Stallone and JCVD. How much longer did it need to go on for? Scott did not like the scene where JCVD lets everyone live but it was necessary for the plot as just before the final fight, Stallone puts down his weapons so the two can fight old school, without any guns. This way we get to see Rocky throw some punches and JCVD do his trademark roundhouse kick.
While that is going on, we have Willis and Schwarzenegger driving through an airport shooting an endless supply of bad guys. Seriously, how many guys do they shoot? A couple of trucks full of men were with JCVD, but these two, Chuck Norris and the rest of the crew shoot enough men to fill a stadium, let alone a couple of trucks. If JCVD really had that many men working for him he would not have needed the local villagers to help dig. How is it that JCVD and crew were able to just drive out of that cave after Stallone just crashed his plane in the entrance?
Of the cast, Statham makes the best current action star. This has as much to do with him being the youngest of the cast as it does anything else. He gets a couple of great solo fight scenes, where he takes on several bad guys with dramatic poses and quick edited martial arts moves.
My favorite character this time around though was Dolph Lundgren. He has the hots for the Chinese girl and we discover that he has a degree in chemical engineering. Who knew? When everyone is telling what their last meal would be, if they could choose it, the Swedish born Lundgren says that his would be baby seal and whale ass, or Chinese. wink wink.
Patrick's cartoon description is apt but it is all done in such a fun, mindless way that calling it cartoonish is not an actual insult, unless the director thought he was making a serious film. In which case, he blew it. The Expendables 2 is a guy movie for the video game age starring the heroes of generation X. Fathers and sons will enjoy every over-the-top moment together.
Photos © Copyright Lionsgate (2012)