How many of you have been eagerly anticipating seeing a *new* film featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme roundhouse kicking a knife into a guy’s chest? If you raised your hand, then why aren’t you buying a ticket to Expendables 2 right now?? What more do you need to hear?!
I vaguely remember disliking the first Expendables. In fact, I vaguely remember the first Expendables at all. It just wasn’t that memorable of a movie for me, despite its great promise. If I close my eyes and try really hard to force my brain to work, here’s everything I remember about the first one:
-Stallone struggling to run at full speed.
-Jason Statham had an awful side plot involving a girlfriend, where he punched out some dudes playing pickup basketball.
-Randy Couture had cauliflower ears.
-Mickey Rourke worked at a tattoo parlor or something.
-Arnold and Bruce Willis were but dangled in our faces, yet just out of reach.
Uhhhh… Yeah, that’s about it. I couldn’t tell you who the villain was, or what the central plot conflict was about. I’m 100% serious – I have no recollection of what actually happened in the first Expendables.
That didn’t really matter going into the second one. In fact, they should have just made the second one the actual first one. Expendables 2 was the movie that Expendables 1 wanted to be. Instead of a muddled junkyard of nonsense, this sequel actually had a clear cut story. Even though a big plot element was kind of stolen from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, it was still a plot that I will be able to remember. Super villain steals plutonium from underground mine, good guys have to stop him. It’s simple. It works. Make Jean-Claude Van Damme the super villain, and now we’re crossing over into brilliant idea territory.
In fact, everything was better about this sequel than the first one, too. There were no frivolous side stories; the movie just kept going on a well-paced path. The awesome cameos became more than just cameos. Arnold and Bruce Willis actually have supporting roles with multiple scenes in this film. They actually DO things.
Other than the first scene of the film, which was obviously *supposed* to be ridiculously over-the-top (no pun intended, Stallone arm wrestling enthusiasts), the action seemed more focused, and less tiring. One compliant I remember having about the first one was that the non-stop shooting of guns for 2 hours eventually became boring. They actually resolve a few things with fists in the second one, which helped shake things up. And they paid homage (stole?) a painfully famous action sequence from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Hey, I’m not complaining!
One thing I didn’t care for, though, was Chick Norris’ appearance. Let’s face facts here, guys, the man is a terrible actor. In a movie filled with washed up action stars who may-or-may-not have struggled to spit out their lines in their *prime*, Chuck Norris was easily the worst actor in this movie. He acted like he didn’t want to be there. You also never actually see him shoot a gun on camera in the film, he just strolls in and blandly delivers a few lines, then leaves. I guess he just needed to be included for the 150 people who still tell Chuck Norris jokes (one of which was actually told in the movie…). I’m sure they loved his appearance. In actuality, Chuck Norris is a hate-filled person who recently accused the president of the United States of turning the Boy Scouts gay (what?). AND he wanted Expendables 2 to be PG-13, which would have been dumb.
All of the following actors would have done more for me in the role, and would have fit in in the film because they are either old or washed up. Or both:
One aspect I DID like about the first Expendables, and also liked in this one (and also liked about the last Rambo and Rocky movies) is that Stallone seems to really care about what he does. And he loves doing it. You think it’s all crazy, ridiculous B-movie trash; then you have scenes like the burial scene in this one where Stallone mumbles out things like “Why do the people who deserve to live always die…? And the people who deserve to die keep lingering on…?” Which is corny as hell; but the way he delivers the lines makes it so apparent that he’s TRYING his hardest to earnestly make a great film. And there’s something genuinely awesome about that. Does he actually make great films? Not really. But he certainly does try. I’ll take that over someone making an easy cash grab film with no effort or heart put into it.
So, Expendables 2 isn’t a great film in the long run. But it’s certainly decent. It’s (mostly) entertaining. The characters seem to have better chemistry this time around. It’s still hokey. And this one is about as self-referential as it gets. There’s a 20 second scene of back-and-forth dialogue where Schwartzenegger and Willis quote lines from the other guy’s movies (which was actually pretty hilarious).
If you didn’t like the first Expendables, but WANTED to like it, then this one may be worth checking out for some redemption. If you did like the first one, then I assume you’ve already purchased the official Expendables skull pen.
7 out of 10