Friday, August 24, 2012

Ten Statements About....THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

It's like the Mount Rushmore of 80's Action!
"What's the plan?"
"Track 'em, find 'em, kill 'em

1) One of the things that really, really struck me almost immediately is how many of the characters who each had a little face time in the first movie, giving us a sense of their personality, don't get any in this entry. Hell, we have Jet Li literally disappearing after punching a guy's head until it explodes in the opening action sequence (and given how Jet Li was one of the most enjoyable things in the first film, well....)

2) Is it just me, or is Jean-Claude Van Damme really auditioning to be a Bond Villain in this movie? Hell, he's even named 'Villain' (although the name is pronounced differently)! Given the way he behaves and the scheme he's hatched, Van Damme seems weirdly out of place. He's not unwelcome because he is as operatic as our heroes get at time, but it's still a touch jarring.

"I am a villain...I am also named Villian."
3) It does seem like director Simon West is really pushing everyone else to the background so he can emphasize the Old Guard--Stallone's Barney, Bruce Willis' Church, Arnold Schwarzeneggar's Trench and, to a lesser extent, Chuck Norris' Booker--over the other established characters. Sure, it's fun seeing Trench and Church running around an airport in a smart car shooting people, but it also annoying not giving Hale Ceaser and the like their due.

4) ...except, oddly enough, for Dolph Lundgren's Gunnar. Not only does he seem to take central stage more often than not, there are moments that reflect Lundgren's own background as a chemist. I think I understand why he's given so much screen time, given he was relegated to just being a bad guy turncoat in the first one, but it's still odd...

5) ....and speaking of odd, the whole sequence with the team talking to the Bosnian women where they refuse to help and then just show up to help when Villain's men come calling is strange. There are these weird echoes of Rambo III, and I wonder if any of the abducted men are going to turn out to be gangsters in the future....

6) While, like in the first film, Stallone doesn't pull the trigger on sucking face with Designated Female Maggie (played by Nan Yu) seemed like he really, really wanted to, and the whole angle made me weirded out. We get this whole romantic arc without either character saying anything romantic, and all I could think about was the rather vast age difference between the two.
Nothing says 'hot date' like crouching behind a used car and
shooting at ruthless bad guys...

7) I didn't mind the Husker-du games of the first film, mainly because it knew that just having these major action stars of old in the film was enough. But this one...between the music stings (Trench's big re-entrance is heralded with the Terminator theme! Booker is heralded with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!), Booker telling a 'How Tough Is Chuck Norris?' joke, and the constant referencing of previous films from Die Hard! to Lone Wolf McQuaid, the Husker-du aspect becomes akin to the guy next to you elbowing you in the ribs constantly going, 'Get it? Get it? Huh?'

8) The thing I really liked about Liam (brother of Chris) Hemsworth's Billy The Kid is how he contrasts with the other Expendables. His military discipline shows through and his insistence on calling everyone in the group 'sir' makes for a different feel. Pity he doesn't stay around long.

9) It's kinda strangely cool to see the presence of a Soviet Spy City (misidentified as 'a soviet military base') in the film, although I sort of regret how it's used pretty much as window dressing for one action sequence. The Soviet Spy Cities is one of the most fascinating little aspects of the Cold War, and could have been used to greater effect.

10) Apparantly Stallone had a greater control over the script--and I think that might be the biggest problem, given Stallone's tendency to go for broad winks and jokey references. These references overwhelm the narrative at times, to the point where potential plot developments (like maybe militarizing the women in the Bosnian villiage to provide some sort of support) is left on the floor.

Overall...while there are some enjoyable moments, including some decent fight scenes, this sequel is a downturn from the original.

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