Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Expendables 2 - Theatrical Review

Release Date: August 17, 2012

Just look at the poster above, take a good look at it. If just by looking at that poster you don't find yourself having a joygasm in your pants, then this movie isn't for you.

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC 30 at the Block in Orange
Time: 12:01 am August 17, 2012
Projector Type: Digital 2D
Film Rating: R
Film Runtime: 1 hr 43 min
Studio: Lionsgate

Loves: This entire cast and the concept
Likes: 80's style senseless and gratuitous violence
Neutral: That none of these guys decided to do this when they were younger
Hates: Where is Steven Segal?
Another fantasy idea: Do an Expendables style movie with nothing but 80's B actors such as Michael Dudikof and Billy Blanks.

Early on we see the leader of the expendables, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), grieving over the loss of a close friend when he is asked by his second in command, Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), what they should do next. Barney turns to his team and with a very determined look responds with, "Track'em, find'em, kill'em". That is all you really need to know about it. It never makes any excuses about what it is and none are really needed. This is just one gigantic man-splosion of gooey goodness that just keeps pumping until the last one-liner is uttered and that is all anyone should ever expect from it.

Nothing that happens in "The Expendables 2" really makes a whole lot of sense but everyone seems to be having such a great time as things are shot, blown up and otherwise demolished that you end up not really caring about the little things. The first 20 minutes is taken up with nothing more than non-stop action which almost felt like an apology for what was an extremely disappointing first outing that failed to fulfill its many simple promises. If that's what it was aiming for, well...apology accepted.

These guys aren't quite as expendable as they thought.

One of the many problems with that first film is that it just felt lacking with its cast and their limited involvement in the proceedings. The core team which consists of Stallone, Statham, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li and Randy Couture was left out of the picture most of the time before, but here that issue is resolved by keeping this entertaining mix of old and new action stars together for the majority of the film. They even throw in a couple of newcomers with Liam (not-my-brother-Chris) Hemsworth and asian film star Nan Yu to spice things up a bit.

With the team all together (aside from Li who bows out early on) there was only one other major issue, a suitable villain for this legion of action heroes to face off against. Eric Roberts was a horrible casting choice as the main foe for the expendables in that first film, he just didn't have the gravitas to pull the role off. This time around they pulled out all the stops and brought in the muscles from Brussels himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Van Damme brings a natural charisma to the role of the villain which gives him a very different vibe than your usual bad buy and the results are pretty spectacular. While it is a shame that he isn't given much to do outside the final confrontation,  it was still an immense pleasure seeing him back in action and still more than capable of delivering some serious Van-Damage after all these years.

Time for some serious Van-damage.

As for everyone else, words cannot express how amazing it is seeing these guys together at last. Sure, they were together in the last film but to a very limited extent. Seeing Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis mow down bad guys while standing side by side is something that seemed impossible 20 years ago and seeing it actually happen now is an extremely surreal and awesome experience. When you toss in Chuck Norris, who just so happens to have one of the best entrances of any movie I have seen in years, the film begins to feel overloaded in the best possible way.

The film is just littered with in-jokes and fun little jabs towards each actor and their careers which makes just about every scene these action titans are in together feel like a movie geeks fantasy come true. With Arnold belting out quips from "Die Hard" and Bruce taking one of Arnold's most famous lines and throwing it right back in the former governor's face or Chuck being referred to as Rambo, it really doesn't get much better than this for an 80's action fan. The expected jokes thrown in about age and being out of touch are alright as well but the stuff that works best is everything they do that taps into that deep seeded nostalgia.

Schwarzenegger and Willis kicking ass together.

The comedy isn't relegated to just paying homage to the assorted histories of the actors either, there is plenty of humor to be found in all the site gags and excesses in violence as well. The standard action beats are fun and appropriately over the top (just wait til you see how they deal with helicopters), but the more inventive and fun moments derive from a mixture of the violent and the absurd. Take for instance a scene involving Schwarzenegger and Willis driving a smart car through an airport lobby guns ablazing and just ripping through anything that gets in their way or when Norris fills a guy with lead who's body is flagged by the metal detector, it's all very violent and cheesy but also very fun.

These guys know what kind of movie they're in and make no qualms about it. If there were a "wink at the camera" counter at the bottom of the screen it would easily reach the triple digits by the time the last body hits the ground. But that is the type of movie this is, it is just an excuse to get these guys together on the big screen and celebrate everything that made them the 80's action movie icons they are. Just about the only complaints that can be legitimized is that not all of these guys get their due, but when you got a film this chock full of stars it is easy to see how some may get more screen time than others.

An 80's action fan's dream come true.

It may have taken all these guys a long while to put aside their egos and join forces but the wait was certainly worth it. In some ways it is better that they waited this long to do this, after their impact on the film industry and on the lives of the children and young adults of the 80's have reached its threshold for the ultimate effect. "The Expendables 2" will most likely be shrugged off by many as too violent and lacking in any sort of substance or just for being too darn silly, but that's alright. Succeeding where the first film failed, this was made to cater to a certain audience and for those fans it really doesn't get much better than this. Well, at least until part three comes out anyway.




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