Sunday, August 19, 2012

Expendables 2, The (2012)

Director: Simon West
Notable Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins, Yu Nan, Liam Hemsworth, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck "Lone Wolf" Norris

"Track em. Find em. Kill em." - Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone)

When it comes to action films, we are in a second golden age. With the help of newcomers likes Jason Statham and Tony Jaa in the early 00s, the genre has seen leaps and bounds in improvement which has lead us to 2012 where indie Indonesian films like "The Raid" get theatrical releases and "The Expendables" becomes a full on franchise. Although the original film was one with its flaws and relied a little too much on nostalgia to work (thusly it worked for me!), the sequel "The Expendables 2" is a full on riot of a film. With an enhanced budget, "The Expendables 2" is what a sequel should be: BIGGER AND BADDER in every aspect which leaves it as one of the best films of the year.

Barney Ross (Stallone) and his rag tag group of mercenaries are called upon for a massive favor by Mr. Church (Willis). Really the job is simple: go into a plane wreck and retrieve a small box. That's it. With a few new members to the group including sniper Billy (Hemsworth) and Maggie (Nan), it would seem to be an easy job. That is until international terrorist Jean Vilain (Van Damme) shows up and kills one of Barney's team. Now The Expendables are out for revenge and to achieve it they may have to rely on some outside help to get it done.

The Dream Team.
The larger budget for "The Expendables 2" definitely kicks the film to the next level. Not only are they able to get more action heroes pegged into the film, but the action is larger by three-fold. Just the introduction sequence of a raid on a building in Nepal is about twice the size of proportion (and ridiculousness) of the finale of the first film. Just this intro has the following: trucks, trucks that turn into tanks, swamp boats, jet skis, planes, helicopters, motorcycles that wreck into helicopters, rocket launchers, machine guns, knives, and frying pans. All of which are placed into the hands of a group of the world's deadliest weapons. If you're not smiling just at the thought of this: skip the film because it only goes up from here in cliches and outrageous moments. There is an ambush in a small village that leaves some hilarious memories ("Rest in pieces!") and the finale in the airport includes some of the most ridiculous gun battles one is likely to see any time soon. The action is only of the highest caliber here (pun intended).

Firepower. And I'm not talking about the guns.
Our heroes are more cut and dry than the first film too. Gone are most of the back story attempts and the focus has been built on just having strong actor chemistry which the film has in spades thanks to the writers and cast. There are two 'serious moments' in the film one which succeeds (Sly talking about the death of his man to Nan) and one that fails (Hemsworth's rather awkward recollection of Afghanistan) and a slew of moments that work better as plot progression than true character development - including a great moment where The Expendables bury their own only to quickly move onto the motivation for the last half of the film and the killer quote "Track em. Find em. Kill em." delivered by a rather pissy Sly Stallone. The rest of the team are allowed to do what they do best...kick ass and deliver cheesy moments of tongue in cheek humor. Lundgren comes off as the crazy comedic portion of the film, Crews and Couture deliver brawn and silly nuanced characters (love Crews' new cooking focused character work), and Statham does his best impersonation of Statham which is a character too hard not to love even when he's knifing and dicing in a priest robe. Unfortunately, Jet Li ends up leaving the film a little early for my tastes (but perhaps allows for motivation for future installments?), but he has a few solid gold moments even in the first act.

A 'Vilain' worth his merit to take on the Dream Team.
This all brings me to the new elements of "The Expendables 2": the increased cast. Although Eric Roberts was delightfully cheesy as the villain of the first film, Jean-Claude Van Damme simply EATS up the scenes he is in. He rarely takes off his sunglasses, he spin kicks knives, and with his gloriously awesome accent asks Sly whether he's a man or sheep for the final throw down. Norris gets in far more awesome music cues than his comrades and plenty of jokes are made at his expense (he's the 'lone wolf' of the film) and Arnold and Willis get plenty of their own action this time around including a Smart car shoot out in an airport lobby and a play on each other's catch phrases. The cameos here are simply more awesome and its obvious that the film makers had far too much fun with this portion. The only real complaint I had was the lacking presence of Scott Adkins in full on Yuri Boyka form here. The guy is a phenomenal action star and martial artist, but his fight with Statham is horrendously cut short. It's small beans in the big scheme of things, but something nonetheless.

All in all, its obvious that Sly and the gang at the stylistic and strong hand of director Simon West are once again at the top of their game. It's hard to imagine that the eventual sequel will be able to top this, as this film knows exactly what it is and executes it in almost perfect form. "The Expendables 2" is tongue in cheek, deliriously entertaining, and so packed with action that the film felt like it was only 15 minutes long by the time I left the theater. I wanted to turn around buy a ticket to the next showing and go back in and see it again, it was that much fun.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

1 comment:

  1. If you really want to think about it deeply, then you will see that this is a bad movie. But everybody here knows that and it doesn’t matter because all they want to do is blow stuff up, shoot people down, and have some fun while doing so. That’s all that matters really. Nice review.