My Expendables 2 Review.
Short review… If you want to see an hour and a half version of the photo above, you will probably love the Expendables.
The first Expendables movie was not without its problems. It was a terrific concept looking for a voice and a tone that it didn’t quite find. It had some amazing action scenes, but couldn’t decide if it was a dramatic examination of heroes past their prime looking for meaning in thier lives or a shoot em up action movie. It had a cast of extremes who I felt were constantly pulling their punches. Thankfully Stallone seems to have found what they needed, and what they needed was to let those extremes do what they do best.
With the opening scene, think of a Bond opener pushed to its limits, shows us that Stallone finally truly delivers on the promise of The Expendables… in a big way. They hit the ground running and tear you through an assault and rescue that any other movie would be proud to have as their finale. Remember the first time you saw the Tea House scene in Hard Boiled? Imagine that energy channeled thorough Call of Duty, and you have yourself The Expendables 2. Unlike the first film, they hit the ground running and pretty much never stop.
Given a more interesting mission this time, as well as a painful reminder of their status as Expendable, the crew is really forced to prove themselves to us as the badasses that we want them to be. And they prove it.
They more or less treat the entire world as cannon fodder. That may include innocents as more than once to they put them directly in harm’s way to achieve their goal. That includes crashing a plane into a mine full of bad guys and innocent miners, and at one point blindly firing through frosted glass at the bad guys… who are essentially standing amongst civilians running for their lives. And when those bullets connect… well, blood, lots of blood. Lots and lots of blood. Heads explode, people get sawed in half, and Jet Li must have taken face punching lessons from Frank Castle.
There are scenes that gloriously echoed some of the best blood and bullets moments of the 80’s. And it is so fun to see Arnold back in action. Sounds trite, but watching him stand his ground mowing people down brought a smile to my face. All the others shine with their skills too. The guys who stand and shoot, do that, the guys, like Statham who can kick the shit out of dudes, do that. Everyone is used to the best of their abilities.
They also gave up on trying to take themselves “super serious” as somber tough guy warriors. I know this will probably turn some people off, but someone added a dash of “Last Action Hero” awareness to this that was refreshing. They push it a tad with the Norris cameos, but it still works. They also use some gallows humor for a couple of hilarious kills which had the audience cheering.
An action movie is only as good as its villain, and they nail it this time. Eric Roberts was entertaining, but Van Damme (and for what it’s worth, Scott Adkins) are amazing. Van Damme glowers, smirks, and delivers his line with a creepy cadence that gets you almost rooting for him. And he appropriately goes toe to toe with Stallone in one hell of a final fight. I’m praying that this can get him back in the main spotlight, even if it’s playing villains.
If I had a complaint it’s that they still have a couple of those scenes where the guys are all sitting around shooting the shit trying to be funny. These are supposed to be quick witted back and forths like you’d find in anything Shane Black touched in the 80’s, but these writers just aren’t Shane Black.
The whole thing just made me giddy. There was the same sense of “Hee hee hee! That guy got fucked up!” that my friends all got when watching VHS tapes of Rambo and Commando at sleepovers as a kid. And that, really was the promise of The Expendables concept.
Go see it.