Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Expendables 2 Review

I quite enjoyed the first Expendables film.  Yes, it was over-the-top in many respects: the set-pieces, explosions, and even the character's names (Hale Caesar, Toll Road), and lacked a strong narrative to bring everything together.  And let's be honest - no one's going to see The Expendables for a strong story.  They're plunking down their cash to see icons of action films blow stuff up.  If you're not into that sort of thing, then perhaps The Expendables 2 isn't for you.  It is very much for me.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good drama (Moneyball, Drive, and The Artist were some of my favorite films from last year), but sometimes I just want to sit down and turn off my brain and forget about the world.  I was very much able to do that with The Expendables 2.

The first thing you'll notice about EX2 is that everything is turned up to 11.  The opening scene is something akin to something out of a James Bond film - we are thrown into the middle of the action, with the returning crew (Sylvester Stallone, Randy Couture, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, and Terry Crews) creating utter havoc in a bad-guy stronghold, with newcomer Liam Hemsworth providing .50-cal sniper support.  This scene is a visual and auditory blitz of your senses; its incredibly loud, fast, and gory.  And glorious.  It effectively sets the tone for the rest of film; the action is better, explosions bigger, and deaths gorier (than the original).

The plot is relatively straightforward: Church (Bruce Willis) hasn't been paid the $5 million he was owed from the events of the first film.  He sends the team to a remote forest near the border of China to retrieve something from a safe that was traveling in a shot-down plane.  They retrieve the item (with help from Nan Yu's Maggie) and the debt is paid...or else the entire team face serious jail time.  Without spoiling too much, things don't necessarily go according to plan when they run into the film's antagonist, Vilain (the deliciously evil Jean-Claude Van Damme).  Vilain is a relatively conventional action-film villain, but what sets him apart is JCVD.  Van Damme basks in the glory of being an evil SOB.  He's ruthless, determined, and just plain fun to watch.  The only downside with his character is that he's so good that I wanted more; he just doesn't have that much screen time (and in fact, the final showdown between Stallone/Van Damme was disappointingly short). 

While the narrative is more intriguing and engaging than the first film, its not without myriad issues.  Leaps in logic, time, and location are taken many a time throughout the brisk run time.  We aren't given an explanation about where they got that truck or where that gear came from.  You just have to sit back and suspend that disbelief that's trying to push its way to the surface.

The returning cast is as great as they've ever been.  Bruce Willis' Church and Arnold Schwarzenegger's Trench actually get into the action this time around, along with internet sensation Chuck Norris.  I won't spoil any of the glorious moments that these guys had or the incredibly-cheesy-yet-amazingly-awesome one-liners thrown around like nobody's business (I will say that there's a "Chuck Norris" joke...and it's awesome).  Some of this dialogue is incredibly campy and eye-roll-enducing, but I just didn't care.  I loved it.  I basked in the glory of its ridiculousness.  Stallone, Statham, Couture, Lundgren, and Crews continue to dominate as The Expendables, but ultimately it's still the Stallone/Statham show; they get some of the best fights of the film.

There really isn't all that much more to say about The Expendables 2  At this point you all should know pretty much what you're getting yourselves into.  Shootouts, explosions, blood, decapitations, over-the-top action, cheesy get the point.  If that's not your thing, I completely understand.  I just loved the hell out of this movie.

The Expendables 2 tops its predecessor in almost every way; its up to you if that's a good or a bad thing.

The Bearded Bullet.

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