Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Expendables 2 (**)

Directed by Simon West


Even without any introduction via the 2010 film The Expendables, you would know within ten minutes of watching The Expendables 2 that it is not a movie to be taken seriously. And why is that? Because before the ten minute mark we see martial arts movie star Jet Li punch someone in the face until it explodes. I'm the last person in the world who should be commenting on the physical possibilities within fighting, but even I feel confident saying that something like that is pretty excessive.

The concept behind the Expendables films is ingenious. Much like 1987's Predator, the films take a handful of the biggest action stars of the day and stuffs them into a 100-minute, explosive-laced, muscle-pumping exercise in preposterone. Both films say that there was a screenplay written, but I doubt those things were longer than twenty pages. Every piece of dialogue is a one-liner, and I bet 'BANG!' and 'BOOM!' made up about fifty percent of the words. But the genius part is, Sylvester Stallone and the rest of his ragtag group of violent henchmen realize that this equation is exactly what it needs to be and execute it perfectly.

In this new film, we still have the same group of men (even though Jet Li leaves the film quickly after the showcase of his explosive fists), with the addition of the young Bill the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), a deadly sharpshooter. The leader is still Barney Ross (Stallone), along with his right-hand man Christmas (Jason Statham), and Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), Hail Ceaser (Terry Crews), and Toll Road (Randy Couture). When Church (Bruce Willis) returns to Barney to remind them how they never really came through on the previous mission, they're tasked to assist a young Chinese woman named Maggie (Nan Yu) on a trip to capture a mine filled with Plutonium (seriously).

JCVD, as a villain named 'Villain'
Early in their mission, they're beat to the chase by a meddling French villain, aptly named Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Villain and his team of evil French slave-traders walk away with the Plutonium, but not before Villain roundhouse kicks an 18-inch knife into Bill the Kid's heart. With their youngest teammate dead, Barney changes the mission to something a little more simple: Track them. Find them. Kill them. With Maggie along for the ride, and eventually being joined by Church, a lone wolf brute force named Booker (Chuck Norris), and the wise-cracking Trench (the Arnold Schwarznegger), the Expendables crew go on a mission to find Villain's crew and brutally murder all of them.

Expendables 2 is a bigger, better and stupider film than the first one. There's a higher body count and a better villain, and it actually has a three-act screenplay that makes sense in the general sense that a film with Dolph Lundgren playing a chemical engineer can make sense. Also, JCVD versus Stallone for the finale's big showdown is a lot more exciting than Stallone versus Eric Roberts (which is what we got in the first one). We also get a chance to see Jason Statham, dressed as a priest, announce "I now pronounce you man... and knife" before slaughtering several people by himself.

Stallone's Mel Gibson-like love for gruesome violence is a bit troubling, but packed into this greaseball of a movie, it makes a lot of sense. The film's final standoff, where everyone comes together to take down Villain and his crew is something out of a young male action movie nut's wet dream. The Expendables 2 is certainly not a film for everybody. In actuality, it's a film for violence-loving males, and that's about it. In this sequel, Stallone and director Simon West further insured that that was the only audience that would enjoy itself. I think the movie's better for it.

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