Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Expendables 2

If you hang out with me on a regular basis you’d know about my complete and total dislike of The Expendables. It thought the concept was amazing; get a group of yesteryear’s and today’s action stars together and have them tear shit up on-screen for 90 minutes. Well, the action stars showed up, but the movie they made was (IMO) total garbage. Zero characterization, and when there would be an attempt it was horribly written, overly melodramatic and vaguely homoerotic. Sure these three points were enjoyable staples of 80s action cinema, especially the homoerotic angle (just see Commando or Showdown in Little Tokyo), but here it came off as stale and forced. Most of the time it felt as if the movie was being made up as it was shot.

So here we are with the inevitable sequel since the first film was a huge hit. Stallone stepped back from the directing duties (not the writing however) and allowed Simon West (Con Air) to take over. New cast members were added and the budget was increased. I was mildly excited to see if this would be any better than its predecessor.

Nope. Somehow it was worse. I’ll explain.
The (so called) plot revolves around The Expendables being hired to find a lost hard drive resulting in the loss of one of their own at the hands of the sadistic Vilain (Van Damme, with one of the all time worst villain names EVER). Revenge is what motivates them to go after their comrade’s killer, as well as stopping him from finding a stockpile of buried Russian plutonium.

I was happy to see all the major cast members from the first film return: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren and Terry Crewes, along with expanded roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was happy to see the new faces added to the cast as well: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins, Chuck Norris, Liam Hemsworth and Nan Yu. What I was not happy with was that Jet Li leaves after 10 minutes of screen time, Chuck Norris pops up for a cameo (complete with making a Chuck Norris joke) and Schwarzenegger and Willis are barely in the film, but when they are they look embarrassed and quote their famous signature lines to each other in the hokiest way possible.

Perhaps the biggest issue I have with the movie was the fight between Stallone and Van Damme. That shit should have been epic! What we are given in one of the most one sided fight scenes I’ve ever seen. I think Van Damme managed to hit Sly three times compared to the 87 he received. Totally anticlimactic and unsatisfying for these two action icons.
The rest of the cast is wasted also. I’m a huge Statham fan, but even here he can’t seem to find his footing and get into the groove of things. His ridiculous relationship with his fiancée (a returning Charisma Carpenter who still looks amazing) and his banter with his fellow soldiers is beyond lame. Everyone just seems to be phoning it in except for Terry Crews, whose character is the only aspect of both films I like. Scott Adkins is moving up my list of new action stars and he gets to strut his stuff here a few times, although his big scene is cut short before it goes into awesome territory.

But out of all the actors, it’s Nan Yu who brings all her scenes down. She is a horrible actress, incapable of being convincing as a soldier or even her character. She just stands there for most of the movie, emotionless, watching things go on around her. I can’t imagine that she was cast due to her looks since I didn’t find her attractive at all. It certainly wasn’t for her acting chops. I would have cast Ziyi Zhang or another Hong Kong actress that can actually act as well as handle the action the script requires.
Most of the action scenes are pretty pedestrian and feature a lot of bad CGI. The plot takes ridiculously stupid twists and turns, the dialogue is crap and none of the characters are interesting or fun to watch (although using Dolph Lundgren’s real life degree in chemical engineering as a plot point was brilliant). They even managed to turn Chuck Norris’ brief appearance into a big joke.

I just don’t understand why so many people love this series. Don’t get me wrong, I love 80s action movies. Some of Stallone’s films rank among my favorites (First Blood and Tango & Cash) and I’m all about the cheese. However these flicks just don’t seem to entertain me. I don’t get a sense of fun from the endless harkening back to the old days of action cinema. I just find these films dumb, tiresome and worst of all… non-entertaining. Sorry to disappoint fans of this franchise, but I just don’t get it.

But I will admit that I’ll most likely see the already announced third film with Nicolas Cage. Oy vey.

0.5 out of 5

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