Yes, I saw The Expendables 2: 2 Expendable 2 Furious last night.
Don’t look at me like that. I’m only human.
As some of you may recall, I avoided the first film because it lacked sufficient Arnold Schwarzenegger content. Since this was remedied for The Expendables 2: Expendable By Dawn, I had to go. I tried to stay home and commit to my usual Sunday routine of macramé and Cranford, but I just had to watch big, dumb guys spout one-liners while expensive things blew up.
In the 80s and early 90s, every popcorn-muncher imagined the action film fantasy baseball scenario of all of that era’s gun-toting heroes in one movie. No one ever said “what if we got Van Damme, Ah-nuld, Bruce Willis, Stallone, Dolph and Chuck Norris to star in an action movie so average you’ll have to rent it twice to remember the damn thing?”
So which of these scenarios does The Expendables 2: Your Sister Is A Werewolf fall under? Let me put it to you this way: it was a decent action movie, but it’d be better as a Funny or Die video. I was entertained, I never got bored, I laughed a few times, and I was genuinely happy to see all those action stars in one movie.
I never saw the first film (which really ought to have been called 1990s Wet Dream: The Movie), but I somehow managed to catch up with the labyrinthine plot threads of the story. For those in my position, here’s all you need to know: Barney Ross (Stallone) leads a group of mercenaries that consists of Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Loki (Liam Hemsworth), The Old Spice Guy and some guy who looks like a puffy Jason Statham. They’re the A-Team, but they stole a lot of money from Bruce Willis in the last movie, so he sentences them to GIRL.
In The Expendables 2: Nerds In Paradise, Stallone is joined by Maggie (Nan Yu) at Willis’ request. As payback for stealing five million dollars from him, Willis gives The Expendables their next mission: retrieve some top secret info regarding weapons-grade plutonium. They get the info, Willis will forget the theft.
Naturally, the info falls into the hands of a villain named Vilain (oh, I see…) played by none other than Jean-Claude Van Damme. To show The Expendables that he is a totally for real bad guy and not a lovable rogue like Snake Plissken or Ford Fairlane, he kills pretty boy Liam Hemsworth. This death is made all the worse because Hemsworth was only two days from retirement. (This leads to the film’s sole unintended laugh when a photo of Hemsworth is shown, as Hemsworth’s pose and goofy sweater would not be out of place in an LL Bean catalogue.)
With Hemsworth’s death being sufficient enough reason to say “this time it’s personal”, The Expendables plot their revenge on Vilain and his cronies. In their quest to quell the muscles from Brussels, The Expendables are given a little help by Trench (Schwarzenegger) and Booker (Chuck Norris).
I’m not huge on modern action movies. As much as people seemed to love Fast Five, I was completely bored. It seems like the action movie was something Hollywood perfected in the 80s and early 90s, resulting in the likes of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Even the “bad” action movies of this period are ridiculously entertaining, as you need look no further than Roadhouse, Cobra or Hard Target to see just how entertaining they could be. Nowadays, Hollywood’s standard product is the superhero movie, and recent American action films can’t hold up to the likes of Point Break, the original Total Recall or Escape From New York. It’s like they forgot how to do it.
The Expendables 2: S. Darko understands this problem even if it doesn’t really fix it. It has no great action set-pieces like the shed scene from Commando. The photography is muddy and the score (once the hallmark of a great action movie) is uninspired. It doesn’t even offer much in the way of funny dialogue. There are no Schwarzenegger-grade puns, with the exception of Statham’s “I now pronounce you man and knife.”
Statham, like Dolph Lundgren, doesn’t have anything to do save be the butt of jokes. Statham’s kicking ass in every movie he’s in right now, so it’s refreshing to watch him bitch about having to fix a plane. Lundgren redeems with a weird, charming performance — something we never saw in the likes of Masters Of The Universe or Universal Soldier. Jet Li only shows up for a cameo, but it’s so pointless that it would’ve been less awkward to have a single line of dialogue explain that he was on a fishing trip during this mission.
The movie makes up for these weaknesses mostly by coasting on the fun of seeing all these action icons in one movie. And, ocasionally, the film throws us a bone that elevates it above average. Chuck Norris doesn’t have much to do beyond show up, make a Chuck Norris joke, and leave. However, it’s probably the best Chuck Norris joke you’ll ever hear. The scene of Schwarzenegger and Willis firing at bad guys while crammed into a smart car is worth the price of admission alone. It’s the little things that kept me interested in Honey I Blew Up The Expendables.
An action film is only as good as its villain, and, I never thought I’d write this, but Jean-Claude Van Damme’s performance stole the movie. Most of his co-stars are fun to watch, barring Randy Couture who seems to struggle with even the most basic dialogue, but Van Damme makes a great, sleazy villain. The film could’ve used more Vilain, especially after hinting that the dude worships Satan. I was waiting on a scene where a robed Van Damme would sacrifice a virgin on an altar, but no dice.
So, if you like larger-than-life action movies and you’re willing to accept a movie that’s better than Eraser, but not as good as Roadhouse (Oh, Icarus, fly not too close to the sun!), then you will leave this movie happy. More than any script or technical flaws, my biggest problem is that the film doesn’t have a subtitle (despite my suggestions here). Subtitles were more or less mandatory in the heydays of Stallone and company. I know it’s tough, largely because “Electric Boogaloo” is already taken, but we need a good subtitle for the next one, okay?
Yes, there will be a next one, and I, for one, am excited for the release of The Expendables III: Smokey Is The Bandit. I know it hasn’t been shot yet, but I expect Stallone et al will be joined by Clint Eastwood, Mr T, Kurt Russell, Danny Glover, a box of Hidden Treasures cereal, Jim “The Hammer” Shapiro, The Ultimate Warrior, Max Headroom and a snap bracelet.
And I want them all to fight Predator. In space.
There will be a continuation of my review of Community‘s third season next week. I just had to write about the explosions and stuff and got distracted. That happens a lot. Oh, well.
Next week: Macrame!
Next week: How Community’s third season got its groove back.