Director: Simon West
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, Nan Yu, Liam Hemsworth and Jean-Claude Van Damme
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
The plot of The Expendables 2 is non-existent however; I’ll give it a go. Bruce Willis hires Sly Stallone’s team of tough guys to stop a package falling into the wrong hands. The wrong hands is this time personified by the muscles from Brussels himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Of course the package falls into the wrong hands, resulting in our villain of the piece gaining control of a bunch of plutonium. So now Sly’s gang must in the words of Stallone himself, “Track him, find him, and kill him” Let the ridiculous over the top action and cheesy one-liners ensue…
The first scene of this film is leagues ahead of the entire first movie. Sylvester Stallone stepped away from the directing chair for this one, giving Simon West the responsibility. Surprise, surprise…Simon West is a much better director than Sylvester Stallone. The action in this film is coherently and excitingly shot, the tone consistent and the pace brisk. The action sequences in this film are on a much larger, clearer and funnier scale than anything in the original. While a few of the kills and explosions are direct rip-offs from other movies, for the most part this is action on a level that I haven’t seen in mainstream cinema for a while.
However these scenes of insane action are accompanied by a self-knowing and self-deprecating attitude. The action sequences are knowingly over the top and in the first scene my audience were laughing harder than I have heard audiences laugh at comedies this year…during scenes of people’s heads exploding. However it is not just knowing in terms of the over the top nature of its action scenes but also through its dialogue and characters. The appearance of Chuck Norris in this film is one of the funniest scenes of the year, if you are aware of the myth of Chuck Norris that has built on the Internet over the years. A perfect example of this film’s humour is Arnold Schwarzenegger bursting onto screen and then saying, “I’m back!”
The jokes made about the age of the characters are not as frequent as one would expect and when they are made are quite amusing (We’re laughing with and at them). While an actual Unforgiven-esque film could be made about aging action stars with a serious and poignant comment on the genre, this film is more concerned with blowing stuff up and spilling as much blood as possible than producing anything career or genre defining. A wasted opportunity I can forgive them for if the wasted opportunity is this fun. You see, the first film had two missed opportunities. The missed opportunity of being an Unforgiven style re-examination of the genre through older eyes and a wasted opportunity of being dumb fun. This time around, they have embraced the latter and therefore made the lack of the former, easier to accept and forget.
If you are a fan or can appreciate dumb, ridiculously violent action movies and are aware of these actors and their cinematic and cultural past, it is impossible for you not to be laughing and smiling all the way through this film’s superb third act. When you see Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting alongside each other, the film pummels you with enough explosions, blood, stupidity, laughs and cheesy one-liners, into submission. In a sense The Expendables 2 is one of the more entertaining and satisfying cinematic experiences of the year. It delivers exactly what you wanted and expected from the first.
The performances are all one-note and nothing to write home about, however watching Jean-Claude Van Damme “chew up the scenery” with his villain role was a joy to watch. As for Sylvester Stallone, he was harder to understand than Bane. The script is not going to win Oscars; the acting is not what some would even consider acting, however in terms of pure, shameless enjoyment, The Expendables 2 literally blows many films out of the water. I saw this film on a Friday night, after my first full week of my last year of school, with a bunch of friends and those were perhaps the perfect conditions. I was laughing and engaged from beginning to end, genuinely enjoying myself and appreciating the film’s action direction, antagonist and tone.
The Expendables 2 is not a good film. In fact a very solid argument could be made to say that it is a very, very bad film. However as I said to one of my friends walking out, it was probably one of the more awesome awful films that I have seen. It does what few sequels can do (Be infinitely better than its predecessor) and was much better than it had any right to be.
So if you want to see an atrociously acted, woefully written, stupid and over the top film full of ridiculous scenes of action and cheesy one-liners, The Expendables 2 is the Citizen Kane (Or should I now say, Vertigo) of that description. When one of my main complaints is not enough Jet Li beating guys up with kitchen pots and pans, you know that you are dealing with a unique film critically. As a film critic it is probably my duty to give this film a bad review and a low rating however this film was enjoyable, packed with well-done action, had a great villain and tonally is one of the more consistent and enjoyable films of the year. Plus, unlike pretty much every single film this year, its third act may in fact be its best, rather than its worst, movement.
This may not be the film critic thing to write but this film ultimately suffers from having too much story and too much talking. This film should have embraced the Roger Corman rule and took twenty minutes out of its running time (The twenty minutes or so that consisted of pointless, unexplored and beyond poorly done character development would suffice) and added in a few more exploding helicopters. I can encourage an even more ruthless eradication of story and character when the story is done so poorly and the action done so well.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister, Michael Dalton