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The Expendables 2 (2012)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins, Nan Yu, Amanda Ooms, Charisma Carpenter, Nikolette Noel

Directed by Simon West

Expectations: Pretty high. JCVD, man!


This approximates the opening scene of The Expendables 2, and for my money it was worth the price of admission. I had to restrain myself from literally leaping up and making the most primal noise my thin, feeble frame could muster. Nevermind that we later get Arnold, JCVD, Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris showing up in varying degrees, this immediately explosive opening is something to be reckoned with. While it played out, I imagined writing a four-star review for the film and how I’d buy it on Blu-ray and watch it any time I felt less than a man. So when the dust finally settled (the scene is quite long and full of cascading “Oh shit!” moments), I was disappointed to find that it would be a long time until the next legitimate action scene, and that nothing in the film would live up to its opening. But that’s OK, because even if the opening completely blows the film’s wad, the rest of the film is quite entertaining.

But let me be completely honest: I kind of drifted in and out of caring during the overly talky middle section where everyone on-screen had something seemingly “deep and important” to say. I don’t want to say that the writing was bad or that it wasn’t worth paying attention to, but I was literally in such sugar shock from the opening scene that anything less was not going to do the job. I’ll have to watch it again to really see if it’s as boring and unsatisfying as it seemed. Eventually when this middle section gives way to the finale, I was more engaged, but still disappointed that it didn’t live up to the opening.

But that being said, JCVD is fucking incredible. Not only does he prove to be the film’s greatest actor, his machismo call-out to Stallone that prefaces their climactic battle is perhaps one of cinema’s greatest “Come and face me like a man” speeches. I wished and prayed that at the end of it he’d bust the splits, as everyone else got to make in-jokes about their catch phrases, but sadly there were no splits and there were also no drawn-out slo-mo screams to punctuate the hits. Maybe if he was a good guy. Anyway, Stallone and JCVD go toe-to-toe in an incredible battle that puts every hand-to-hand moment in the original Expendables to shame. Which reminds me, Jet Li’s only in this one for all of a few minutes, but they made it a point to give him one great, if much too short, moment of fighting zen. There’s one long take of Jet laying waste to Nepalese baddies with a frying pan that will remind you why he’s in these movies, but then he promptly leaves the movie never to be heard from again. What? It makes no sense, except maybe that Stallone felt bad about his shitty editing of Jet’s fight in the first film, and that with all the new peeps, someone had to exit to make room.

Which brings me to the characters. Everyone except for Mickey Rourke is back for the sequel, and it’s really fun to see everyone back together doing their thing. I mentioned in my Expendables review that I wished that whole movie had the tone of the final, comedic scene, and I got my wish. Expendables 2 is all about these dudes coming together to have some fun. Of course, because there’s so many awesome dudes on-screen, it’s tough to give them all their due so don’t go in expecting that. Arnold’s part is basically in the trailer and while it’s fun to see him back in action, we’ll have to wait until January to see him truly come back in The Last Stand, which, by the way, looks fucking awesome. Anyway, there’s no development of anyone, it’s actually even less than the first film, but I doubt anyone that’s throwing down hard-earned cash to see this movie gives one, let alone two shits about that. I didn’t, and it was fun.

The story is also kinda dumb, but that also doesn’t matter. Bruce Willis shows up and says, “Hey Stallone, do this because of that shit you did that made me mad!” and Stallone says, “OK.” Basically. As this happened pretty soon after the intro action, I may or may not have missed key plot points as I replayed in my mind the amazing tour de force that was the opening minutes. In any case, it’s not the story you came for and the story is one that would perfectly populate any number of incredible ’80s action films about evil men raiding buried caches of plutonium. The key thing here is that JCVD gets to say plutonium multiple times, and I could listen to that all day long. Also, I found his character interesting and very ’80s in that he didn’t care to blow up the world with the plutonium, he’s only concerned with the money he can make with it.

Simon West took over the directorial reins on this one and it results it a far superior film technically than the original. It’s like Stallone and company actually listened to and responded to my main criticisms of the first Expendables: horrid editing, ridiculously fake CG, and ugly cinematography. Every single one of those is rectified gorgeously. Now the editing is normal and we’re able to see what’s going on in the hand-to-hand sequences, the CG is limited to things that aren’t fire and generally looks pretty good (or at least passable in the sense that it never bothered me at all), and the shots are legitimately nice to look at. Seriously, there’s some shots of the team standing around looking jacked and ready to go that would make any action director envious.

Expendables 2 is incredibly over the top, ridiculous and full of cheesy one liners, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is the film I had hoped the original would be and I hope everyone involved can stick around long enough to blast out Expendables 3. We gotta get some Wesley Snipes in this motherfucker.

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