The Expendables 2 (2012)

I’m Not Gonna Hurt You.  I’m Gonna Take Your Life.

The Expendables 2 (2012)The reason for watching today’s movie was clear.  Why did I watch it?  Because fuckin’ man-tits-balls-ass-‘splosions Mountain Dew!  That’s why!!  Also, I reviewed the first one and the second one just came out in RedBox.  These two movies were very popular with men far more manly than I am, and the first one didn’t do much for me, but it wasn’t bad and had good action.  When they came out with a sequel, I wasn’t really inspired enough to see it in theaters even though Rotten Tomatoes told me it was better than the first.  I knew its time would come eventually.  And that time is now, so let’s get into my review of The Expendables 2, written (allegedly) by Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone, directed by Simon West, and starring Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Liam Hemsworth, Yu Nan, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scott Adkins, Jet Li, and Charisma Carpenter.

Though it has nothing to do with the story proper, The Expendables – leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), knife-thrower (and brother of Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber) Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), martial artist Yin Yang (Jet Li), heavy-weapons specialist Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), demolitionist Toll Road (Randy Couture), crazy dude Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and the new guy sniper Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) – go to Nepal to rescue some doctor and the captured mercenary Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger).  Yang inexplicably leaves the group and doesn’t return.  CIA operative Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) replaces one Asian for another – a technical expert named Maggie Chan (Yu Nan) – and sends him on a mission to retrieve something out of a safe.  While they go, Billy goes through a checklist of all the things he can say that means he’s going to get killed soon.  The team then encounter Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), who shockingly kills Billy.  After they recover, the Expendables set out for revenge.

I find that I am not nearly manly enough to forgive the problems of a movie like this.  The action is good, but the story is really predictable and the dialogue is painfully bad in parts.  The most predictable thing in this movie by far is the death of Liam “Handsome McSnipey” Hemsworth.  Generally I would expect movie makers to try to avoid clichés, especially if they’re going to want something to have some emotional impact in a little while.  But they did the whole checklist.  It was like the scene near the end of Black Dynamite, except this movie wasn’t a parody.  It was like, “I know I’m the new guy on the team that the audience would be less attached to – and I’m also the least famous person in this jet right now – but I’m so happy we’ve all gotten so attached so quickly that you guys will take it really hard if I die.  Not that I’m going to, though.  I have so much to live for.  This is my last mission until I retire and return to my girlfriend who loves me.  I can’t wait to not have a knife kicked into my chest by Jean-Claude Van Damme!”  After that, the rest of the movie could be summed up with “Revenge.”  I guess technically the entire story of the movie could just be summed up with, “New guy gets killed.  Team sad.  Revenge.”  A predictable action movie story is … well … predictable to me.  I guess bad dialogue is as well, but this movie still caught me off guard with how bad the dialogue was.  The cheesy “Chill out” from Batman & Robin lines are one thing, but they really hit us hard with the bad jokes about these action stars past careers.  You get “I’m back” and “You’ve been back enough” for Schwarzenegger, someone says “Yippee Kay Yay” to Willis, and they even drop a Chuck Norris fact or two for the be-bearded one.  I do appreciate having their careers referenced, but I would rather they do so with funny lines, not ones that may have given me an ulcer.  I don’t know if it’s an ulcer, I just know I’m shitting blood after watching it.  Perhaps I’ve disclosed too much …  I did get a minor smirk out of the Chuck Norris fact they used, but there’s also a very good chance it was just on the website and they just took it.  It was, “I was bitten by a King Cobra once but, after 5 days of agonizing pain, the Cobra finally died.”

One thing about this movie that I would not argue with would be that the action is interesting.  I know Stallone didn’t direct this movie, but the way action is done in his movies ever since the newest Rambo movie seems to be at his influence and I really appreciate how it looks.  It’s some strange mixture of realistic and gruesome while simultaneously being over the top and bombastic.  Shooting an enemy turns them into a bag of blood and gore and they get knocked back 20 feet by a single bullet or a hand-thrown knife hitting them in the chest.  The gunplay – and even the knife-play – was interesting to watch.  Some of the hand-to-hand stuff was interesting, but strangely it was worse when it involved the two best fighters: Randy Couture and Jet Li.  I don’t think Stallone knows how to set up martial arts, but he puts someone like Jet Li in a movie anyway.  In the first movie, I recall finding Jet Li’s fight scene disappointing, and I don’t even recall Randy Couture having one.  In this movie, Jet Li starts off with a decent fight in the beginning, but never again.  And the only thing I remember Couture doing that was vaguely in his ballpark was pinning a guy against a wall and throwing an elbow at his head.  Kind of underwhelming for the shit I’ve seen those two guys do in the past.  I would say that I appreciated most of the fight between Stallone and Van Damme.  It was pretty well done.  There were also some cars that were totally Mad Maxed out in the beginning, and there was also a part where they seemed to steal a scene from another movie.  It was when Stallone was surrounded and out of ammo and he acted like his finger was a gun, only to have his fake shooting backed up by a real sniper killing the guys.  I’m pretty sure that was something Chris Evans did in Losers.

The performances were what you’d expect.  Maybe a little better.  Not great, but I could imagine going into this movie thinking that these guys couldn’t even string words together.  But this movie is so gangnamed dripping with testosterone that I failed a random drug test after watching it.  I WOULD’VE WON THE TOUR DE FRANCE!  But everything in this movie is Orange County Choppers and Ed Hardy shit with skulls all over them.  Stallone even uses a pen in this movie that looked like he soldered trinkets from Hot Topic all over it.  Of course, the biggest thing to say about the cast of this movie is that it’s slathered with big name action stars.  The problem with that is that most of them are really showing their age.  Most of them still look ripped physically, but Stallone’s face looks like he got mauled by bees and Van Damme has alien eyes when he takes the sunglasses off.  I was also confused by Yu Nan.  She did a fine job in the movie, but I was confused about why he didn’t go for some JCVD version of an Asian actress for the role.  There are much bigger Asian actresses he might have been able to get!  He could’ve gotten Zhang Ziyi, Maggie Q, Michelle Yeoh, or any number of Asian actresses that were already known to Americans.  She just seemed out of place.

The Expendables 2 was roughly what I expected out of it.  Good action, soaked in testosterone and explosions on one hand, and the other hand is filled by blunt writing and dialogue so bad it gave me an aneurism.  And there’s really nothing to say about the performances in this movie; everyone in the world should have seen at least one movie with most of these guys featured.  And if you haven’t, then you’re probably not going to see this movie no matter what I say.  Otherwise, it’s fine enough for a watch.  Especially to make fun of.  The Expendables 2 gets “By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you man … and knife” out of “Who’s next, Rambo?”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Game of Death (1978)

What Must Be Done is Being Done.

When I reviewed Fist of Fury, my coworker friend Markle felt it was necessary to come to the defense of his fellow Asian Bruce Lee and request a movie that he felt would redeem the man.  He requested today’s movie and I pretty much forgot about it.  But today I had been looking for something that I could watch in my living room so that I could watch the movie while using my stationary bike to increase my sexy and hopefully make Markle leave his lady to get a little piece of the Robert, but I had no movies from Netflix in, and I haven’t seen anything on RedBox I wanted to watch in some time now.  I instead decided to browse through my Netflix instant queue to see if there was any talent within, and I found the movie Markle had requested.  So I decided to review Game of Death, originally written by Bruce Lee, but rewritten by Jan Spears, directed by Robert Clouse with the action choreographed by Sammo Hung, and starring Bruce Lee, Kim Tai-jong, Yuen Biao, Dean Jagger, Gig Young, Colleen Camp, Mel Novak, James Tien, Robert Wall, Dan Inosanto, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chuck Norris, and Sammo Hung.

A criminal syndicate, run by Dr. Land (Dean Jagger), is trying to pressure a martial arts movie star named Billy Lo (Bruce Lee, Kim Tai-jong, or Yuen Biao depending on when you’re looking) into signing a contract with them.  Both Billy and his fiancée Ann Morris (Colleen Camp) refuse, so the pressure is amped up, getting them attacked numerous times.  It reaches its peak when Land’s assassin, Stick (Mel Novak), sneaks onto the set of Billy’s latest film and replaces a blank with a real bullet, hitting Billy in the face.  Working with a reporter friend named Jim Marshall (Gig Young) and the doctor, Billy fakes his death so that he can take the fight to Dr. Land and take them by surprise.

What in the hell is wrong with Markle?  This movie sucked.  But the reason this movie sucked was not because of Bruce Lee.  It was because of the lack of Bruce Lee.  Bruce Lee actually died during the production of this movie, but the director wasn’t about to let that little hiccup slow him down.  He decided to use the 11 minutes that Bruce had filmed of the movie – along with scenes from his other movies and body doubles – to make Bruce appear in the movie anyway.  They seemingly had to hastily rewrite the intended story in order to make it work and explain why you couldn’t often see Bruce Lee’s character, and the story shows it.  But the story itself isn’t really all that bad for a martial arts movie; it was just hard to figure that out when I kept getting distracted by how badly Bruce was substituted.  We’ll get to that in the next paragraph.  I feel like the movie might not have been that bad if someone could go back in and use the technology of today to put Bruce into the whole movie, young Jeff Bridges style.  It’s fairly typical stuff for a martial arts movie.  The bad guy does something to the main character that pisses him off, and he fixes everything with the power of his fists.  Before he’s figured that part out, he wastes a pretty good amount of time going around talking to people about what he should do in this situation.  I too feel that the first places I go when I have a problem are a reporter and a Kabuki actor.  I also thought it was a strange bit of horrible coincidence that a large part of the movie revolves around shooting blanks at Billy but them actually killing him because that same thing would lead to the death of Bruce’s son later on.  But I wasn’t really worried when Billy got shot in the movie.  They had plenty of backup Billy’s apparently, and it would just be an excuse to wrap his face up for a large portion of the movie.  The ending of the movie was also really lackluster.  The bad guy dies.  ALL WRAPPED UP!  Let’s go home, gentlemen.  Good work!

Obviously, the look was my biggest issue with the movie.  More specifically, the shitty way that they patched in Bruce Lee when he wasn’t actually there.  It was always obvious and usually distracting.  If you’d like the best example of how bad it was, it would have to be the part where they literally taped a cardboard cutout of Bruce Lee’s face on a mirror over the face of the substitute.  That is not a joke.  They also were big fans of using their actor and cutting away to a picture of Bruce Lee’s eyes, or his scene from one of his other movies.  He has an entire fight with Chuck Norris in the movie that was just clips from Way of the Dragon.  I guess Chuck Norris is so powerful that he roundhouse kicked that movie and it ended up in this movie.  They also used a lot of stand in work, but they were both obviously not Bruce Lee, and that’s saying a lot since my racism makes me think they all look the same.  I’m pretty sure Markle and my friend TimKim stood in for Bruce Lee at one point in this movie.  The fights involving the non-Bruce people were not that spectacular, but the fights where Bruce Lee was actually there were good.  The bulk of it is in the last 20 minutes of the movie, which is also the only parts of the movie that I would say are worth watching.  Thankfully, you can skip right there with Netflix and get everything you need out of the movie.  Horribly, I was not afforded that luxury.  But the last 20 minutes is good times, while actually not being much more than a series of Bruce Lee fights back to back.  The first one starts as a fight where Bruce puts a Charles Manson style X on the forehead of his enemy with a jade fishing pole, then a standard fight, and the boss battle with a giant black man.

I can’t really say anything about Bruce Lee’s performance in this movie.  He didn’t offer one.  The only scenes he’s in are fights at the end of the movie.  The stand in people are wooden and unconvincing, and the people that dubbed his voice made Bruce Lee’s trademark “WAAAAAAAH”’s in battle sound really goofy.  Dean Jagger was actually an interesting character to me.  I liked that he was a mob boss but didn’t choose to take the standard intimidating guy performance.  He actually seemed likeable.  And it was also nice that he never really discussed their crimes openly with his associates, as if there was a chance he was being recorded at all times.  I actually liked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in this movie.  But he also didn’t really speak.  He was just a gigantic black guy fighting tiny Asian people.  I think it should also serve as a lesson that you should never teach giant black guys martial arts.  They would be too powerful!  It’s bad enough that tiny Asian people can use them against us!  The guy Bruce fought right before him caused me to laugh out loud too because, when they met, he obviously said something, but they muted him.  So he just stands there for about 10 seconds moving his mouth in silence before they start to throw down.

Aside from the last 20 minutes of the movie, Game of Death is a total failure in filmmaking.  The story was pretty basic.  At least I think it was, as I was too distracted through the entire movie with the horrible way they tried to have Bruce Lee in this movie when he wasn’t there.  The fights that they have that Bruce had already recorded were good, but the rest were just bad.  Personally, I think this movie should have died when Bruce did.  There was nothing in the bulk of this movie worth seeing for anything other than an instruction in what not to do.  I recommend the last 20 minutes of this movie for viewing, and the rest of the movie for burning.  Game of Death gets “A venereal disease.  Often terminal” out of “You lose, Carl Miller!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.