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