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.

Fist of Legend (1994)

It’s a Good Fist If It Wins.

I’ve been on a real martial arts movie kick recently.  One of my recent reviews led me to this one, but I was also hesitant going in.  Recently, I’ve taken issue with a lot of the martial arts movies I’ve been watching being too story driven and neglecting to put martial arts into their movie for long stretches at a time.  So, when a recent review made me think that I should check out this movie, I was worried that it would share the same problems.  I decided I would watch it if, and only if, the front of the box did not have the word “story” on it.  When the front of the box only had two reviews – “Incredible fight scenes” and “Awe-inspiring” – I was cemented into the movie.  This movie is Fist of Legend, written by Gordonn, Lan Kay-toa, and Kwong Kim-yip, directed by Gordon Chan, and starring Jet Li, Chin Siu-ho, Billy Chow, Yasuaki Kurata, Shinobu Nakayama, Toshimichi Takahashi, Jackson Liu, Ada Choi, and Paul Chun.

Chen Zhen (Jet Li) is at a school in Japan when a bunch of karate students burst in and demand he leave because he’s Chinese.  They get violent with people in the class, but Chen Zhen doesn’t get involved until they almost get violent with Mitsuko Yamada (Shinobu Nakayama), a girl who is smitten with him.  After whooping on the students, their sensei, Funakochi Fumio (Yasuaki Kurata) comes in and apologizes for their behavior, then tells Chen that he’s just learned that Chen’s master, Huo Yuanjia, has lost a match against a Japanese master and died in the aftermath.  Chen leaves for Shanghai immediately.  Upon his return, he hears that Huo was not in the best of health when he competed in the fight.  He goes to the Japanese dojo and easily defeats Ryoichi Akutagawa (Jackson Liu).  Now knowing that there was no way this guy could’ve beaten his master, he has Huo’s grave exhumed and, with an examination of Huo’s liver, finds that he was poisoned.

This is exactly the type of martial arts movie I wanted to watch.  Does that mean that I’m going to stop reviewing so many martial arts movies?  Not just yet.  I feel like I need to also watch the Bruce Lee version of this movie first.  But that’s not to say that I wasn’t satisfied by this remake of that movie; I just feel like I need to see more Bruce Lee movies.  But this is what I mean by a good martial arts movie.  There’s a story to be sure, but the focus is on the martial arts.  They scarcely went 10 minutes in this movie without some good fight scenes.  Still, I’ll talk about the story first.  It’s okay.  Martial arts movies tend to suffer from having no overlying storyline, or in the very least a fairly confused one.  I guess you could say the overlying story of this movie was the problems between China and Japan, but they lost track of that a few times.  They lost their attention on that main story with the investigation of Huo’s murder, which then drove them into Chen getting framed for murder, which then led to Chen leaving the Jingwu school because they wouldn’t accept his Japanese girlfriend Mitsuko, which leads to a Japanese master challenging him, which leads to the Japanese challenging Jingwu … Oh wait a second.  Don’t we hate those Japanese guys?  Back on track!  And then 15 minutes later the movie’s over.  It’s become a big question in my head about how these movies go over in Asia.  I’m sure the Chinese are all about it, but this movie (and Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen) are mostly a big “Fuck You” to the Japanese.  Almost every Japanese person in these movies is either completely inept or entirely evil.  Japanese people must hate these movies.  I imagine it’s akin to how German people feel watching Holocaust movies.  The evil ones are poisoning people, framing people for murder, and trying to beat our hero to death while the inept ones are the peons in the dojo that run up to Chen Zhen and say, “Take your Chinese shoes and get out of here!”  Yeah, good one, bro.

So the story isn’t the greatest thing ever, but does it need to be?  In a martial arts movie?  Hell no!  A martial arts movie (as I’ve said before) is way more fun if it’s martial arts first, movie second.  You can cross a line in the opposite direction, like in Tony Jaa movies, where the story was thought up after they put on an exhibition of all the crazy things Tony Jaa can do.  This movie hits the sweet spot.  The story is fine, but the martial arts are great.  As I already mentioned, they barely go 10 minutes in the movie without getting some faces all nice and punched.  The movie used a not uncommon style with their main character where he’s a nearly indestructible character because of his skill until they reach the end of the movie.  Here, he’ll be challenged by the boss battle at the end, but he’ll overcome it, and usually with something someone off-handedly mentioned earlier in the movie.  But earlier in the movie, no one was really a challenge for Chen Zhen.  He beats the shit out of a classroom full of karate students, even more of them in a dojo, and then he beats up their master.  I liked the fight with the karate master too, because Chen Zhen was so much better than him that he kept just knocking him down and getting right up in his face.  In the fight with Huo Ting-en, he started moving a little more like the man who made the character famous: Bruce Lee.  It was mainly just his stance that reminded me of Bruce Lee, but it was still cool.  There really wasn’t very much to complain about when it came to the fights in the movie.  In the first fight of the movie gives away that the table he was supposed to fall through was fake by landing on a chair first and breaking the table with his hands before falling through it.  They PROBABLY should have not allowed this into the movie, but it didn’t distract that much.

I can’t say there’s generally much to say about the performances in this, or any other, martial arts movie of this kind.  They’re probably not intended to blow your mind.  Jet Li is the only person that makes any kind of impact here.  He’s really good at this role, but it also just required him to be pretty stone-faced and bordering on emotionless for the movie.  It makes his character seem more badass, but also doesn’t get him any props in the acting department.  He’s fantastic at the action though, mainly because he’s still well in his prime in this movie.  He’s so fast that you can barely catch him on camera half the time and his stunts are fantastic.

Fist of Legend is dope.  The story’s pretty basic and goes off on several tangents throughout the movie, but who cares what the story’s like in a martial arts movie?  Not me!  The action is fantastic every time it happens, and it’s spread so evenly throughout the movie that you never wait long for some more ass-kicking goodness.  Not the greatest movie ever, but a whole lot of fun, especially if you like martial arts movies.  You should definitely check this movie out.  I already own it on DVD, so you find out where you can get it yourself!  Fist of Legend gets “If it works, it’s a good one” out of “Does the rock have as much energy as an opponent would?”

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 (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

The Expendables (2010)

Welcome to the third installment in my “Prove I’m Not Gay” movies, following the back to back reviews of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sex and the City.  This particular movie could be argued as being the anti-chick flick.  Make a movie that includes almost every action star you could think of, add lots of explosions, forget to write a story, and even throw in a little love story for no reason and you have this movie.  This movie is The Expendables, starring … well … think of an action movie star and input their name here.  And, just to be helpful, it stars Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, David Zayas, Steve Austin, Charisma Carpenter, Eric Roberts, Giselle Itie, and have Arnold Schwarzenegger (yeah, I copied it off of a website.  Who wouldn’t?), Bruce Willis, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.  Any action stars you thought of that weren’t here will probably be in the sequel.

This story should be easy enough.  Stallone, Statham, Crews, Li, Lundgren, and Couture are the Expendables, an elite group of mercenaries.  In the beginning, they get onto a boat and kill a bunch of pirates holding hostages.  Lundgren goes a little nuts and tries to “break” someone, and if he dies, he dies.  Rambo has to kick him out of the group.  Then the Transporter’s girlfriend dumps him for a douche.  Black Mask wants more money.  Couture is sad about his ear.  Crews makes his tittie muscles dance.  So McClane gives Rocky a mission to kill a general somewhere and John Matrix turns down the mission.  So Judge Dredd and Chev Chelios go there and find out Eric Roberts, with his bodyguard Stone Cold Steve Austin, are really bad, and Cobretti falls in love with the general’s daughter.  Then they go back and kill everybody.

This movie is exactly what everyone expects it to be.  Dumb but exciting.  There is kind of a story to this movie, but it’s very typical and entirely predictable.  Surprising as it may be, Stallone actually has the ability to write some good dialogue from time to time.  He didn’t do that here.  It’s either really cliched or very confusing.  There were times that I was wondering “Why are they talking about this right now?”  And there’s a black guy that’s one of the pirates in the very beginning that both cannot act and cannot be understood.  I think that was a wise choice.

The cast is probably the biggest draw of this movie.  As I said, practically every living action star is in this movie at one point, and the ones that weren’t probably just couldn’t find the time to get in there.  They should’ve just had Van Damme walk by in the background at one point.  Sly looks really weird to me in this movie.  I know the man’s getting old, but he’s still ripped to shreds in this movie.  There are so many veins in this man’s arm that I would argue he had to have some surgically implanted.  But his face looks like he’s had Cher-esque work done.  The rest of the cast is exactly what you expect from them.  Except, maybe, for Jet Li.  For some reason, Jet Li gets his ass kicked in this movie by most people.  If you ask me, I bet Li could beat down everyone on this cast save for maybe Randy Couture.  The other person here is Mickey Rourke, who actually puts on a pretty good, emotion charged performance at one point, regardless to how shitty the dialogue he’s delivering is.  You should give the man an Oscar just for that.

The action is the other draw to this movie.  The fight scenes are pretty good, though I’d actually expect better from such a cast.  But they go more for gun play than for fights.  The other nice thing about this movie is that Sly wanted as many of the explosions and action scenes to be practical as they could manage.  So the shit that blows up into gigantic fireballs actually happened, and looks like it.  Also, I don’t know how he managed, and I believe it started with the newest Rambo, but Sly’s movies pull off some really brutal deaths.  I’ve seen it in things since but I don’t remember it before Rambo where it started to look uncomfortably realistic at times.  I’m cool with it though.  Good work.

So that’s that.  As I said, this movie is exactly what you expect of it.  It’s kind of worth seeing, but you probably won’t be impacted that much by it.  It’s explosions and deaths are cool, but everything else kind of sucks.  I give this movie “Rent it once, and then again in a few months when you’ve forgotten everything about it” out of 786.

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others.  It may help me get better.