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?”

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The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior (2008)


Scratch Any Hero, and You Will Find a Monster Lurking Inside

Continuing onward with the Scorpion King trilogy, but starting with the ones that may lead to my untimely death.  Today’s movie is mainly serving to connect the movie that I was happy to watch (The Scorpion King) with the movie I am required to watch because my friend Eric requested it.  I never saw this movie before today because I tended to make good decisions for my entertainment before I started doing reviews.  I knew it existed, I just didn’t want to see it.  Was I right to assume this, or will I be tremendously surprised by the movie?  We shall see as I review The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, written by Randall McCormick, directed by Russell Mulcahy, and starring Michael Copon, Randy Couture, Karen Shenaz David, Simon Quarterman, Natalie Becker, Tom Wu, and Andreas Wisniewski.

The Black Scorpions are a group of elite Akkadian warriors lead by Sargon (Randy Couture), a powerful warrior and magician.  After the suspicious death of his father, Mathayus (Michael Copon) joins the Black Scorpions for 6 years of training.  Upon his return, he runs afoul of the newly appointed king of Akkad, Sargon, by refusing to kill his old friend Noah.  Sargon kills Noah anyway, and Mathayus goes to find a weapon powerful enough to defeat Sargon, getting joined by his childhood friend, Layla (Karen Shenaz David).  They also meet up with a Greek poet, Ari (Simon Quarterman), who tells them of a weapon called the Sword of Damocles that can accomplish this task.  They go to Greece and face a Minotaur, which causes other prisoners to join them.  They also save the life of a man named Fung (Tom Wu), who follows them simply to make sure the audience does not go long without being annoyed by something.  In the Underworld, they face the goddess Astarte (Natalie Becker), who tries to kill Mathayus and Layla while Ari and Fung find the sword.  They get it and escape.  Astarte goes to her servant, Sargon, and tells him to kill everyone, including Mathayus.  Our group return to Akkad to find that everyone has been lured into the arena to be killed in elaborate fashion.  Fung and Layla stop them from getting killed while Mathayus and Ari go to fight Sargon.  We think Ari betrays Mathayus, having been paid by Sargon, but then Ari double betrays Sargon and helps Mathayus.  Mathayus kills Sargon, Layla says she’s in love with Mathayus, Mathayus loves battle more and leaves.  The end.

This movie kind of sucked out loud.  Take the story and dialogue of The Scorpion King, make it worse and stupider, and remove all signs of the fun that made The Scorpion King work in spite of the writing, and you have this movie.  It was boring and predictable, the fight scenes were not interesting, and the dialogue ranged from mediocre to awful.  The story just starts in Akkad, makes a really long round trip where apparently Akkad is standing relatively still and nothing interesting is happening for us to check back in on, and then just ends ups back in Akkad.  I was so disinterested with the story that my mind kept focusing on what I saw to be a continuity error about Mathayus having a scorpion tattoo that he didn’t have in The Scorpion King or The Mummy movie.  Thankfully, they did answer this question by having him burn it off with a sword that was hot for no reason, so I didn’t have to wonder anymore.  The decision to make Ari betray Mathayus was completely ill-conceived because it happens and then turns him back into a good guy all within the span of about three minutes.  Had we been given an idea that he was a bad guy from the time we met him, we would be more happy to see him turn good at the end.  The poor state of the dialogue is in matching to the story, being a few failed attempts at witty one-liners or just exposition.  The narrator goes on far too long into the movie.  You’re only necessary to give us backstory, we don’t need you to tell us what we’re watching.  And as for the “witty one-liners”, there’s one part where Astarte tells Layla that she’ll rip her face off and Layla says “Good, then I won’t have to look at you.”  Good comeback.  Though to a lesser degree, The Scorpion King suffered some of the same problems, but the fun of the movie and the cool fight scenes elevated it.  This movie decides instead to have uninteresting fights, spread far between, and amp that shit up by using slow-mo to accentuate moves that aren’t that impressive.

As bad as those things are in this movie, the graphics of this movie are much worse.  Not always, the sets are all pretty well done.  The Underworld actually achieved a slim level of creepiness with it’s set pieces, and they all seemed to have been crafted very well.  The Rube Goldberg machine that they set to kill all of the Akkadians was pretty interesting, but only assuming you ignore the fact that it was an over complicated way of killing a group of people that were trapped in an arena surrounded by archers.  It still looked good, though.  Everything else was the problem.  If you make it long enough into this movie to see it, the pinnacle of it’s awfulness is the Minotaur.  It was the worst piece of computer animation I can recall seeing recently.  They seemed at least partially aware of it and tried to mask it with shaky camera, or not use it at all and use a prop head next to the camera, but when I saw that animation again I was just bummed out by how bad it looked.  They must’ve figured out that their computer animators only did this as a hobby, because the scorpion Mathayus fights at the end of the movie is mostly invisible.  Problematically, they then decided that they should just have pots fall over a lot to show that it was still there.  But they end it by having Mathayus throw some oil on it so that he can see it again, and then I was bummed out again.  Also, to show that he’s been imbued with Astarte’s power, a drop of her blood lands on Randy Couture’s head and makes a Scorpion, but it actually just looks more like a bad, tattoo comb-over.  But the thing that still gets me is the thing you can see to the right of this paragraph, and that’s the Sword of Damocles.  Would you look at that thing?!  It’s so nondescript that it seems like a placeholder for the real weapon that they’ll make later.  I could make that thing with some cardboard and spray paint!  Shouldn’t mythical weapons have some cool designs on them and not just be a boring hunk of metal with a shiny, sharp thing coming out of one end?  Looking at it’s making me mad.  I’m switching paragraphs.

The acting was generally pretty bad.  Michael Copon had a good look to him, and performed at least adequately, but it’s a stretch of credulity to try to have me believe this skinny guy is going to one day be The Rock.  Also, he lacked the Rock’s charm and presence, so that’s another negative.  Surprisingly, Randy Couture isn’t a good actor.  It’s not really his fault; the casting people shouldn’t have put him in such a big part of a movie anyway.  He did fine in the background of the Expendables, but he needs a little more practice before headlining.  He did really good in the fight scenes, though.  That’s not really a shocker, I suppose.  Karen David was ignorable for her performance, but she was at least pretty good looking.  Her character, however, was the most irritating thing in this movie for me.  I started thinking about it in the first fight she has with Astarte.  Almost every word out of her mouth up to that point is about how she can fight as good as any man.  She then gets into an unimpressive girl fight with Astarte, lord of the Underworld, which starts with “You’re ugly and old!”, “Well you can’t seduce guys!”, and “Well your weave is false!”  Okay, I added that last one.  Inevitably, she loses and must be rescued by Mathayus.  If you weren’t yet convinced that the writers don’t think much of women, by the end of the movie she seems to have not taken to killing and has decided she would rather be Mathayus’ housewife, but he wants to adventure on.  I guess the writers really put her in her place … which is barefoot and pregnant in front of the stove, if the writers had their way.  As for Natalie Becker, she wasn’t a good female character either.  I’ve seen movies where good looking chicks can be intimidating villainesses, but I didn’t see one today.  She was mainly just hamming it up, but was pretty weak and ineffectual in combat.  She was losing to a housewife until she decided to use magic.  SHE’S SUPPOSED TO BE A GODDESS!!

This movie sucks.  Don’t watch it.  Unfortunately for me, I’m moving on to part 3, and this movie has made me pretty nervous about it.  Weak story, lame dialogue, mediocre performances, and atrocious graphics.  But the sets were nice.  And the ladies were pretty.  I guess that’s all I can say about that.  You COULD stream this right now off of Netflix, but why would you?  The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior gets “Please tear my face off so I won’t have to look at you” out of “I fight for what you’ve corrupted.”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

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.