I realize that I had some pretty low expectations for EXPENDABLES 2 so maybe this movie isn't as great as I think it is. Maybe after a few more hundred viewings I will see the flaws and missed opportunities that usually come with an expensive high dollar action movie boasting such a wonderful cast. Just to be safe I lowered the amount of exclamation points at the end of my title to this blog entry to just three instead of ten. This movie does have a strange small controversy surrounding the original rating for the film. Stallone himself did say that this was going to be a PG-13 style film but that Van Damme's performance was so awesome that no one would care. That statement was later denied completely and pretended by Stallone himself to have never been said reassuring us that this was going to be an uncompromising violent film pushing the R rating. I took that as they filmed for a PG-13 but panicked after nerd backlash (myself included) and pushed for R. Thank goodness you can C.G.I. blood easily onto digitally filmed movies. With all that said I can say that EXPENDABLES 2 was blast-tastic. It was a bloody good time. It was an action movie fans dream come true. I really thought the whole movie was really really neat.
EXPENDABLES 2 is about Stallone's crew on the hunt for Van Damme and his personal military force known as the Sang. What was originally a short mission retrieving plans from a crashed plane quickly turns personal when one of their own dies at the hands (or should I say feet, ha-ha?) of Van Damme. After watching the trailers I was pretty sure I knew how this film story wise would play out. I knew who would die and why there was a woman now a part of the crew. Well thankfully EXPENDABLES 2 threw me a curve ball. I was wrong. Way wrong which in this case was a good thing. The movie is a little unpredictable slightly in that respect. Most of the time you can call it before it happens. But that's no big deal. They try to give you a little surprise at the beginning but you can see it coming a mile away. But maybe that is just me. Maybe I watch way too many movies gaining way too much knowledge on how films play on audiences expectations. Maybe I should stop writing this nonsensical review and go outside and live life to it's fullest..........But there are spiders outside so on I go with this way too positive review.
This movie moves quickly. In my head I remember it being one extremely long action sequence. Really though there are some quiet moments here and there to reflect a little on these characters personalities. The action is filmed fast and sometimes it looks really good but then other times because so much is going on at once it is kind of hard to tell who is doing what to who. Once I thought I was watching Randy Couture beat the crap out of some guy in heavy shadow but it turned out once the fight moved into daylight that I was actually watching Terry Crewes. The two were wearing the same hat making their dark silhouettes almost identical. Overall though all the action scenes were great even if the majority of them were filmed in basic American Acton Movie Style. Meaning we get shots of good guys firing guns cutting to reaction shots of bad guys who have a strange aversion to taking cover falling down dead. At least the body count is high. Very high. Like probably in the hundreds high. That's a good action movie, folks. There are some moments where I think that they really were aiming for a PG-13. There isn't that much blood for one thing. It looks like it was all added in post which the first one was but you don't have a lot of guys getting blown into pieces or major decapitations by big knives and such. At one point Jet Li grabs two frying pans and starts fighting a few guys because he lost his weapons or whatever. Its a good moment yet I was reminded of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES 2: SECRET OF THE OOZE where the Turtles stopped using their weapons and started fighting with yo-yo's and other stupid toys to try and appeal to the too stupid to know what TMNT is all about demographic. EXPENDABLES 2 doesn't go that crazy but it just made me wonder what they were originally shooting for.
Its really cool to see Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis and Chuck Norris fighting side by side. Their appearances are a little more than simple one scene cameos. Seeing these guys together is the best thing about this movie. It is a moment that deserves some reflection. Who would have ever thought such a movie could be made? It is kind of a dangerous thing. I am surprised the universe didn't implode somehow at the epic oddity of Chuck Norris saying a "CHUCK NORRIS FACT". Just be careful, EXPENDABLES 2 is all I am saying. I was afraid his acting would suck or be not as good as the others but Norris did a good job. As soon as Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis are together the movie can't resist but start throwing out their classic one liners back and forth. Thankfully the movie doesn't descend too far into the tongue-in-cheek territory. They seem to do it to make fun of themselves and their past persona's. I guess EXPENDABLES 2 isn't just an action movie but a post-modern action movie similar to ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. It is an action movie about these guys' past action movies. That is kind of cool when you think about it. Another bad thing about getting these three guys together is that the rest of the Expendables take a backseat to the film's focus. Suddenly at the end the movie seems to be more about them than the core crew of the Expendables. Yes, even Dolph Lundgren takes a backseat. Speaking of Dolph I am so glad to see that he is in the entire film. He is a lot of fun and I would have liked to see more of his interaction with Jet Li. These two have a unique chemistry together. I hope they explore it more in EXPENDABLES 3: NOW WE ARE JUST PUSHING IT. I just hope in the next one if there is one that Segal at least makes an appearance and they bring back Scott Adkins as another character to represent the future of action stars. It is neat to see Adkins and his mentor Van Damme together fighting side by side.
I like that there is a solemn attitude towards death in this film even if it is highly hypocritical. These guys encountered all kinds of horrors in battle and you can see it on their faces as they reflect on there past when Chris Hemsworth (who plays a young sniper new to the team) starts talking about his past experiences in the Afghanistan war. Yet the Expendables have smiles on their faces and cracking jokes as they gun down hundreds of bad guys. Gee, it sure looks like war is fun to them. Why so glum, chum? I think having this attitude or acknowledgement of the consequences of violence keeps the movie from becoming a light hearted action comedy. We don't want another DOUBLE TEAM on our hands here.
For me EXPENDABLES 2 was better than the first one. I was surprised, excited and relieved that the whole film didn't seem like a watered down bland mess. It was a near perfect action movie accomplishing what it set out to do. You can include this one in your conversation as to what are the greatest action movies of all time are. This one belongs somewhere in the top ten. Bring on BULLET TO THE HEAD and THE LAST STAND.
BTW: Second best thing about EXPENDABLES 2? No SHINEDOWN song to cast a stain on the whole film.