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Friday
Aug172012

Movie Review: 'The Expendables 2' 

The Expendables 2

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, 
Directed by Simon West
Rated R

The Sylvester Stallone nostalgia tour of his back catalog began back in 2006 with the release of Rocky Balboa, Sly’s attempt to give a beloved character from the past relevance in 21st Century.  The result was a success, at least in terms of box office, as the movie made $70 million.  Then it was Rambo’s turn in 2008 with the simply titled Rambo, a movie that just decided to throw as much violence at you as possible, hoping that you wouldn’t notice how outdated and silly the movie really was.  He succeeded once again.  Then in 2010 came The Expendables, a good ol’ throwback to 80’s action movie excess with Stallone leading what was called the greatest action legends of all time together in one film.  Too bad it was more of a collection of direct-to-video also-rans, all too brief cameos by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger and  a really bad film.  But the movie made money…a lot of money.

That leads us to now, this very moment, and the opening of The Expendables 2.  Stallone, unlike say George Lucas, listened to critics of the first film, hired a competent action director, upped the action and blood quota and gave this movie some much needed fun.  Now let’s get one thing straight, this movie, from a story-telling point of view, is still worse than Stallone’s plastic surgery.  So while David Cronenberg will probably add this to his list of films he doesn’t consider art (but this movie is still better than most of thing’s he’s ever directed) we all know what we’re walking into with Expendables 2.  We just want to see shit blow up, we want to see heads chopped off and we want to see a really good fun action movie.  The movie kinda gets there.

The movie’s set up is pretty simple.  Barney Ross (Stallone) and his merry band of mercenaries are sent out by Church (Bruce Willis) to retrieve a valuable case (that holds the location of weapons grade plutonium) that is currently sitting in a plane that has crashed somewhere in Albania.  But that simple enough task get’s complicated with the arrival of Vilian (Jean Claude Van Damme) and his merry band of mercenaries who take the case and kill one of Barney’s men ( I won’t say who, but take a look at the poster, find the odd man out in the cast and you can pretty guess who get’s knifed).  Grief stricken just enough, The Expendables plot revenge.

And revenge they will get, as they track down Vilian and his men, kick their asses and bloody up the place pretty good…that’s it, K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid).  And they do so while cracking very on the nose self-referential jokes about their pasts (this is more so involving Stallone, Arnold and Willis, who both get more screen time).

The person who walks away from the movie with the gold star though is Van Damme, or JVCD, if you like.  The villain role suits him just fine, as he snarls and chews his way through every scene, taking full advantage of having the chance to be seen on the big screen again.  As an unabashed lover of Van Damme’s films, it was a pleasure seeing him again in this capacity.

The movie isn’t all wine and roses though.  Despite the fun and get to the point nature Expendables 2 has (almost a little too quick at times), it can’t escape some truly cringe worthy dialogue, the almost embarrassing bromance between Stallone and Jason Statham and the window dressing that other Expendables cast members end up being.  It also misses a real opportunity during the final battle between Stallone and JVCD.  It was actually well shot, but only lasted a couple of minutes.

In the end, I enjoyed my time with The Expendables way more than I did the first go around.  I think for the 3rd movie, and yes, it’s inevitable, Stallone needs to stay away from the screenplay.  He does that, they may have something.  But at least he tried a little harder to correct the wrongs of the first movie.

Oh wait, I almost forgot about the best part... Chuck Norris.  Yeah, Chuck Norris is involved, but for like 5 minutes (again, part of that being too brief problem).  But I will say, it’s a glorious 5 minutes as he kills everything he sees.   It’s a very fitting role for Chuck that plays off the mystic that he is a true bad ass.

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