Film Review: "THE EXPENDABLES 2"
Published: Friday, August 17, 2012
Updated: Saturday, August 18, 2012 14:08
Meet the new “EXPENDABLES”; same as the old “EXPENDABLES”. The second entry in the geriatric bullets-and-biceps franchise tries to inject some new blood into the proceedings by switching out Sylvester Stallone for Simon West in the director’s chair (West was last seen remaking – and butchering - Michael Winner’s masterpiece “THE MECHANIC”.) But neither he nor the films latest direct-to-DVD ready additions – Chuck Norris, Liam Hemsworth, and Jean Claude Van Damme among them – can save this bloody exploitation flick from an irreparable feeling of ‘been there, done that’. I suppose when your film has Van Damme playing a villain named Vilain and his evil plan (stealing Russian plutonium) feels 50 years old, there’s really no way you can avoid that feeling.
Still, West doesn’t really do much of anything to add even a sense of excitement; the stakes are still nonexistent even with the plot as ‘grandiose’ as it is. The whole point of the film is still just to point and laugh as people tell Arnold Schwarzenegger that he’ll be “terminated”. It’s as if no one wondered whether the novelty of seeing the whole crew – Stallone, Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, and Bruce Willis, for those uninitiated - all together was already sated by the fact that they made a movie like this two years ago. Still, you can’t say that you don’t get what you pay for. This is the type of movie where if you see a spinning helicopter blade in frame, you can trust it’ll end up being used to decapitate someone. Even if none of the Expendables are actually ever expended.
Seriously, can you imagine how great these movies would be if they actually made them like down-and-dirty old-school action pictures, and were willing to kill characters off? These movies should be like “THE WILD BUNCH”; past their prime warriors fighting – and dying – against their own irrelevancy. Instead it’s just overly slick action sequences followed by cracks about how everyone belongs in a “museum”. It’s in the spirit of the first film, and fans of that one will be pleased, but the series still feels like a huge missed opportunity to me.
And one thing throws the entire experience off balance for me: the hilariously awful CGI blood liberally spray-painted across many of the action sequences. I’ve seen some pretty bad blood jobs just this year – “THE RAID” comes to mind – but this one takes the cake. It seriously looks like someone drew the blood directly onto the frames with a crayon. It’s the visual equivalent of the terrible dub jobs they’d add to 1970’s Hong Kong action flicks. In all honesty, it’s an embarrassment. It doesn’t help my opinion of the lousy fight choreography, which peaks early with an incredible Jet Li pots-and-pans battle; only for the script to dispatch him off to China so he can never make everyone look bad ever again (seriously, he’s gone after the opening credits.)
But still, a lot of this is entertaining while it plods along, mainly in it’s big loud action sequences, as opposed to the close-quarters stuff – the opener, with the crew saving a very large hostage in what had to be a ten minute set-piece, is a real doozy (assuming you can get past the aforementioned crayon blood intruding on every frame.) But the action is slick, impersonal, and a light year away from the visceral carnage Stallone depicted in the last film. This one’s still a B-movie, make no mistake, but it doesn’t have the same anarchic spirit. You can only trade your wares on a novelty premise for so long.