Granted, studios didn’t begin pumping them out in the ‘80’s, but, to a large part, they experienced a significant retooling in that bygone era. Mostly, this renaissance was fueled by the big budget star – think Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Arnold Schwarzenegger – coming aboard a particular action vehicle and asking for the part to be customized to what his fans had come to expect. In many cases, this only served to strengthen the picture, as the hero would be put through his paces in such a manner that maximized entertainment value. However, the action picture kinda/sorta suffered in the long run because too many pictures plucked from the same wellspring of inspiration has the cumulative (over time) of thinning out the premises. Pictures started to resemble one another, and – even worse – catch phrases became horribly predictable with each passing 90-minute flick. Still, while the formula worked, it was a doozy, so who can blame Stallone and his cohorts for leaping back into the ring for another go-round?
(NOTE: the following review will contain minor spoilers necessary for the discussion of plot and characters. If you prefer your reviews largely spoiler-free, then feel free to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If you’re okay with some basic explanations and hints of things to come, then read on.)
Church (played by Bruce Willis) pulls the Expendables back into action in order to settle a lingering old score with Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone). However, he insists that the team incorporate Maggie (Nan Yu) as a vault specialist to recover a secret map that conceals weapons’ grade Plutonium. However, Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) has other plans for the materials, and, when he kills the youngest member of the Expendables crew (Liam Hemsworth in a brief appearance), the mission becomes a race against time to save the world from a lunatic with aspirations of a nuclear weapon.
Now, for the record, let me just clarify right away that the best thing about EXPENDABLES 2 is the fact that action fans are finally treated to some quality screen time shared by three film legends: Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis. They’ve long been rumored to be friends off-screen, and there’s nothing – NOTHING – that can ever replace seeing them together, working together, shooting guns together (at the bad guys), and dispensing their own respective brands of justice. It’s that fuel that makes this franchise burn, and burn brightly. Add Jason Statham to the mix, and you should have pure cinema perfection, right?
Like the action picture fell at the wayside with some measure of predictability in the late 80’s and early 90’s, EXPENDABLES 2 suffers from that same mushy story logic and a desire on the part of all involved to have a moment. Most of the jokes and one-liners work just fine – swimmingly, in fact – but there are a few that could’ve been easily trimmed. Unlike the first go-round, this second installment feels a bit bloated, and that’s probably because every action star and their kitchen sinks were chucked in here. As a consequence, some of it ends up being more than a bit schlocky … and that’s never a good thing.
For example, Chuck Norris joins the film as Booker, an almost infamous professional of legendary status. I won’t spoil it for viewers, but, suffice it to say, his addition here comes off more cartoonish than it does anything else. There’s nothing wrong with a kind of invulnerability (we expect THAT of our action heroes) … but an almost magical, mystical ability to appear in the middle of a firefight when no one called? That’s over-the-top … and, speaking of over-the-top, Stallone made an action / family film called OVER THE TOP, and I’m surprised that didn’t serve as a joke here.
Some of the material grows tired in this second go-round, but, as I hear a third script is being fleshed out at present, let’s hope the movie gods don’t make the same errors next time. It’s precisely this kind of thinking that brought the traditional action flicks of the 80’s and 90’s crashing to a halt at the cineplexes. Let’s keep an eye on our history, Sly, and let’s not have that happen again.
THE EXPENDABLES 2 is produced by Millennium Films and Nu Images Films. DVD distribution is being handled through Lionsgate. As for the technical specs … you’re kidding, right? This is a Sylvester Stallone picture, and good ol’ Sly knows more than a thing or two about high quality technical specs. It looks and sounds amazing, just as it should. Likewise, Sly knows what his fans expect, so he chocks the disc full of extras, including an audio commentary with director Simon West, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and some explosive behind-the-scenes shorts focusing in on the stars, their weapons, and even a respectable history looking back at the rise of the action film … but very little about the fall of it as a genre. Simply put: there’s everything here an action fan could want and more. Enjoy it while it’s hot!
RECOMMENDED mostly for fans of action cinema, though some will no doubt be a bit disappointed in this follow-up as I was. After an exceptional opening action sequence to put the motion picture in high gear, THE EXPENDABLES 2 settles in way too comfortably into much of the same goofy, loopy territory that helped kill the big budget action picture about two decades ago. It ain’t all bad – with the kind of star power behind this there’s always a good shot coming – it’s just that this one succumbs to predictability much sooner than its predecessor did. With Norris, Van Damme, Willis, and Schwarzenegger coming aboard with more screen time, I would’ve hoped for more. While THE EXPENDABLES was two steps forward, part 2 was two steps back.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Lionsgate provided me with a DVD screener copy of THE EXPENDABLES 2 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
When I first saw the trailer for the first Expendables movie; I thought I had died and gone to action movie heaven. The Expendables featured an ensemble cast made up of the most well known past and present action movie stars. For me it was the coolest thing ever. When I eventually saw the movie (I bought the DVD with birthday money) I was alittle disappointed. The movie wasn’t very actiony and overall didn’t feel as great as the trailers made … more
2010’s ensemble action film ‘The Expendables” was an ode to the time when action movies ruled the multiplexes and when adrenaline-pumping stunts and explosions took precedence over plot and substance. Directed by Sylvester Stallone, the film did have some rough spots but proved to be a escapist fun. It also brought together the past and present array of action stars that satisfied action junkies. Well, this time, with Simon West at the helm as director and script written by Stallone … more
Star Rating: Watching The Expendables 2, I was repeatedly reminded of the Julie Brown single “I Like ‘em Big and Stupid,” a 1980s synthpop novelty song about the inexplicable attraction to muscle-bound men with low IQs. A sample of the opening verse: “When I need something to help me unwind / I find a six-foot baby with a one-track mind. / Smart guys are nowhere, they make demands / Give me a moron with talented hands.” Rare for … more
2010's The Expendables was a grand celebration of corny action movies with plenty of big names and big action. Upon watching it more I saw it did have flaws such as quick cuts of shaky cam and being filmed a little too close among some other issues. The Expendables 2 clears out most of those issues but brings a few more with it. In the original, we got the basics and thats been built upon here too. Stallone's Barney Ross runs a team of super duper … more
Of the 6 movies on my list The Expendables 2 is one of the ones I'm Most excited for. When I watched the first trailer, although it was only about 50 seconds long; it was enough to get me screaming like a Little girl at a Justin Beiber Concert. From that first trailer it looked like the movie was going to be on a more serious tone than it predecessor. I guess you could say the lighting and the low toned music gave me that impression. I was hoping the story would open up a … more