By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Sylvestor Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews and Chuck Norris
Chances are, no matter what I say in this review, you have already made up your mind on whether you are going to see Expendables 2 or not. I feel that my job here is to reinforce. What I mean by that is help convince you whether this movie is a waste of time or a great time at the movies. The answer? A little of both. To begin with, I knew what I wanted, and got it in spades. What I wanted is to watch lots of old and new action stars getting together, cracking jokes and making things ‘blows up real good.’ So, as far as this goes, Stallone and company had me hooked into the first half of the film. On the other end, once a certain member of the team, headed by Stallone’s Barney Ross is killed, Expendables 2 slowly dips in quality and the fun that was once there in the beginning disintegrates into one bad plot point after another, leaving this film reviewer a tad bit underwhelmed.
Stallone, realizing he took on a little too much last time, still helped with the script but handed over directing duties to one Simon West. And, while West has proven more than once that he is more than capable of handling some good action (Con Air and Tomb Raider) his films have recently dipped in quality (The Mechanic, When A Stranger Calls). Here, he answers the directing call just fine. The film starts, much like the first one, with an all out epic scene of action goodness that was more than gratifying. West decides to film most of Willis’ scenes in dimly lit shadows, and also stages a scene of repoire in a helicopter that looked and sounded like it could have been taken straight out of Predator. West does an excellent job staging the opening scene, yet falters when doing the same with a scene in which our heroes invade a village more than halfway in. So, his direction wasn’t perfect. But, it also didn’t hurt the overall quality of the film.
Let’s face it though: while the staging of action is important, why is everyone here watching this dash of testosterone? To see the stars interact, of course. And, not surprisingly, these are the most entertaining parts of the film. Whether it’s Arnold calling Lundgren ‘Frankenstein’ or Norris entering each scene he is in to ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ playing in the background, these interactions made up for most of Expendables 2’s shortcomings. I liked Statham’s every man civil problems, and had a great time watching the charisma of brass knuckled Crews shine through. All of these guys get their time in the sun (except for Li, who is in the film short enough to have his time by a Bic lighter), but the one who stood out to me is Hemsworth. Hemsworth, who makes a great entrance, more than holds his own as the youngest member of the team, and you get the feeling that as many times as he calls Barney ‘sir’ in the course of being onscreen, he did it just as much offscreen to Stallone. I quickly warmed up to his character of ‘Bill The Kid,’ and gravitated toward the narrative involving the personal situation he gets involved in. My other surprise was Van Damme, who is more than fun as Vilain (yep, that’s his name). I got the feeling watching him that he really relished in this bad guy role and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if we see him again in a similar role in the near future.
Overall, if I had to compare Expendables 2 to a set of guns, I would say that the first half was an uzi and the second a pop gun. It was really fun grooving to the first hour, but once the script tried to falter into undeveloped territory, it made a lot of noise yet didn’t move me in the slightest with its added B-movie plot. However, who am I to say? After all, part of this series’ charm is its B-movie sensibilities. People coming in wanting to see scenes like a motorcycle taking out a helicopter and Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis shooting bad guys in tandem won’t be disappointed. And, who knows how many times they’ll be back.
3.5 out of 5