The Expendables are back and this time it's personal...
Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) -- with newest members Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and Maggie (Yu Nan) aboard -- are reunited when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enlists the Expendables to take on a seemingly simple job. The task looks like an easy paycheck for Barney and his band of old-school mercenaries. But when things go wrong and one of their own is viciously killed, the Expendables are compelled to seek revenge in hostile territory where the odds are stacked against them. Hell-bent on payback, the crew cuts a swath of destruction through opposing forces, wreaking havoc and shutting down an unexpected threat in the nick of time - five tons of weapons-grade plutonium, far more than enough to change the balance of power in the world. But that's nothing compared to the justice they serve against the villainous adversary who savagely murdered their brother.
That is done the Expendables way...
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The wildly successful The Expendables in the Summer of 2010 was bound to have a sequel, and more action. The Expendables 2 does not disappoint; in fact, it is more fun than the original and features even more of viewers favorite aging, iconic action hero's--and they do not wear tights or have superpowers.
The opening scene of The Expendables 2 takes place in Nepal, as a goggled Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his band of overgrown, muscled, fight-ready men, including Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Road (Randy Couture), and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), lay siege to an unsuspecting compound. Their tank-like trucks, one fittingly named "Bad Attitude," tear through the compound, guns firing rapidly, explosions taking place every other second, tearing buildings down as they crash into them. There are no stealth tactics used, it is all in-your-face high octane action that makes your heart beat rapidly and your senses perk up with excitement. The fighting continues on foot, as the men punch, brawl, and knife their way into the building to rescue a Chinese businessman. They run into an old friend along the way as well, Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is need of some assistance. After the dust has settled, and the compound lays in ruins back in Nepal, the team finds themselves back in their old beat-up, and past its prime airplane, saying goodbye to Yin Yang (Jet Li) as he accompanies the Chinese businessman, via parachute, back to China. By this time you've also met the new kid, and he is referred to as "kid" by Stallone's Ross, Liam Hemsworth's Billy The Kid, an ex-army man who has chosen the mercenary life in order to earn enough money to support his French girlfriend. Billy The Kid is a soft hearted man, who just happens to be an exceptionally talented sharp shooter. The original gang is all back in The Expendables 2 during this brief but unforgettable opening, and then the real fun begins with some new blood.
Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) still believes Barney owes him a debt, having gotten away with millions on the previous job. He has a simple task for Ross and company, to retrieve an item from a safe on an airplane that crashed in Albania. The crew is assembled with one added addition, a woman who is capable of handling herself, Maggie (Yu Nan). It is Maggie who will unlock the safe, all the men have to do is get her to the plane safely. It all appears to be quite simple, until they run into a new foe. Through the fog he appears, Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), in a long black leather trench coat and dark black sunglasses, wielding a gold-plated gun. A glorious vision to behold, for fans of Van Damme who have eagerly awaited seeing him join in the fun of The Expendables franchise. Van Damme does not disappoint, the enjoyment he is having playing the villain Vilain is infectious. He points to the tattoo on his neck, claiming he likes symbols, and explains that it is "a symbol of the Gods, the pet of Satan," with his trademark accent and broken English. Van Damme is amazing, and as the film progresses to include Plutonium (Back to the Future, anyone?) and an old mine where villagers are being tortured as slave labor (The Temple of Doom, anyone?) Van Damme only shines with each line he speaks, each time he drop kicks someone to the face, and well, for just existing. The theatrics involved in his appearance as the villain in The Expendables 2 cannot go unnoticed and the film could not, would not, have been as much fun without him.
The Expendables 2 is guaranteed to please the viewer with the comedy, the stunts, the action, and the fact that it does not apologize for being exactly what it is: a ridiculous concoction of action movie stereotypes featuring the most famous action movie hero's of all time, past their prime (for most). These men are the greatest showmen to ever grace the silver screen, with rippling muscles and body oil included.
The plot of The Expendables 2 is inconsequential, it is the experience a viewer is after with the film. The desire for action, comedy in the form of banter and inside jokes that refer back to the actors previous characters on film, and simply put, to have a great time at the movies without much thought is what The Expendables experience is all about. The Expendables 2 is all of these things, as the first film put in place, and a great deal more. Screenwriters Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone have outdone themselves with The Expendables 2. The characters are all more at ease with one another, and the banter written between them more personal, hilarious, and poking fun at themselves stronger than it was before. Stallone's Ross and Statham's Christmas play off one another with incredible casualness, like they have been friends their entire lives. The addition of a younger Expendable with Hemsworth's Billy The Kid opens up new possibilities for jabs between the two characters who are constantly testing one another's abilities. Christmas may be jealous or envious of Billy The Kid, or maybe he is concerned that he will replace him as Ross' favorite. The interplay results in some of the best written on-screen action duo dialogue ever done.
Ross and Christmas do not have all of the fun, the addition of Schwarzenegger as Trench, Bruce Willis' Mr. Church in a more expanded role, and the most unlikely Expendable in Chuck Norris' Booker open up the possibilities for humor greatly. Willis and Schwarzenegger have a moment between one another when Schwarzenegger's Trench says "I'll Be Back" only to get a rebuttal from Willis' Church of "No, you've been back enough, I'll be back," and the joke continues with a perfect punchline, the joke being lost if it were revealed here. With Norris' Booker it is all about the mystery, the loner who swoops in to save the day and out just as fast. The accompanying music is what brings the laughter and the hook for Booker, it is an homage to everything Chuck Norris--chuckles are impossible to withhold. Terry Graves continues to be given one-liners to die for, his hulking presence of a body never being forgotten or commented upon. Dolph Lungren will always be Dolph, and this time around his real-life as a chemical engineering scholar and his connection to MIT is expanded upon for his character Jensen, the man who is part crazy sociopath part genius. The joke may be reserved for a viewer who knows the ins and outs of Lundgren but even for someone who does not it is hilarious to conceive that a man who looks like Lundgren, at 6 feet 5 inches and weighing around 250 pounds, would be highly intellectual. When it comes to Van Damme's Vilain, you have to experience what the screenwriters have done for him and how he conceives his character in all of its abundant ridiculousness for yourself to appreciate it fully. Words do not do justice to Van Damme's Vilain; even if they have in fact done him justice three times over with the script.
With lines such as "male pattern badness" and "track'em, find'em, kill'em," The Expendables 2 is comedic gold. This may be an action movie, but the enjoyment comes in the humor that is layered in between, and sometimes smack in the middle, of the action. Stallone and Wenk have done an amazing job of playing homage to all of the respective characters body of work, therefore giving the audience an amazing treat with The Expendables 2.
Rumor has it that Chuck Norris was against being in an R-rated film and therefore The Expendables 2 would be rated PG-13. This would of course result in less bloodshed, language adjustments, and whatever else that might tip the scales being adjusted in the final cut. Well, that idea got thrown out at some point and The Expendables 2 is rated R for bloody violence. It is a bloody film, and the glorification of killing in exciting and inventive ways ever present. A favorite will be the use of an airport's x-ray machine and a man's torso. But the desire to hold back on what is shown is present, and it all revolves around the female Expendable Maggie. Maggie is proficient, as we must assume, in torture; she has a neat little pouch full of instruments that scream 'I'm going to tease you with pain until you talk.' But we never get to see her in action, as the scene always cuts away before she performs her magic. The result of said action is shown or commented upon but the act shielded from a viewer's eyes. With all of the bodies being blown up, shot to pieces, and bloodied with knives it is surprising that Maggie's handiwork is what gets cut. The thought that it must be because she is a woman crosses your mind after greater analysis, and then swiftly leaves it as you realize it does not matter all that much. Her character is boring, without any great substance, and wholly left out of the joke. Unless you can connect her to Stallone's Rambo films, but that is a HUGE stretch.
The action in The Expendables 2 constructs a beautiful dance between comedy and violence. The stunts performed are outrageous, the weaponry over-the-top, and the men doing the hand-to-hand combat at their best. Your heart will pound, the adrenaline will rise in your body, and your senses come alive with each and every action sequence. All of the actors in The Expendables 2 are known for being action hero's, for testing the limits of their bodies and minds to endure the greatest of feats. They are put to the test, and it is a glorious gratuitous explosion of action on screen. You could not ask for anything more, except to see Van Damme do the splits--a trademark of his that has sorely been left out of the film's choreography. But you do get to see Stallone vs. Van Damme, one-on-one, weapons tossed to the ground in an explosion of every iconic character each man has ever played come together in battle. That is worth the price of admission ten-folds.
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August 17, 2012