THE EXPENDABLES 2
**** (out of 5)
August 17, 2012
Sylvester Stallone as BARNEY ROSS
Jason Statham as LEE CHRISTMAS
Jet Li as YIN YANG
Dolph Lundgren as GUNNER JENSEN
Chuck Norris as BOOKER
Jean-Claude Van Damme as VILAIN
Bruce Willis as CHURCH
Arnold Schwarzenegger as TRENCH
Terry Crews as HALE CAESAR
Directed by: Simon West
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I grew up in the 80s, so much of my free time was spent in movie theaters and on my couch watching the tough guy films of the stars of that era. I lived on a steady stream of Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis movies. And I also enjoyed quite a few movies starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren.
So two years ago when Sylvester Stallone gathered together a bunch of his action star buddies from over the years to make a blow-em-up ensemble piece, I was really excited. I eagerly awaited the release of “The Expendables,” expecting a high-octane, tough guy version of “Ocean Eleven.” And I got it… sort of.
I had huge reservations about “The Expendables,” from the long Mickey Rourke soliloquy to the pointless inclusion of not-quite action stars like Randy Couture and Steve Austin. I was down with Jet Li and Jason Statham because, even though they came later than Stallone and Lundgren, they had starred in their own slate of action films in the 90s and the 2000s.
This led me to realize that to really earn the right to be in “The Expendables,” the actor must have enough headlining theatrical releases that you could blow a Saturday watching them on DVD. Some of the tough guys in the first movie really had no right to be fighting with the other big boys.
A fine director in his own right, Stallone made the first film more like his “Rocky” films, featuring pointed characterization and long dialogue scenes. This led me to give a middling review of the film.
All of this has changed with “The Expendables 2.” Sure, Randy Couture is still clogging up the team, but he’s really in the background. Terry Crews, who was in both movies and doesn’t have the same history as the other guys he’s working with, is at least a hoot to watch. I look forward to some September and January actioners with this guy in the future.
The key to this movie is some notable stars have been added to the mix in more than just cameo roles. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis have much more screen time, and both Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme are tossed in there as well.
The director hat has changed hands, too. Simon West takes over from Stallone and oversees a much more traditional movie. The story is a basic mercenary revenge story in which Stallone and his gang are trying to recover a computer from a crashed plane. Jean-Claude Van Damme shows up as the villain and steals it away, leading him to a cache of weapons-grade plutonium, which gives the movie a nostalgic Cold War feel to it. The Expendables have to go on the offensive and recover the plutonium while rescuing villagers in the process.
It’s not genius script-writing, but it works in the film perfectly. In fact, it’s this kind of story that was the essence of my disposable movie-watching while I was in my formative years.
In short, “The Expendables 2” is everything I wanted the first film to be but never got. It opens with a loud and violent action scene and hardly lets up. Even with more characters, it feels less crowded than the first movie, and there’s a lot of irreverent humor about the genre itself, including some great lines delivered by Schwarzenegger and Willis. Sure, these are often cringe-worthy snippets of dialogue, but it is what made these guys famous in the first place.
Don’t expect anything brilliant or deep, but enjoy “The Expendables 2” for its big, explosive fun.