Review: THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Review: THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

RATING: 2.5/5

Back in 2010, actor-writer-director Sylvester Stallone has made quite an impression for an all-star (over-the-hill star, to be exact) action extravaganza in THE EXPENDABLES -- a gleefully violent throwback to the '80s mindless action genre. Even though that movie didn't exactly lived up to its high expectation, it's fun and entertaining enough for die-hard action fans. The movie was a surprise hit, and an inevitable sequel is created two years later. So here it is -- THE EXPENDABLES 2 continues the same action-movie tradition of the yesteryears. Oh, wait -- the sequel is also bigger and sometimes better (I get the "better" part later on). But at the same time, it's also quite a disappointment, considering all the massive hype has surrounded this movie. Despite blessing with a $100 million tag, THE EXPENDABLES 2 is pretty much more of the same.

However, the opening 15-minute scene in Nepal is a top-notch entertainment: A group of hired mercenaries called "The Expendables" are back in action, and this time leader Barney Ross (Stallone) and his regular crew -- Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Ying Yang (Jet Li), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) and Toll Road (Randy Couture) -- are tasked to save a Chinese businessman. Here, the action comes thick and fast it's like as if you're watching an all-hell-breaks-loose finale of an action movie. Somewhere in between, there is one short but memorable fight scene involving Jet Li against a bunch of soldiers in the kitchen using a cooking pan. The "wow" factor is all here, and I can tell you this opening scene alone is certainly worth the price of admission. Well, actually, half of it anyway because what follows next is a series of (mostly) uninspired action scenes that quickly runs out of steam.

After that irrelevant mission in Nepal, Barney gets a surprise visit by Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) who forced him to accept a mission to retrieve an item from a safe stored inside a crashed airplane that was shot down in Albania, because Barney has betrayed him in the previous mission from the first movie. To avoid jail time, Barney agrees with the mission anyway and assembles his same crew, with two new members -- tech expert Maggie (Nan Yu) and a young sniper named Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth). Despite their somewhat simple victory of retrieving the item from the airplane, something goes terribly wrong. One of Barney's team gets captured and killed by Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) who wants that particular item badly. That mysterious item turns out to be a blueprint of an abandoned mine that stores plutonium. Vilain is intended to retrieve a large amount of plutonium and sell them to the highest bidders.

Nevertheless, it's payback time for Barney and his team as they are determined to hunt and take down Vilain and his crew. Tons of violence ensues.

Taking over the director's chair is Simon West, a genre veteran who is no stranger to action movie. Here's the good news, though -- unlike director Sylvester Stallone, who previously helmed the original shooting the movie with the annoying shaky cam, West is thankfully goes for the traditional shooting method. This time, it's a huge relief that you can see what's going on in the action clearly. It's a definite improvement over the last movie, and West certainly knows his way around with action genre. Apart from the exciting 15-minute opening scene, there are some individual action scenes worth praising for -- including the thrilling knife-fight scene between Statham and Vilain's henchmen and the final fight between Statham and Scott Adkins at the airport hangar. But too bad the rest of the action scenes are so redundant you'll be wondering whether Simon West goes auto-pilot during the bulk of this movie. Imagine spending most of the time watching a bunch of beefcake action stars standing there and shoot endless ammos against the bad guys, and you'll get the idea what I mean by being redundant here. I understand that a '80s action genre is meant to be cliched, but seriously, does it have to be that generic? A little more creativity won't hurt if West can sustain the similar excitement he creates so efficiently in the opening scene. And speaking of creative deficiency, the supposedly memorable scene of watching Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger sharing the same screen together while blasting off the bad guys are actually nothing more than a tired gimmick. Even the would-be memorable fight scene between Stallone and Van Damme is short-lived and very disappointing. Yeah, I'm glad that Van Damme still can do a few of his trademark roundhouse kicks (two, to be exact) but the overall fight scene doesn't have that lasting impression.

Plot-wise, Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone's screenplay is basically a rehash of the original. The story is haphazardly written, and even though I can see they tried their best to put as much self-referential parody as they can stuff in this movie, the jokes are mostly forced. Then there's the same old draggy, middle section which is rather annoying.

With more expanding cast this time around, their appearances are more or less the same. Even the newcomers to the series -- Jean-Claude Van Damme in his rare but disappointed bad-guy turn who talks too much but doesn't fight enough, Nan Yu in a thankless role and Chuck Norris in a wasted cameo appearance as Booker. I appreciate the way his cameo is obviously done to spoof his lone-fighter persona he once famous for during his heydays, but it's very disappointing to see that his appearance is so underutilized that -- the horror of all horror! -- he's not given a chance to showcase his fighting skill at all! I mean, does West or Stallone himself ever watched Chuck Norris's past movies before? Since when Chuck Norris is more famous for using weapons to dispatch bad guys? For Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's good to see them finally get their roles expanded here. There's a worthwhile scene involving both of them in the smart car scene as well as mocking at each other in a parody scene involving "I'll be back!" and "Yippee-kay-ay!". Meanwhile, Jet Li's role is surprisingly short-lived this time around, which is kind of disappointing since he fights very well in the opening scene. Dolph Lundgren is the most disappointment of all as he is used more as a comic relief (you've gotta to be kidding me!) than a fighter he used to be famous for.

Although the sequel here does offer some improvement, director Simon West can do better than just throwing all the violence and a wide bunch of aging action stars without making much of an extra effort. Let's hope if THE EXPENDABLES 3 really gets made sometimes in the future (providing if this sequel is making enough money, of course), the filmmakers can improve further than just sticking to the same old tired formula.

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

A lot better than the first because of the loads and loads of carnage that were involved and also just how much more fun everybody seems to be having. In my opinion, fun is all that matters when you have a flick like this. Nice review Casey.