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The Expendables 2 Is Beautiful Garbage

The Expendables 2
Directed by Simon West
Written by Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone from a story by Wenk, Ken Kaufman, and David Agosto, based on characters by David Callaham
Lionsgate, 2012

As a child growing up in the eighties, you’d think I would have ran right up to watch the first Expendables.  All those action stars in one movie…but of course I knew Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger would only be in it briefly, and I knew that it was likely not very good.  And, I still haven’t seen it.  But, I took a look at the sequel knowing full well that the only thing I’d be missing out on was inside jokes from the first one, so I gave it a shot.

Let me state that many, many of the action movies we hold dear from the eighties are not great by any means.  If those movies came out today, our adult minds might not be able to take them.  Although, let me backtrack a little bit.  The action stars back then had some charisma: Arnold Schwarzenegger was always so very aware of himself as an actor that he made almost everything a treat no matter what.  The Running Man, one of those classic examples of a movie that just knows what it is and goes for it, isn’t great by any reasonable critical factor, but it’s great.  And that’s what a lot of those movies back then have going for them.  They are fun, and they came before digital effects became one of the biggest crutches in Hollywood action films ever.

When rounding up a cast that includes Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger, and add Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, you get the same sort of feeling you get when Robert De Niro and Al Pacino finally got back together on screen after the one scene in Heat in Righteous Kill: If only they could have done this sooner.  And we know why they never did: ego and cost.  The first three names in this paragraph all commanded $20 million or more back in the early nineties.  You couldn’t put all three of them in the same movie and then be able to afford your movie.

In The Expendables 2, the crew, also including Terry Crews, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Liam Hemsworth, and Randy Couture, must stop Jean Vilain (Van Damme) from acquiring a huge plutonium reserve, located after an airplane containing the map to the mine was shot down.  Church (Willis) enlists Barney Ross (Stallone) to find the plane, and “babysit” this chick Maggie (Nan Yu), who can help them find the plane and its secrets and is pretty tough in her own right.  One of the people listed on this page gets killed by Vilain, so it becomes that classic eighties plot line: adding revenge to the motivation for getting the bad guy.

The movie is filled with over-the-top violence: shooting and explosions abound, with really dumb dialogue.  If this movie had come out in the eighties, my younger self would have dug it completely.  My adult self knows what he’s seeing is awful, but yet, cannot discount the overwhelming coolness of seeing Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis battle Van Damme, including the final bare-knuckle fight scene with Stallone and Van Damme.  I mean, these guys are old, but they still look good for their age, and we’ve been given a gift here, even if it is Old Timer’s Day.

I think whether you should see this or not completely relies on what your gut instinct is.  This is a truly critic-proof movie, obviously.  But even some of the worst critic-proof movies have that exceedingly awful taint to them where you want to tear into it.  This one…somehow…I’m hands off.  I enjoyed it.


Comment from Jonathan
Time: August 20, 2012, 5:40 pm

This was a lot of fun. And while the writing might not have been the best ever; there were some really good moments. The opening action sequence is just outstanding (very reminiscent of something from a Bond movie but a million times bloodier); I especially enjoyed seeing Jet Li kick some ass - I kind of forgot how much fun he can be to watch. I will never forgive Stallone for ruining a perfectly great scene - when they mow down the last guy left in one of the battles and the horrendous one-liner that Stallone utters (”Rest in Pieces”) just completely kills what could have been a beautiful moment of silence (at least beautiful for an action film).

It should be mentioned how horrendous Schwarzenegger is. If he is going to be all nudge, nudge, wink, wink for all of these movies he’s got lined up over the next couple of years, count me out. You could even tell how hard of a time Willis was having playing along with him on one of the freaking too many “I’ll be back” scenes. Thankfully he’s not in the movie long enough to kill it.

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