Wednesday, August 19, 2015
THE SYLVESTER SEMESTER: The Expendables 2 (2012)
became a hit. Almost immediately, Stallone went to work on “The Expendables 2.” Promising more eighties icons and bigger action, the sequel corrected many of the mistakes the first film made. The result was a more fun and satisfying flick.
The Expendables are still up to their old tricks, rescuing a kidnapped millionaire from some banana republic in the opening action beat. They have a new teammate, a young sniper named Billy - wait for it - the Kid. Mr. Church isn’t done with Barney Ross though. He drafts him for another mission, to retrieve a computer containing sensitive information from a crashed airplane. After carefully rescuing the computer with the help a female agent, a mysterious villain steals the box. He also kills Billy. This time, it’s personal! The Expendables plan to track, find, and kill Vilain for revenge. Along the way, they may stop the bad guy’s plot too.
Simon West, the “Con Air” filmmaker. The result is a film with much clearer action and a much lighter tone. With the exception of an overly chaotic plane crash, the action scenes are shot in the classic style. Henchmen are blasted away, punches land brutally, explosions result, and we can all tell what’s going on. The opening tank chase through the town is rightfully ridiculous. A motorcycle landing in a helicopter is only the most absurd moment. My favorite beat is Jet Li fighting off guys with frying pans. The following plane chase is fantastically orchestrated. A shoot-out in an empty town is clear and fun, as is a scuffle with goons in the European village. The action is as huge as the first film’s but it’s far more satisfying to watch.
The sequel also juggles its ensemble cast better then the original. Despite adding more cast members, the original Expendables are given more to do. Barney and Lee’s friendship is developed more. We see Ross teasing Christmas about his girlfriend. The camaraderie among the Expendables is focused on more. His betrayal of the team seemingly forgotten, Dolph Lundgren’s Gunner evolves into the goofball of the team. Lundgren’s real life history as a chemist is brought up, paying off nicely. Terry Crew’s Hale and Randy Couture's Toll were underserved last time. Crew becomes a boisterous body-builder who is slightly unhinged. Couture becomes somewhat sensitive and brainy. Though Jet Li exits the movie early on, even he seems better utilized. Over all, it seems Stallone and his team had a stronger understanding of the characters and the cast.
his Internet legend as the ultimate badass. When not killing people, Norris shows the easy-going charm that has always been his appeal. Newcomer Yu Nan plays Maggie Chan, a part I suspect was written for Michelle Yeoh. Despite being a complete unknown, Nan works well with the team, bringing humor and humility to her part. Really, the only newcomer I don’t care for is Liam Hemsworth as Billy. A performer I’ve taken to calling the Lesser Hemsworth, he's performance is flat. The biggest question is, “Why is he here?” What business does a teeny-bopper heartthrob like him have doing here? Furthermore, it is obvious Billy was born to die. The character might as well have a target on his back.
Of all the actors added to the cast, the bad guys are the most important. Stallone courted Jean-Claude Van Damme for the original “Expendables” but he declined. Obviously realizing he was missing out, Van Damme signed up for the sequel. Perhaps it was for the best. Jean-Claude plays the villain, Jean Vilain. The part plays to JCVD’s strengths. He brings an eccentric quality, dancing and making dramatic hand gestures, while maintaining an intimidating body language. Considering Van Damme’s evolution into a fine dramatic actor, he makes the character sadistic, intellectual, and just cold enough not to care about the people he kills. He provides a distinct villain to the piece and really helps bring “The Expendables 2” together. Another fine addition is Scott Adkins as Vilain’s main henchman. Adkins may be the modern equivalent to what Van Damme was back in the late eighties so it’s a smart choice.
“The Expendables 2” is the movie the first one should have been. It’s a light-hearted action-fest that piles on the callbacks and in-jokes, while nicely balancing its extensive cast. Not only does it feature many stars of eighties cinema, it actually feels like something that could have been made in the eighties. Perhaps it’s not high art. Yet it’s hard to deny a film that is this much pure fun. [8/10]
[THE STALLOWNAGE OF SLY: 3 outta 5]
[X] Frank Stallone or Frank Stallone-esque Inspirational Music
[X] Incapacitates or Kills Someone With His Body
 Shows Off Buffness
 Social Outcast
[X] Sweaty, Veiny Yelling