Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Movie Review: The Expendables 2

You may have seen 2010’s action thrill ride ‘The Expendables’; you may have even enjoyed it. But believe me, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Barney Ross and his ragtag team of covert assault experts return with a new mission. After suffering a loss at the hands of a psychotic mad man desperate for destruction, the expendables go on a path of revenge to strike back at the heart of a terrorist group. Bringing together new and old friends Barney and the team settle a score the only way they know how, good old-fashioned bloodshed.

The plot for this film isn’t going to be getting any Oscar nods but it certainly provides a good motivation for the characters to be thrust into action. Rather than the contrived script from the first film, ‘The Expendables 2’ features a clearer focus in its story through its theme of seeking revenge, thanks to this it is very clear to the audience why the events are taking place in comparison to first film’s unnecessary conflict.

‘The Expendables 2’ could rival ‘The Avengers’ for the sheer amount of heroes that appear on screen. Sylvester Stallone returns as Barney Ross, the leader of The Expendables and primary protagonist of the film. Joining Stallone are some of the greatest names that action has to offer such as Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren and new antagonist Jean-Claude Van Damme. Van Damme’s villain is superbly acted and the actor brings some desperately needed gravitas to what could have ended up being a very kooky and forgettable role in another actor's hands. The three biggest additions to this film however are the appearances of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris, each of whom bring their larger than life personas to this already heavyweight cast. Schwarzenegger and Willis appear in larger roles than they did in the previous picture and their resulting chemistry during their time spent together onscreen was undoubtedly the highlight of the film for me. Norris’s appearance is a much welcome addition to the cast and although he doesn’t stay for long, he manages to please the fans by uttering a famous “Chuck Norris Fact”.

Chuck Norris wasn't an actor in 'The Expendables 2', he just happened to be there.

The movie is certainly not without its silly elements, the humour of the script is more hit than miss but often at times it seems as if the duller comedic lines were written by a 5 year old, a very sadistic and violent 5 year old, but a 5 year old nonetheless. The portrayal of good versus evil in ‘The Expendables 2’ is also very ludicrously caricatured, during one laughable scene giving background on one of the characters the sad story of the evisceration of his unit whilst on patrol in Afghanistan is told, however according to the writer the story alone doesn’t seem enough to provide reason for this man to want to fight injustice, so what does he do? Well in a move that is so obviously meant to elicit sympathy for a character from the audience that it made me burst out in laughter, he kills his dog. Yeah you read that right he literally says “And then when I got back to base I found out that they killed my dog”, heartbreaking? No. Hilarious? You’re damn right! Another dumb move by the film's writer was to name the villain of the piece, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, Vilain which is pronounced in the same way that Van Damme’s accent would say the word villain, it’s good to poke fun at but in the course of the story it does diminish Van Damme’s performance a little as his name is such a joke. The silliness of the film isn’t always a bad thing though as there are dozens of references to the careers of the famous cast members, some may find fault with this but I personally found it a great aspect to the film that connected the cast and audience through the fact that they were both aware that “Yes that is Arnold f**king Schwarzenegger”.

Yep, he's back!

Another slight problem I did have with the film is that it is quite difficult to understand a lot of the lines spoken by the characters. At a certain point in the film you’ll wish that there were subtitles as you continue to struggle to hear beyond Sly’s famous slur or the heavy accented deliveries of Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Van Damme.

The meat of a movie like ‘The Expendables 2’ is its action and it certainly does not disappoint. There are some stunning set pieces throughout and the mayhem gets going within the first few seconds of the movie. ‘The Expendables 2’ really does feature some of the best-choreographed and most professionally executed battle scenes that action cinema can deliver meaning every action scene is a masterpiece of brutality.

The very epitome of "does not disappoint".

Understandably when a film has a cast as large as this film there are few characters that really have no place in the story and have a real show-horned in presence. The roll of Toll Road for example was one that I took issue with, his role is hilariously limited and his lines could very easily have been cut from the script, even his appearance as a member of the team is never explained which results in the audience never quite getting the feeling that he is truly an expendable.

The presence of such iconic action heroes of cinema is the major reason why to me ‘The Expendables 2’ is a feel good movie. Despite the menacing villain and hundreds of onscreen demises, the simple viewing of all these legends sharing the screen is exhilarating to watch and effortless to enjoy. Thankfully rather than attempting to outshine each other at every turn, the ensemble fits together perfectly like a beautiful, machine-gun-wielding puzzle to create a huge amount of fun and spectacle for the audience to enjoy.

It’s not going to be remembered in years to come for it’s rich story or it’s multi-faceted characters but ‘The Expendables 2’ delivers something that has been shockingly absent from the vast majority of big budgeted action flicks, fun. It’s a hell of a ride for the viewer to go on but it sure is worth it. This is the return of the classic action picture.

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