Monday, November 26, 2012

The Expendables 2

I love this "retro" poster.
So, after circumventing a crisis with our cheap-ass Blu-Ray player, I finally managed to watch The Expendables 2 this weekend (thank the Maker for the Digital Copy through iTunes). My short review that I posted as a Facebook status was “Awesome. A lot of tongue in cheek, a lot of melodramatic predictability, a lot of nods to the fans. The fights were well-done, the violence gory and brutal, and the stunts very exciting. I'd say it was better than the first.” Here I will give a longer review, without giving away too much. Actually, this will probably be more of a rant. But, that’s why you come here, right? To hear me rant?

It’s not much of a spoiler, but it needs stating, since so many “critics” seem to miss this point. This is an Action Movie about Action Heroes saving the world from Action Villains through the use of Violence and Mayhem. What that means is, the focus is on ACTION. Not to be confused with ACTING. There is plenty of Acting in this film, and it’s all pretty good. There are no characters that are completely unbelievable (unless intentionally so), and the dialogue is generally natural and logical (with a few forced one-liners, but that’s all part of the gag, I think). However, the acting is not the point.

I think most critics agree that this movie does exactly what it intends to do (though they condescendingly do so in a back-handed fashion). It is an Action Movie that revels in its Action. It delivers a cohesive plot, a logical story, and a satisfying closure. And it does all of this with well-filmed sequences, exceptional fight scenes, a lot of guns, fists and feet flying, and CGI that was not overused. All of this Action goodness is wrapped lovingly in well-realized characters, realistic performances, and good story pacing. Sprinkle the whole thing with a healthy layer of tongue-in-cheek, and BAM! A recipe for Awesome.

Do I have a favorite character or performance? Not really. I liked pretty much everyone in this film. But Sly is perfect as the grizzled, disenchanted warrior who longs for a more simple life that he knows he will never have.  So he has grown cynical about the whole idea, much to the chagrin of his friends. This is actually one of the more subtle points of the film, and I think it’s one that people will probably overlook.

Biggest surprise performance? JCVD.  Vilain (I kinda love that name) is a sinister villain who is just short of Blofeld-esque over-the-top.  He's kind of a dick, but he is practical, if a bit ruthless.  He's also flamboyant in a way that only Van Damme can do.  And the fight between he and Stallone is just brutal.

Biggest disappointment? Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was hoping to see the Oak flex some actual muscle in this. I was hoping to see that he had taken a page from Sly’s book, and put in the gym-time to prepare for this role. But alas, Trench hid himself behind an old Army field jacket, and did nothing more than shoot a huge gun (that he stole from Terry Crews) from the hip, and look irritated most of the time. Granted, it worked anyways, and the banter between Trench and Church and Barney was all pretty good. But, it left me wanting more from him.

Best gigglefit character?  Chuck Norris.  From his first appearance, to the only name he is referred to by, he adds a sense of fun to this film, that really works well.  They even managed to work a "Chuck Norris Fact" in there.  Loved it!

Overall, I think this movie was a bit better than the first. The Expendables suffered from Sly trying to do too much. By having Simon West direct (quite capably), Sly was able to sit back, be an Action Star, and add in his advice where needed. And it was nice to hear that Simon wasn’t that dickish director with a big head, and he was willing to seek Sly’s advice whenever he needed to. In the end, we have a great actioner that will hopefully start a new era of good old-fashioned ass-kicking. But, I’m not holding my breath. I’m sure that Hollywood will simply call it a “nostalgia fluke” and go back to making more CGI-laden cotton candy action films.

Bonus feature: There is already talk of Expendables 3. And Sly is of the opinion that it would be best served to involve a new group of younger stars as a sort of “passing the torch” type of film. This make me giddy. Someone get Dwayne and Vin on the line!

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