An Expendables Two Movie Review: The Gang’s All Here
Imagine stockpiling hydrogen bombs side by side and detonating them simultaneously. The world would explode—the universe would explode. Well, that didn’t happen. But what happened was we got an action-filled, action-crammed movie.
A few years ago, I wrote an article detailing the strengths and flaws of the first Expendables movie. It was an action movie from first to last. The plot was an excuse to further the action, which was a novel practice of “knight versus samurai”: the martial-artist Jet Li versus the brawler Dolph Lundgren; the two wrestling styles of Randy Couture and Steve Austin clash. Establishing character scenes were clumsily drawn, but that didn’t draw back from the action. And everything, even the mundane, was executed in an epic style.
Well, in the Expendables sequel, they upped the ante. We had the usual band of brothers of Stallone, Statham, Li, Couture and others. But they brought it Jean Claude van Damme as a villain. They also brought in Bruce Willis and Schwarzenegger. And Chuck Norris.
English: Jean-Claude Van Damme at the Cannes film festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Montage of the old-school action heroes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This was an action movie that promised a lot. Imagine stockpiling hydrogen bombs side by side and detonating them simultaneously. The world would explode—the universe would explode. Well, that didn’t happen. But what happened was we got an action-filled, action-crammed movie.
The sequel improved on the first movie. The plot was more detailed: instead of cardboard villains, we had a villain that mattered: a mercenary that had access to weaponized plutonium. It was played of course by Van Damme. I was expecting a hard fight between him and Stallone. And the way they sketched the story from the tragic scene to the village and to the final confrontation, it was a good Expendables sequence.
So where did they bring in Chuck, Arnold and Bruce? They brought them in as over-kill cavalry. Before that we had a villain and a hero that was on par with each other. By the time the final confrontation came, I felt there it was no contest. Van Damme’s a very good villain, but against a Heroes Gallery? It was a massive hero shooting spree in the end. The villain really didn’t have the chance, except for the last part when they had to give Stallone a duel with him.
When I play first-person shooters, I don’t enjoy the mowing down of opponents left and right. I might savor the novel experience of a new weapon or two, but I want to use that new weapon on a hard villain. A real challenge where there’s a chance I’d lose. Sometimes I even enjoy the absurdly-difficult levels, because you really have to use your head to get past. But Expendables didn’t give us that opportunity. Van Damme is no match, and is no equal, to an array of Heroes against him. And his mooks certainly did not stand up to any of the Heroes, who proceeded to mow them down. In any first person shooter game, this is the first level.
They tried to come up with the excuse of over-kill by upping the stakes with weaponized plutonium. But the plutonium wasn’t even an armed bomb. And I was actually rooting for Van Damme when he wanted to “buy some time”. Take a few hostages and threaten to shoot them? That would have given them a fighting chance.
Call me crazy, but when they billed Chuck Norris in the movie, I thought he would be that surprise villain. Like the role played by Steve Austin in the first movie, I thought he would be that one character that would be a match for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Am I right or am I the only one here who thinks that since they made Van Damme a wonderful villain, why not make Chuck Norris just as good a villainous character? Now that would make things at par with each other. Bruce Willis and Arnold would be fighting side by side while Norris comes at them “Terminator-style”. That was a missed moment. What we were given in the movie was Chuck Norris thrown in as already overloaded weight among the Heroes. (Who knows? Maybe they’ll give us a chance in the next movie).
So it was a no-contest movie. They might have upped the stakes but it wasn’t high enough. It felt like another mission, a “another day’s work” type movie. It’s my own fault, I guess. I was expecting something as epic as for example the one in the last Transformers movie where they tried to bring an entire planet to the orbit of the earth, or a battle for the world. A weaponized nuclear bomb ready to go off? With an army defending it? That would have been epic. Raw-materials plutonium and a crew of mercenaries? It was too little of a good thing.
On the up-side, they had a lot of jibe at the mythologies of the different action icons. Some cheesy one-liners didn’t work. Some fit nicely. There were very nice entrances, and some were overdone. But it was still a fun mix.
My final verdict is to watch Expendables 2. You just can’t resist the Heroes Gallery and Jean Claude Van Damme. It’s not as epic as I might have hoped, but it’s jam-packed with action-y goodness. If you want to see testosterone surging, bullets and fists flying, and every icon doing the thing they do best, then watch this.
I just don’t know how they’re going to up this with Expendables 3.