Friday, August 17, 2012

The Expendables 2

Jesus. Fucking. Christ. Sylvester Stallone. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bruce Willis. Dolph Lundgren. Jason Statham. Jet Li. Chuck Norris. Randy Couture. Terry Crews. Jean-Claude Van Damme. Go fuck yourself if that list doesnt impress you. And if you decide not to fuck yourself... They surely will do the dis-honor for you.

First of all, let's set some things straight. I really enjoyed the first Expendables film. It gets a lot of heat for a lot of things. Some deserving, some not so much. You can read my review HERE. But most importantly, it brought together the guys you loved in one film. The only difference with EX2 is... There is no excuse to dislike this film. Okay, well maybe a couple (but more on that later). This not only has the best guys from the first film, but it brings in even MORE! A big thing in the first film was the scene with Sly, Arnie and Bruce. Granted, it was only a spoken-word scene. But then again, the first time you saw DeNiro and Pacino in a scene together was a dinner scene in Heat. No guns, no shots, no violence. With The Expendables 2, it brings expanded roles for Arnie and Bruce. And with that, there are guns, there are shots, there is VIOLENCE.

Lets get to the "story". There are 3 classifications of story-types. "Original", "unoriginal" and "no story". This is a combination of the latter two. The story here is that The Expendables are again, hired guns. Except in this one, they're after Jean-Claude Van Damme's character (aptly named "Jean Vilain"). He's mining for Plutonium for financial gain. But when he kills one of their own, they're motives shift from "mission" to "revenge".

Now to the beginning of the film. From the first 5 minutes, the film already proves that it was crafted much better than the first. My problem, I think, with the first film was that Stallone was wearing too many hats on the production (in which I give immense credit). But when you spread yourself that thin, it'll take a toll. And it most definitely did. I mean, the dude not only stayed in shape for the film, but he produced it, wrote it, and directed it. A LOT to carry on your shoulders. So getting another director was a great choice. And you know what? The dude directed Con Air, so he knows how to handle an ensemble cast (not one of this magnitude), but an ensemble cast nonetheless.

Some technical improvements over the first? No shaky cam. The problem Stallone made with EX1 was that he didn't play on some of the classic 80's fight sequences. He tried to be too modern with the way things were shot instead of running with a traditional approach. And this had plenty of that! And honestly, when it comes to an action film, how its shot and edited counts for 60% of it. Action mostly plays on your nerves, not emotion. So the trickery involved must be executed flawlessly.

Alright, enough about the pesky "film-making", lets get to the meat and potatoes... THE CAST.

Stallone. Probably the only man capable of assembling this cast. Stallone in this was... Stallone. And I dont mean that in a bad way. Stallone's Barney Ross isnt much different than in the first. He's still cold, cynical, and chock full of one-liners. The only problem with his character in this is... His hair. Facial hair that is. In the first Expendables he had a goatee. Okay, fine. Looked good on him. The first scene in the second film? Goatee. Another shot a minute later in the same scene? Handle-bar mustache. Then during each scene the mustache would get shorter, then longer, thinner, then thicker. I really dont understand why he couldnt just keep the goatee. Its a lot easier to maintain, continuity-wise, and it just looked better. All-in-all, Stallone was Stallone. Though, he did give a few more "emotionally-driven" performances in this, in which I did like.

Schwarzenegger. Unlike the first film, he was actually able to blow people to fucking hell in this film. He traded his governorship for an AA-12 rifle/shotgun. And Im oh so glad her did! Now to be honest, Schwarzenegger is a little rusty in this. He's no Stallone (nor will anyone be at his age). But still... It's Schwarzenegger. And it still is a cameo-bit part. But what I do like, is that he's not a one-scene cameo. He appears a couple times. And it's quite... AWESOME. The banter between him, Stallone and Willis is hilarious.

Willis. Bruce pretty much plays the same character he played in the first film. Really no addition to his character aside from more screen time.

Lundgren. Okay, I still remember being completely bombed out of my mind during the first Expendables. And I remember when Dolph "died". Well a little known (or widely known?) fact... I actually cried. Not because the film was THAT enticing. But because I fucking love the fuck out of Dolph Lundgren, and did not want to see him die. Surely enough, Stallone hit him "a couple inches above the heart", therefore he lived toward the end of the film, and there was balance in the world. And I was positive my heart was going to be broken for a second time for The Expendables 2. And SPOILER ALERT! It wasnt. In fact, they added MORE Dolph in this one. BONER. In the first film, he was an unreliable drug addict. In this one, he's just a drunk. My kind of guy. Dolph is fucking HILARIOUS in this! He steals every scene that he's in. He's so fucking odd and hilarious.

Norris. Yes, Chuck Norris. Alright, I need set another record straight. I never found the Chuck Norris facts trend funny. I never had anything against Norris. He became a victim of his own "legend". But here's the thing... Norris rules in this. Midway through the movie, Stallone and company are battling shitheads, shit goes wrong, theyre out-numbered. Then all of the sudden, fuckers are getting blown to bits. Who's doing all this? Chuck Norris. They meet up, and guess what? He tells a Chuck Norris fact. But in the way of a story. AWESOME. Unless you're programmed as a communist... You'll laugh.

Van Damme. Hollywood please. PLEASE give Van Damme more villainous roles. He was too fucking good playing a villain in this. My main issue with it was he wasn't featured enough in the film. And call me crazy, but I think Van Damme's real-life bi-polar disorder has something to do with his performance. Because his performance was very difference from anything you woud expect from Van Damme. There are little nuances that his character would do that seemed a little "off", but all the while making it that much better. And Im fairly certain those nuances were mostly improv. For instance, there is a scene towards the end where he smacks his neck with a knife a couple times. The way he does so, it just makes him look insane. All in all, he did a fantastic job with the role. It's just a shame he wasn't featured in the film as much as I would have liked.

And the rest of the crew were damn good too. Statham, Crews, Couture. But I actually felt that most of the rest of the "Expendables" were given smaller roles this time around. All except for Lundgren (they must have gotten all my fan mail). But Im not complaining, because they did what they needed to do... Blow the fuck out of stone and flesh! There were two new additions, though. Liam Hemsworth and Yu Nan. Liam Hemsworth was pretty much "the new kid". But he held his own in the film. He was the "heart" of the film. Young, in love, and wanting to move on from the mercenary business. And you know what? It worked. The secondary addition, Yu Nan, is the first female "Expendable". She was forced upon the team by Bruce Willis' character. And of course the team is hesitant to have a pesky female on the team, but she proves herself. And as a character, it took me a second time to see it to realize, she was absolutely necessary. She almost served as perfect fodder for the gang, in terms of humor and change of pace. At one point they hint a what-could-be love interest between her and Stallone. And the connection (or lack thereof) between her and Ludgren's Gunnar? Absolutely fucking hilarious. Again, another worthy addition to the team. And for the Jet Li fans, he's not in this film all too much. He's only in the first sequence. But really, the shit he does in the little time he's in the film utilized his skills FAR better than in the whole first one. He's not sorely missed through out the rest of the film, but it would be nice to get him back for the third Expendables.

And now to the rest of the film. Some improvements over the first one? Well, pretty much everything. First, the blood. There was a lot of CG blood in the first. And there's still a lot of CG blood in this one as well. But it's rendered a lot better than the FX in the first one. Also, there are some cool Rambo-esque head shots in EX2. Which is cool, because an exploding head is always a good thing. The direction is also much better in this one than the first. And as I said previously, that's all due to Stallone not having to wear so many hats on this production. The director could focus on directing, and Stallone could focus on acting, er... Making explosions.

The aspects of the film that I DIDN'T care for? Well, the blood again, was still an issue. I did notice they used more practical squib FX. Most noticeably when there were close-ups near glass windows and such, but a lot of the blood during some of the knife scenes with Jason Statham were clearly added in post. But something that bothered me even more than the CG-blood? In a lot of scenes there was not enough coverage shots. And by that I mean, if Stallone and Statham fall from a zip-line into a jungle, and randomly soldiers surround them, there should be shots of the soldiers running up to them. As opposed to them just showing up the next shot. It's choppy scenes like that. And one other thing that bothered me, though I did understand why it was done, was a scene where Stallone, Schwarzengegger, Willis, Norris, Lundgren, Statham, Crews, Yu and Couture are ALL standing in front of a helicopter with guns waiting for Van Damme to arrive (picture below). In the scene they crop out Chuck Norris because they gave him a reveal during the shootout AFTER Van Damme arrives. And in the heat of the moment, it's a far cooler re-introduction for Norris. But unfortunately, when they cropped him out of the "choppa" scene, it made the picture blurry, due to having to zoom in to maintain the same aspect ratio. And those are some of my only nitpicks, really. Because everything else comes with the territory (corny dialogue, etc.).


The score to the film was pretty damn good as well. But I wouldn't expect anything less from Brian Tyler. He did an incredible job on Rambo, a great job on the last Expendables score, and just as good a job on this one. Naturally, he keeps all the great themes of the first one, but introduced one really cool one, Van Damme's theme. It's a very ominous theme. And it suites Van Damme's character very well. It has those really eerie low violin notes that just sound evil. It works very well.

In the end, The Expendables 2 was EVERYTHING I hoped it would be and more. And Im happy a lot of the reviewers are finally accepting this franchise for what it really is. FUN. I know, you dont have to be stupid to have fun. But sometimes its fun to be stupid. So when you're watching this film, or even the first, just remember, this film would have only existed when you were a child, on the floor, playing with your T-800, Rambo and Rocky action figures. And yes, the dialogue may very well be written by an actual child, but god fucking damnit... Have some fun, you goddamn communist.

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