The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
The Expendables 2 (2012)
When I saw The Expendables over two years ago, I loved it. I don't know exactly what I was expecting with this second installment, but considering how much I liked the first, and looking at the names they had for part 2, I knew I had to give it a look, so let's see how it went. Also, some of our friends have already hit this one: Ty at Comeuppance Reviews, Explosive Action, The Video Vacuum, and Freddie at Full Moon Reviews. (And a special thanks to Ty for having them already linked on his blog, so I could just copy the links from there.)
The Expendables 2 has Sly Stallone and his band of merry mercenary men, on a mission in Eastern Europe to get something out of a safe in a plane that went down over Albania. They have a woman with them working as their safe cracker, and while Stallone doesn't like this idea, it's really more baddie Jean-Claude Van Damme he should be worried about, because it's Van Damme who has stolen this merchandise from them after they got it out of the safe. The merchandise: the a location of some weapons grade Soviet plutonium, which Van Damme hopes to sell on the black market. Can Stallone and his crew stop him?
In the initial scene, as the marauding Expendables were blasting their way to the base of some Nepalese separatists who had some Chinese businessman hostage, I thought to myself "What am I doing here? Didn't I already do this two years ago?" The film does get better though; it has tons of inside jokes for us action fans, it has some nice big action scenes and solid pitched battles, and Van Damme was excellent as the head baddie. I also loved Nan Yu's Maggie character, and Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis all have fun small supporting roles. While not the novelty that the first one was, it was still a fun time, and I'm not sure you can ask for anything more than that from your action movie.
For me, Jean-Claude Van Damme won this movie. It probably hurt his soul to have to lose that last fight to Stallone, but let me tell you JCVD, you had me when you roundhouse kicked that knife into The Kid's heart. Was that not one of the best baddie kills ever? Scott Adkins hold it up so the point is facing The Kid's heart, and Van Damme roundhouse kicks the butt end. See, here's the thing Mr. Van Damme, while the fights in the movie are fake, the performances are real, so while you fake lost your fight with Stallone, you beat him by turning in the best performance.
And then there's the film's other Hall of Famer, Dolph Lundgren. He seems to be more comic relief, right? I loved the inside joke about his history in getting into the film biz. On the other hand, he didn't have the big role he had in the first one. The story didn't revolve around him in any way, he didn't have any big fights, he just cracked some jokes and carried some big guns. It was almost like he was there to be the butt of the jokes too. I don't know how I feel about that. Yes, it's good that he can laugh at himself and not take himself so seriously, but damn it, I don't want him to be Stallone's Harpo Marx.
This gets me to a main problem The Expendables series has. Because we have so many stars, their overall star contributions are severely diluted. Even our baddie, Van Damme, wasn't in the film that much. But let's look at it by the numbers: Scott Adkins, 1 fight, and that was with Jason Statham; Statham only had 2, that one with Adkins and another, and though both were really sweet, it was still only two in a 110-minute film; Dolph had none; Van Damme just had his one with Stallone; and Jet Li was in and out so fast he also had none. It felt like this kind of thing was mitigated better in the first one, and who knows what will happen in the third-- at the very least I'd like more Charisma Carpenter.
When I watched the first one with some friends a couple years ago, my buddy's wife commented: "Why does the girl always have to be kidnapped?" I don't know if Stallone's botox and HGH gave him supersonic hearing, but he answered her complaint just the same, because, not only do we not have the damsel in distress construct, but we have a woman in the crew who is equal parts feminine and powerful in Nan Yu. One could make the complaint though that there was still an element of chauvinism in the fact that all the other guys in the cast-- other than Adkins, and Liam Hemsworth of course-- were much older, while the one female was in her early thirties. But hey Stallone, you wanna go James Woods, it's whatever floats your boat.
And with that, let's wrap this up. The Expendables 2 is a very fun movie. It doesn't do anything so horrible to turn me off, the action is there and big, and there were plenty of humorous moments. On the other hand, you've been on this road before, you know what you're going to see, no wheels being reinvented, which isn't exactly a bad thing, but for something that's supposed to be bigger and badder than the original, it's not a good thing either.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1764651/