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.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Expendables 2 (2012)

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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/

11 comments:

  1. I loved this, but I agree about the dilution of the characters. Dolph needed more screentime. Chuck Norris' was hilarious, his theme song playing everytime he appeared. Randy and Terry were underutilised as well. And thanks for the link!

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    1. No problem on the link, it's something I've been delinquent on since I got back to reviewing. I checked yours first, then Ty's, and Ty just happened to have everybody linked on his, which made it even easier for me! That Chuck Norris was fantastic-- and an unintended joke on his Conservative leanings because it was from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and after the film came out we had the Republican National Convention and Clint Eastwood's empty chair speech.

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  2. Despite the novelty having long worn off, I enjoyed this one much more than the first one. It seemed to be a lot more fun.

    Man, I couldn't agree more about that JCVD kill. I think a lone tear of joy slid down my cheek due to the awesomeness of that move. Seriously. It was almost slow clap material.

    Enjoyed the review so much...might have to rewatch this one!

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    1. Oh man, slow clap, instant rewind, Destro Effect/make me root for the villain-- or "Vilain"--, it was all there. I had a lot of fun with this too, and I think ultimately that's the most important thing with an action movie.

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  3. Hey Matt, great review. I thought it was a reasonable good movie, Dolph was definitely under utilized, since he stole the show in the first one and I was really hoping that Scott Adkins would get the chance to unleash on the big screen but he only really did that one cool spin kick in the fight with Statham.

    Did you hear Don Wilson was going to make an Expendables type movie with Cythia Rothrock and Michael Jai White? If you type "don the dragon wilson the b team" into Google there is some information. Would be amazing!

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  4. I enjoyed it, too. But the stories, first and second , are so weak. With so much star power, a better story/stories wouldn`t have hurt. I am not tempted to rewatch any of them too soon.

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  5. Great review.

    Thanks for the link! Van Damme was amazing in this. All of his lines were gold. "That's it? I want my money's worth!"

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  6. Watched both of these for the first time back to back a few weeks back. Second definitely feels swifter, more focused and better directed.

    Still think it could be improved. I would say that for the next installment they drop Couture and Crews to give the rest of the cast some more screen time. They should drop Bruce Willis too because he clearly isn't interested in being in the films. He really killed the atmosphere for me every time he was on screen.

    Van Damme definitely brought his A-game. I'd love if they could find a way to bring him back for Ex3. Twin brother perhaps?

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  7. Thanks for the link. This is my new all time fave. I agree that JCVD KILLED it in this.

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  8. No problems on the links. I echo the sentiments on Van Damme again, he was great, and I love that twin brother idea! And I think if they keep Couture and Crews, they need to use them, along with Dolph, better. I get it, Terry Crews is big and boisterous, but give him something more to do.

    And I have heard about that b-movie Expendables. I agree, if they can get the names they want, that would be fantastic.

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  9. I wanted Van Damme to beat Stallone, damn it :(

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