Monday, 20 August 2012

The Expendables 2 - The scoop and digest

Hi, saw this today and thankfully it delivered exactly what I hoped it would.

I enjoyed the first movie as it was undeniably a great idea assembling the greatest action stars and mixing them altogether into one explosive cocktail.

Imagine the effect if they were in their hey day?  Now that surely would be nothing short of incredible.

For anybody who's unaware, the main returning cast:

Stallone, Li, Statham, Lundgren, Randy Couture, Willis and Arnie.

Some of the above have more expansive roles than others.

Also joining in on the fun are:

Norris, Van Damme, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth and Nan Yu.

Liam Hemsworth is the baby of the party as Billy the Kid and Nan Yu is Maggie Yen, the fighting proficient female enlisted to help out in the 'easy' mission set by Church (Willis).

Hemsworth has been hired due to his sniping skills and Yu adds chemistry to the macho mayhem and the eye candy.  Oh, she proves that's she's more than capable of biffing and boffing bad guys too.

Each have a turn at blowing up bad guys, shooting bad guys, punching bad guys and kicking bad guys.

Yes, they do all manner of things to dispose of 'bad' guys and in doing so, leave a trail of destruction in their wake.

The testosterone is flowing, the muscles are pumping, the biceps are bulging and the guns are unloading. 

As with the original, this is a nostalgic throwback to what action films used to be like, only with more explosions than an active quarry.

The catchphrases coined are used by others against those who made them famous.  Sometimes, it's so cheesy - it's rather funny.

Unlike the first film, the Director is Simon West and not Stallone.  This results in the action being far superior and while Stallone did a commendable job, West certainly ensures it chugs along at a greater rate of knots.

As a slight criticism, CGI should have appeared as more of a cameo role and not given such a big part.

I suppose the temptation to resist these days is virtually impossible, especially in an action film.

Please be warned, expect spoilers and/or plot details to be revealed.

Nepal, China, Bulgaria are some of the locations you can expect the gang to visit.

It begins in Nepal as we see an as yet unidentified imprisoned hostage been beat up in the hope for him to spill information like a load of beans.

We see armoured vehicles approaching and (along with new recruits) they aren't here for a social visit.  Expect these dudes to cause a variety of explosions and leave a trail of dead bodies.  After this lot are finished, they're not gonna need a bigger boat, but more a gastric bypass.

Keen observers will see 'Bad Attitude' plastered on a vehicle and when Gunner (Lundgren) releases a battering ram, 'Knock Knock' can be seen.  If memory serves me right, I'm pretty sure it's Lundgren who activates it.

It's a truly excellent start to the movie, brimming with great set pieces, innovation and even some nicely choreographed fights.  I'd say the action is relentless for about 15 mins.

Those fights involve Yang (Jet Li) and while it's obvious he couldn't handle the epics like he used to - he's still more than able.

Just before the hostage is about to be killed, the lads bust down the door and when the danger is shot, the mystery man is unmasked to reveal an elderly Trench (Arnie), who is here for the same reason as the lads - to rescue a Chinese billionaire.

This is when the first lump of cheese is delivered as Arnie demands to borrow a gun off Hale Caesar (Terry Crewes).  When reluctantly lending his large weapon, he warns Trench "If I don't get this back, I'll terminate your ass."

It's definitely something like that and it just gets worse (but in a good way).

So after some more destruction, they successfully flee via a plane.

After more blah blah, Li parachutes with the rescued Chinese and he's never seen again.

It's a shame really as he and Lundgren shared nice chemistry but before Li exits, he and Dolph can't resist one final time.

"Who am I going to pick on now?" jokes Gunner, and Yang retorts "You'll find another minority."

Eventually, Barney (Stallone) meets up with Church and in order to pay back the cool 5 mil he 'stole' and become even, he agrees to complete another mission.

It's basically to crack an access code to retrieve something from a briefcase.  Maggie has already been enlisted and she takes care of this (with the help of Caesar's and Barney's biceps providing a powerful human door wedge).

Billy the Kid has been captured by comical baddie Vilain (Van Damme), his right-hand man Hector (Scott Adkins), and a loyal bunch of suicidal mercenaries.

After Christmas (Statham) reluctantly hands the package over, the baddies escape in an incoming chopper but not before JCVD kills Billy.

Seeing the shade-wearing Van Damme as a baddie is more refreshing than a Coors Light and handles his intentionally hammy acting with aplomb.

This is just a guess, but I believe the only film where he was on the dark side was in the forgettable Black Eagle, also starring Sho Kosugi.

Without those shades though, his shopping bags are so prominent, they should be leased to a supermarket.

This clearly pisses Stallone and co right off and now it's not business, it's extremely personal!

Maggie tells Barney that the package is a computer map displaying the secret location of five tonnes of weapons-based plutonium.  As that lethal stuff is potentially going to fall into the wrong hands, the balance of power must be restored.

Better get a move on lads as that clock is a ticking and a tocking...

After burying Billy, Barney tells Church that all bets are off and he's gonna do what action goodies hellbent on revenge do best, not really allowing anybody or anything to stand in their way.

When Norris finally appears, the cowboy music used and his entrance is worthy of a slice of Pilgrim's Choice.

Suffice to say, there's enough jokes about Norris already. 

Of all the fossils, the 'Lone Wolf' looks the most evergreen.

Disguised as a monk, Statham's best line is "I now pronounce you man and knife."

After Sly and his Expendables line a baddie with unnecessary lead, he cornily states "Rest in pieces."

Fairly inevitably, Arnie and Bruce are reunited with some heavy artillery and it's sensible that the former has been instructed to move more mechanically than a malfunctioning terminator.

Otherwise, I think any exertion could force a permanent shutdown without the assistance of a hydraulic press.  He sadly looks pretty gaunt and immobile.

I know he and Sly are practically the same age, but it's obvious that despite his tender years, Sly can still cut it, which is a credit to him staying in shape.  You may be aware that Arnie will star in another action movie, The Last Stand.

It's due for release next year and I don't know if that's a good idea or a potential embarrassment for the big man.  I hope I'm proved wrong.

Amongst the bullet dodging, there's still time for Arnie and Bruce to swap catchphrases with "Yippee ki-yay" and "I'll be back" appropriately used.

There's plenty more action to speak of, but I'm not here to recite the entire film scene by scene.

Others may disagree but what I found to be most disappointing was the showdown between Sly and Van Damme.   It's alright but I was hoping for more of an epic.  Still, it's head and shoulders above Iron Man 2.

It does showcase that Van Damme can still perform those 'subtle' spin kicks that have hypnotised opponents for so many years.

The regulars do what they've done well for so many years and of the others, their acting happily takes a backseat on this magazine reloading thrill ride.

After all, did anybody really expect an acting tour de force?

To finish up, the attempts made by Lundgren to chat up Maggie are pathetically hilarious.  He embarrassingly coughs loudly in the hope of attracting her attention and even tries sexy talk when speaking of the meal he'd choose before dying.  To say his advances are unrequited is frankly taking the piss.

It's fairly cringeworthy stuff.  Ha ha!

My verdict is if you liked the original, go and see it.  Even if you didn't, still frequent your nearest cinema as it's better than the first and a thoroughly good action movie.

Amazingly, Stallone says there's a third in the pipeline with Clint Eastwood and Nicholas Cage possibly in the running.

I'm surprised Jackie Chan hasn't been mentioned as he'd surely be the obvious replacement for Jet Li as I can't see him returning judging by what little (albeit fairly effective) screen time he had in this one.

There are also references to other films that may not be immediately noticed and while I can't be sure I'm right, it's unlikely I'm wrong either.

Near the beginning, 'Knock Knock' must be a reference to Predator when Dutch (Arnie) breaks down a door with 'Knock Knock'.

Also, Arnie smashes through a wall to rescue hostages and the captured Expendables using a digging vehicle.  This is a Chruchill Dog nod to the Paul Verhoeven classic - Total Recall.  Benny (Mel Johnston Jr.) is trying to mash up Arnie and Melina (Rachel Ticotin) with the same vehicle.

I'm sure others exist and I reckon more would become clear upon a second viewing but while I found it very entertaining, that would not be at my expense....

Well I enjoyed that, as I hope you did.

Ironically, it's the reboot of Total Recall next.

It's finally here - a week on Wednesday.

See you at the party Richter.

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