Movie Review: The Expendables 2
“It is believed that Chuck Norris’ tears can cure cancer. It’s a pity he never cried”. If you’ve heard this truism, then it’s about time you started believing in them — so says The Expendables 2.
Got a gun and a handful of vengeance? Will travel!
There’s a lesson to be learned from Expendables 2, the rip-roaring sequel to star-writer (and former installment) director Sylvester Stallone’s loud return to blockbusters: you can never have too many people running guns on your side. That and Chuck Norris.
And so he strolls, post-apocalypse, with his shades on. His targets, dozens of mercenaries and a tank, already mowed down by invisible cannonade. Norris’ stride heralds the awesomeness of his post-career legend — no doubt thanks to late-night American television and Internet meme’s. And he’s amiable enough to laugh-along with the joke.
In the scene Stallone asks Norris to corroborate a rumor about him being bitten by a deadly King Cobra. “Yeah, I was” Norris replies, “but after five days of agonizing pain … the cobra died”.
Norris plays a “lone-wolf” commando unit called Booker (a nod to his first hit Good Guys Wear Black), who walks-in mid-picture and elevates it to instant stardom.
Norris shares Expendables 2’snotoriety with Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the ludicrous —and mandatory — climax inside an airport terminal. There amidst raining chaos and scattering bystanders, bullets only end-up inside terrorists. The most our guys get is a nose-bleed, and the cruel-end of a punch-line.
In a self-mocking scene at the beginning of the picture, Stallone is hit by a lonesome stray bullet amidst a barrage of open-fire.
Sometimes, I guess, it is fun to be Bollywood, even when you’re not.
Ganging-up with his old war-dogs, Stallone’s Barney Ross has about as much reason to lash out punishment as the last Expendables. But moral high-grounds, capital punishment or group-penance shouldn’t be the only reasons to enjoy this semi-grand sensory assault.
The directorial reigns now lie with Simon West (Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), so Stallone could concentrate on his acting and writing chores. West’s touch isn’t as direct, or as 80-ish as Stallone’s — and believe you me, being 80’s is a compliment here.
As it is, the script shifts focus from individual characters, ramping-up on pyrotechnics, body-blows and a re-look at old-school terrorist playgrounds from B-movies.
Replaced are scenes of weighty emotional baggage (and so, Mickey Rourke). In its place stand lots of fake-CG blood splatter, a bogus mission on digging out tons of plutonium for terrorist sales, brotherly put-downs and alternating cameos.
Jet Li’s Yin Yang is replaced early by the film’s other Asian minority, Maggie (Yu Nan), a tech specialist sent by CIA op Church (Willis, in an extended cameo) to uncover a black-box from an airplane shot down in Albania. In their second mission, the boys have a baby-sitting mission (or so Church tells Barney).
Barney’s roll-call goes: Christmas (Jason Stratham) — the group’s jack of knives; Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) — the barrel-weapons wielder; Toll Road (Randy Couture) — the calm go-to demolition guy; Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) – who we learn is an insane genius; and newbie sniper Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) – a recently war-scarred youngster smitten to a Parisian nurse (Nikolette Noel).
An early casualty catalyses the gung-hos into action against Jean Claude Van Damme’s villain, whose name actually is Jean Vilain.
Even with “so much to fit-into”, Expendables 2 feels like a diversion; a sequel bound to happen, if only for no other reason than to cash-in its ensemble-star cast, whose careers, individually have been demolished by comic-book heroes.
Nearly gone are the days of bare-knuckled man-vs-man action — unless you’re renting one of those annual direct-to-DVD Steven Segal movies.