WHEN THE FIRST THE EXPENDABLES came out, I had no idea why a lot of people liked it so much. Sure it was an ’80s action movie buff’s wet dream to see Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis together in the same film… but the movie it self was chock full of ridiculousness. The action was unreal, over the top and frankly camp. Then Mickey Rourke showed up and got emotional in front of everyone, while Jason Statham tried to get his bimbo back. Or something like that. That movie took itself so seriously that the macho overdose felt suffocating instead of attractive and I wanted to shoot Stallone in the face for making something like that.
The Expendables 2, though. It was just as cheesy, just as ridiculous and just as nonsensical as the first one… but it now has – and I’m borrowing this term from somewhere else – a self-deprecating voice in its presentation that it becomes a lot more enjoyable to watch. Expendables 2 is a triumph in camp blood splatters, mindless gun duels and explosions as well as hilarious banters.
Also, it manages to shamelessly squeeze in a very effective Chuck Norris joke with a deadpan expression. And it works.
There is nothing to say of the story and the plot – it’s thin, mostly cliche, and not very important compared to the action. Meanwhile, the action is slightly more choreographed – therefore becomes more whimsical – than the first but makes for entertaining results and gives acceleration to the pace of the movie. While this is a huge improvement from the first movie, it was still not enough to give an edge of Stallone’s second venture on male pattern badness.
Luckily, there are plenty of small moments to make us laugh. Chuck Norris aside, the expansion of the cast to include a female team member (Maggie played by Nan Yu) is a welcome sight. No longer does Stallone take up the entire scene alone and each star gets a moment or two. Another plus is Bruce and Arnie’s bigger involvements – they now have more to do than just say a few silly lines in a church. They had one exchange in the climax of the movie that comprised the best line in this entire movie, showing once and for all that poking fun at oneself and each other is the way this movie is ever going to be tolerable.
Jean-Claude Van Damme’s baddie fits the tone of the movie very well. Giving a performance as mercurial as his reputation, Van Damme is definitely still watchable now as he was in the past. Granted, he’s kind of dramatic… but it’s Van Damme. As long as he kicks some ass around, no one is going to complain.
It’s a pity that this movie will only considered as a joke by serious critics… but who can blame them? Arthouse cinema, this is not. But when it comes to bringing to the table something fun at the cinema to close the summer movie season with, The Expendables 2 is doing everything right and nothing wrong.
An improvement from the first with a tighter plot and bigger action, Sly’s latest reunion with Arnie and Bruce will please the fanboys. Any critics who want to complain should consider running away in a different direction than Chuck Norris’ cobra or else.