Tuesday, 21 August 2012


The Expendables 2 [Review]

Opinion: B-

Stuffed silly with metal and muscles depicted in an intended past glory action genre, Sylvester Stallone and his gang of masculine testosterones convene yet again for some self-critical good fun. Peppered with lead and one-liners, audience should settle and accept Simon West's action feature as one that is solely targeted at genre fans and audience who are seeking brawn flesh over brain matter.

The Expendables are back and this time it's personal... Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren),Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) -- with newest members Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and Maggie (Yu Nan) aboard -- are reunited when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enlists the Expendables to take on a seemingly simple job. The task looks like an easy paycheck for Barney and his band of old-school mercenaries. But when things go wrong and one of their own is viciously killed, the Expendables are compelled to seek revenge in hostile territory where the odds are stacked against them. Hell-bent on payback, the crew cuts a swath of destruction through opposing forces, wreaking havoc and shutting down an unexpected threat in the nick of time - six pounds of weapons-grade plutonium; enough to change the balance of power in the world. But that's nothing compared to the justice they serve against the villainous adversary who savagely murdered their brother. That is done the Expendables way....

Barney Ross and Lee Christmas reunites with their team of mercenaries seeking (and drawing) blood for venal reasons that soon turns into a thirst for justice and revenge. Well, revenge mostly. The film commences first blood with a highly plot irrelevant opening scene of loud mayhem initiated by Ross and company. The adjective is really a massive understatement as the aurally loud action suing produces countless lead expenditure and blood splatter.

Handing over the directorial duties from Stallone to Simon West brings about a better focus and assignment of dedicated core strengths. West can focus on delivering (minimal) narrative coherence while the cast can focus on delivering the high octane action and macho (and cheesy/soulless) one-liners during subtle plot moments.

Bringing back the original team led by Ross and Christmas of Yin Yang (the ridiculously underused Jet Li), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), and Toll Road (Randy Couture), the cast ensemble list did not willingly end just there. Fans will be further pleased by the return of Church (Bruce Willis) and Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) with new cast additions including Ross' new teammates Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and Maggie (Yu Nan), special appearance character Booker (Chuck Norris) and antagonist Vilian (Jean-Claude Van Damme).

The cast list is an explosive by itself.

That said, much should be expected along the lines of brainless brawn and nothing more in honesty. While there is a better-flowing main storyarc this time around, there is however still a good amount of convenient scriptwriting to either save the day or instill humour. This includes "just-in-time" moments such as one where Trench comes tumbling into an en-caved mine in a bulldozing machine to free the protagonists before delivering his line of production value "I'm back!".

During a later scene of battle confrontation, Schwarzenegger's Trench again takes scripted opportunity to say "I'll be back" before being halted by Willis' character "You've been back enough". The film clearly capitalises upon a thread of familiarity to audience members who have grown up with action genre classics such as Rambo and The Terminator. That should also more than sufficiently explain the reason behind Chuck Norris' appearance as a lone-operative accompanied by spaghetti-western entrance soundtrack by Ennio Morricone.

The new additions that this opinion did take a liking to is Ross' new teammates Billy the Kid and Maggie. While obligatory, Billy the Kid played by contemporary actor Liam Hemsworth (whose enrollment is not preceded by any prior credible action role), did more than just instill a moment of stirring emotions. Relatively unknown amongst the cast members, it symbolises the passing on of the baton from the veterans to the next generation rising talents. Much like how Schwarzenegger says it in the film, "We all belong in a museum".

Post production sends the film straight down memory's lane with a warm-grayish and grainy layer, at times revealing poor focus racking that may well be intended by the filmmakers. Despite so, the exploitation genre film banks highly upon blatant action sequences with heavy masochism revolving around assumed themes of respect and honour.

Otherwise, just like how Stallone unwittingly summarises the film's plot in six words ("track them, find them, kill them") in the middle act, the story doesn't get any better than it and one should expect so and nothing beyond.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review that sums up the film quite nicely. I loved the first and am looking forward to seeing this one. I grew up with these guys and am happy to see them on screen blowing stuff up once again. :)


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