Monday, September 3, 2012

Movie – The Expendables 2 (2012)

I debated with myself over whether I should recommend this movie or not.  While I felt it was not as good an overall movie as the first film, there were scenes within it that were more fun than anything we saw in the original.  I finally decided I would recommend it, although mostly for people who are fans of the 80s action heroes that appear in it.  Both Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger have larger roles in this film, and this leads to one of my favorite scenes in the movie.  On the other hand, Jet Li’s role is reduced to being no larger than these two.  I will explain below.

First thing’s first, I am going to refer to all the characters by the names of the actors portraying them, simply because it will be easier to follow who is doing what.  Returning from the first film are main characters Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, and Randy Couture.  Charisma Carpenter cameos as Statham’s girlfriend from the first movie. 

Jet Li only has one big scene during the opening action sequence, and then he leaves the movie.  I’ve seen some people say that Li didn’t like the way he was portrayed in the first film, so he only agreed to come back if he could be written out, but I’ve never seen any interview or any evidence to actually support this claim.  Everything I’ve seen from Li is praise for Stallone and the first film.  This film does leave the door open for Li to return someday.

Joining the regulars this time around are Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in expanded roles.  They still aren’t full time in the movie, but both have much more sizable appearances than the cameos they shot for the first one.  Also joining the cast are Liam Hemsworth as a young sniper new to the mercenary team, Chuck Norris as a “lone wolf” mercenary who has a similar size role to Bruce and Arnold, Jean-Claude Van Damme as the main bad guy, Scott Adkins as the assistant bad guy, and Nan Yu as a female Chinese agent assigned to the team for the recovery of a safe that went down in a plane crash.  Mickey Rourke does not appear in this sequel.

The story line is pretty basic.  The Expendables owe Willis for not carrying out his job for him in the first movie.  He sends them to the mountains of central Asia to recover an object from a safe that went down in a plane crash.  Just as they get it, though, Van Damme shows up to take it away from them.  The object turns out to be a computer that contains maps to a cache of plutonium that went missing at the end of the Cold War.  Van Damme is going to sell the plutonium to terrorist groups all over the world.  The Expendables need to stop him.

The real reason to see this film is for the action sequences, and for the nostalgia factor of seeing all these guys together on the screen.  Both Chuck Norris and Van Damme turned down Stallone for the first film, and after it became popular they apparently changed their minds because they signed on for this one.  This movie felt like it had more goofy lines like we used to get in Schwarzenegger movies.  The characters also seemed to spend a little more time laughing at themselves.  (Stallone, looking at a decrepit airplane – “That thing belongs in a museum.”  Schwarzenegger – “No, we belong in a museum.”)

Anyone who dislikes pop culture references will hate this movie.  My absolute favorite is Chuck Norris reciting a Chuck Norris “fact”.  Several famous lines from films get uttered, but sometimes by a different action star.  At one point Arnold and Willis are pinned down and Arnold tells Willis, “I’ll be back.”  Willis responds, “You’ve been back enough.  I’ve got this.  I’ll be back.”  Arnold then watches Willis launch an attack on the bad guys and says, “Yippee kay yay.”  During this same sequence, Norris shows up and Arnold asks, “Who’s next?  Rambo?”  At another point Stallone yells out “Rest in pieces”, which is similar to Lundgren’s line from his 1990 movie I Come in Peace.  Norris’ character is referred to as a lone wolf – a reference to his 1983 film Lone Wolf McQuade.  And Lundgren’s character is revealed to have both an advanced degree in chemical engineering and an award to attend MIT as a Fulbright scholar.  Believe it or not, these are the real world achievements of Lundgren before he got into acting.

My favorite scene in the film is the aforementioned Norris fact being recited by Norris, but my favorite action sequence involves both Arnold and Willis squeezed into a tiny Smart car driving around the inside of an airport terminal, blowing away the bad guys.  One place where I was disappointed was in the showdown with Van Damme.  I figured Jet Li would get to fight him, but Li left the film early on.  I then figured Statham would fight him, but Statham ended up fighting assistant bad guy Scott Adkins (who has been in a number of martial arts action films himself.)  It actually turned out to be Stallone facing off with Van Damme.  While Van Damme got in a few signature flying drop kicks, most of the fighting with Stallone was non-martial arts.

One thing I found out afterwards, that ended up making sense, was that Stallone did not direct this sequel.  The first movie felt like it all fit together better than the sequel.  That was probably because Stallone wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it.  This time around he handed the producing and directing reins over to others and I feel the movie suffered for it.  I can’t really blame him, though.  If you watch the extras on The Expendables DVD you see that he half killed himself on that movie trying to do all the different jobs, as well as putting up with the injuries he sustained while doing some of the stunts. 

So, if seeing all these guys together in one movie sounds like fun, then go ahead and check out this sequel.  If you didn’t like the first movie, then you should probably skip this one, too.  For everyone else, I recommend you give this film a try.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

           DVD                      Blu-ray


  1. My brother was incredibly hyped to see this movie...but then he remembered World of Warcraft exists, and, well, plans were shot.

    At any rate, it's weird to hear that Jet Li has such a slight role, but I suppose (or assume) it's not a deal-breaker. Plus, I hear that Jackie Chan might be on-board if they make an Expendables 3, so I suppose there's that.

    1. Jackie Chan would be a great addition. Actually, Li's scene in this film was sort of Jackie Chan-esque. He improvised weapons from two frying pans and took out a room full of bad guys.

  2. If you really want to think about it deeply, then you will see that this is a bad movie. But everybody here knows that and it doesn’t matter because all they want to do is blow stuff up, shoot people down, and have some fun while doing so. That’s all that matters really. Nice review Chip.

    1. You pretty much hit the nail on the head on why I hesitated before recommending it. Is it a *good* movie? Not really. Is it a *fun* movie? Yes it is.