Sunday, June 02, 2013

"The Expendables 2": a one-paragraph review

[NB: I still need to review "Oldboy," "The Hobbit," and "Silver Linings Playbook." I'll get to those. Not sure when, but I'll get to them eventually. Promise.]

While I was in Korea, I rented "The Expendables," a movie I'd been wanting to see for a while. My review of that film is here. A few days ago, I watched "The Expendables 2," which no longer features Mickey Rourke and has only a cameo of Jet Li at the very beginning. The big question, for me, was whether E2 was better than E1, as many critics have contended. My verdict? Hard to say. E2 stars Liam Hemsworth (the Hemsworth brother who always gets the less-peachy roles) as Billy the Kid, a young sniper running with Ben Ross's (Stallone's) team. You know something terrible's going to happen to Billy the moment he starts talking about his personal life and the fact that he's a short-timer: one more month of lucrative mercenary work, and he's back to the world, living a quiet life with his French girlfriend. Stallone, who co-wrote the script on this one, doesn't pass up on the cliché: it's no spoiler to say that young Billy buys it at the hands of bad-guy Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme, still menacing—and still hard to understand—in his fifties). E2 basically becomes a revenge drama once Billy perishes, as Stallone's crew chases after Vilain, who is himself after five tons of neglected plutonium. E2, like its predecessor, is an ensemble pic; Dolph Lundgren again does good work as a strung-out ex-junkie; Randy Couture is the butt of several cauliflower-ear jokes; Terry Crews doesn't have nearly as much to do this time, while Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Chuck Norris hog more screen time than they need to. As a fight-choreography junkie, I was disappointed with the final Stallone/Van Damme showdown; the end of that fight was way too contrived. Overall, E2 was fine as brain candy, and just as corny as the previous flick. Given the number of aging action stars in its cast, the movie might best be called cute. Well... as cute as a movie with a 300-plus body count can be.


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