I arrived home a few minutes ago to a semi-cold meal cooked by my sister only to hear my eldest brother and his wife talking to my parents about The Expendables 2, about how my sister-in-law’s friend saw it and, I quote, described it as a “total waste of his time”, and that the film “has all the cliches of all the action movies ever made”. I couldn’t help it: I stood up and, uncharacteristically hostile, asked my brother, “What in the world is that dude expecting from this film? This isn’t some profound art film that’s meant to meditate on the mysteries of life. The title should already be a hint as to the film’s supposed “stupidity”: The Expendables 2. We have characters named Barney Ross, Lee Christmas, Jean Vilain, and (my personal favorite) Hale Caesar. Seriously: HALE CAESAR. What self-respecting critic would waste time to move earth and water with a profanity filled criticism of a film whose main purpose is to offer roughly 90 minutes of pure testosterone filled action, and to poke fun at “bad” action films, horribly retarded puns and inside jokes that only those hardcore action film fanatics would get?”
Well, I didn’t really say all of that, just the first sentence of it all, but I digress here. My goodness, I don’t even know why I’m writing a review of this film when it’s pretty obvious that regardless of the negative criticism this film’s gonna get from uptight and snotty film critics like Movie Bob (who HATED The Expendables with a passion, but enjoyed Machete instead), or the relatively decent review from James Berardinelli, this film would still be swarmed by those action film fanatics who waited for the longest time for Stallone and Schwarzenegger to fight baddies together. Heck, I wouldn’t even break this review down into the Good and the Bad anymore because to exert effort in scrutinizing why this film is good would be like asking yourself why a Big and Tasty or a Quarter Pounder is a satisfying meal.
I didn’t think that this film was good in the ironic sense the hipsters “like” things ironically. I BELIEVE that this film IS GOOD. It is a well-directed, competently acted and scripted action movie. It doesn’t break new ground in action filmmaking, but for what it’s worth, The Expendables 2 is surprisingly one of the best action films of the year.
This film doesn’t follow the same pitfall of the first Expendables. While it’s true that it’s a good action film, I have to admit that the shaky-cam approach of Stallone was overdone. Don’t worry, you can still figure out what’s happening but there are moments when you’d wish you can just see how good the action is instead of just dizzying the audience with the approach Paul Greengrass popularized with his Bourne films.
Director Simon West goes for a clearer shot composition in his action sequences. While there are moments where the shaky-cam is used, it is used sparingly (even if it is used, it is clear enough to see the action). Whenever the shoot-outs occur, you can see every single thing happening within the frame: we see bodies explode, debris flying around, digital blood squirting, and a poor chap reduced to tomato paste courtesy of Stallone, Couture, Nan, and Lundgren’s pistols (seriously).
Acting wise, Stallone and his Dirty Dozen do what is needed for their roles. While there are no thespian moments a la Mickey Rourke‘s in the first film, the chief character given characterization is Liam Hemsworth. Yeah, his take is nothing compared to Mickey Rourke, but it is not too distracting so as to distract the audience from the film’s purpose: achieve a high body count.
As for the writing, I don’t believe I have laughed so much in a long time in the cinema. This film is bursting with those corny and cheesy one-liners that are abundant in those action films of the 80s. Nowadays it’s considered bad script writing to include one-liners to the line of, “Track ’em, find ’em, kill ’em.” However, a writer who understands the type of film he’s making would include that corny one liner not to ironically enjoy it, it’s because it’s appropriate for the film.
If you would allow me to be a bit serious for a moment, I’d like to point out one surprising element in this film. At the risk of using precious brain matter to analyse something which shouldn’t be analysed, this film is actually thematically consistent with the first Expendables. There is a human story. Of course, it isn’t as profound as Bruce Wayne’s story in The Dark Knight Rises but it is a treat to know that the filmmakers have enough integrity to respect the audience’s intelligence by reminding us to care for these caricatures of characters because these characters DO deserve our sympathy. These are mean killing machines, but they are still human and have enough decency to honor their comrades.
This poor excuse for a review would go on forever because there are just so many things to talk about this film. But like I said in the beginning, it would be useless to even take this film apart because chances are, you’ve already seen this film and you either loved it or hated it. For those who enjoyed it, I’m sure you have your reasons why you enjoyed this surprisingly good film. For those who didn’t, I don’t really blame you: I pity you.
5 stars out of 5.
P.S. – No, I’m not trolling. I’m dead serious. This film set-out to be a brainless action film, and what we got was a surprising delicious chocolate cake with some really delicious icing.
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