Twelve Things about The Expendables 2
12. My review of the first movie may have been stuck in draft limbo for the past two years (Because it has only Eleven Things as of this counting), but there's no way I wasn't going to yell from the rafters about this one. So let's begin . . .
11. The sequel opens with some bad guys. Because the only way to justify the slapstick brutality that comes next is to establish that they are indeed bad guys, which means that they "deserve" what's coming to them.
And the quickest way to communicate this is to show them being rotten to women. Because unlike priest-detective Father Brown, Hollywood screenwriters seem to think that "sins are kept in a bag." Ha! I challenge Hollywood to produce a dirty villain who treats women respectfully, as his equals . . . but I already know Hollywood will never let this lazy bit of shorthand go. (At least not in my lifetime.)
10. Another way to make the violence against the baddies more palatable is to make the baddies themselves less human. A friend of mine insists that Saving Private Ryan is an immoral movie because it does this to the Germans, who all look and sound identical, sporting shaven heads and babbling on in a language neither the American "good guys" nor the target audience understands. When people are as interchangeable as cogs in a vast war machine, then they are easy, even fun to kill.
In other words, the description "expendable" properly belongs to
those characters who didn't make the poster.
those characters who didn't make the poster.
9. But to be fair The Expendables 2 has less in common with Saving Private Ryan than it does with another classic movie . . .
The second I got over the two-dimensional treatment of the villains (and the ketchup-quality CGI blood), my Child of the 80s heart knew this movie could do no wrong.
Now all the younger film needs is a toy line with action figures and vehicles. I'd pay very good money for an assault vehicle called "Coming Soon" and a battering ram called "Knock Knock". But they'd have to rival Tonka Trucks in quality, if you know what I mean.
8. The actors certainly seem to! It's almost as if these 80s Action Stars had also been 80s Kids. Take the plotting: poor by storytelling standards, it is spot-on by playroom standards. I wasn't too bothered by an Arnold ex Machina moment after I remembered the time my G.I. Joes were able to escape the combined force of a Dino-riders Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was through something I like to call Carebears ex Machina.
You're really disappointed that I'm not embedding a picture now, aren't you? =P
7. Yes, it's all one big game, the more players, the merrier--and why shouldn't it be? The Expendables 2 is to 80s Action what Scream 4 (See my Twelve Things!) was to Slasher Horror: a genre movie about what we love about genre movies.
And we see that in cute touches like Dolph Lundgren's character Gunner having a Fulbright scholarship to the Massachussetts Institute of Technology . . . or the Chuck Norris joke that is the cherry on top of the cherry on top that is the Chuck Norris cameo. (I proofread that sentence three times before I hit Publish. There's nothing wrong with it.)
6. And I have to admit that I'm not too worked up that we get a girl Expendable in this second round. Relative unknown Yu Nan plays technical expert Maggie Chan, who becomes part of the group when they are slapped with an assignment they cannot turn down and she is part of the package.
I've seen enough Stallone movies over the course of my lifetime to know that he likes having female characters around (Just imagine Rocky without Adrian--and then remember that even Rocky VI had a significant woman)--so this surprise isn't actually a surprise. I don't think Maggie is here to fill some arbitrary oestrogen quota . . . although I strongly suspect they cast a Chinese actress after it became clear that Jet Li couldn't (or wouldn't?) be there for the whole film.
5. Honestly, I was more annoyed at the inclusion of teen heartthrob Miley Cyrus's Boyfriend. He gets some really bad dialogue, possibly because he's not at the semi-Shakespearean level of cheesy one-liners full of puns (Yes, I know I just added a new wing to my glass castle by writing that), and I believe he will date this movie faster than anything else in it will.
4. As for the actors who come in already dated . . . it's amazing what over three decades of love and goodwill will do. I will swear that Rocky, Dutch, and John McClane haven't aged a day.
My favourite bit of dialogue is when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) gives Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) a "new" airplane to replace the one the latter has crashed, Ross retorts, "That thing belongs in a museum," and Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) replies, "We all do."
3. And in case anyone was wondering whether they made up for the silly church scene in the first movie . . . Yes, they did.
The Three Johns
My second son will not ask whether he was named after St. John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist or St. John Damascene. He will ask whether he was named after John Matrix, John McClane or John Rambo.
2. Unfortunately, the DVD isn't out yet and I can't embed a video of Jason Statham taking out some more faceless, misogynist "bad guys" while dressed as a priest. Before I was finished wondering whether his use of Latin in what is presumably a Serbian Orthodox chapel was Stallone's way of working a Filioque dig into the film, Statham whipped into the action sequence and took my breath away.
There's something about the way a habit moves and a censer swings that makes one wonder why the priest-punisher isn't an Action archetype . . . until one remembers that the ideal is closer to father-forgiver or shepherd-shriver. (Amen.)
1. You know what else I like seeing in movies? Pepsi product placement. I never drink the stuff, but the brand has been close to my heart since childhood. And The Expendables 2 has the best example that I've seen in years.
Image Source: The Expendables 2 poster, b) Rocky Special Edition DVD, c) Predator Special Edition DVD, d) Die Hard Special Edition DVD, e) The Expendables 2 screen cap