Firstly this was not quite as enjoyable as the first movie but if you were a fan of the original you will enjoy this for the most part. Van Damn as the villain should have been better but in ways I feel the villain in the first outing was more intriguing. I'm not the biggest fan of Eric Roberts but he was effective. VanDamn was underused and in many ways a weak villain.
On Blu-Ray.Com's user reviews number rating system, the caption for 3 out of 10 says: "bad, not a disaster but
certainly not good."
I picked 3 out of 10 because that is how I genuinely feel about this film. I understand the hoopla surrounding it. Hell,
I was one of the many millions of movie fans relishing the opportunity to spend one more time with Sly and the
(growing) gang. I really, REALLY wanted to love this movie. Even at the uncomfortably more subdued midnight show I
attended in which police guarded the exits with a cold stare that didn't scream: "fun time with the kids at the cinemas."
But enough digression.
The harsh truth is Expendables 2 never lives up to its expectations. Sure it has its moments but there are not nearly
enough to justify this as "an experience for the ages" (no pun intended). I wanted this film to be a smorgasbord of
action frenzy. A colossal mega-metronome of testosterone laden nostalgia. Constantly delivering with each passing
reverse-pendulum stroke, a continual banquet of macho nirvana. Alas, The Expendables 2 is not that movie. What it is
instead is what many harsh critics have been saying it is: A huge disappointment.
The film decidedly has this very muddled plot about a nuclear arms take over. Barney and his dirty dozen are sent on a
preliminary mission by the ever balding Mr. Church; played to semi-camp by the ever reliable Bruce Willis (finally starting
to look his age). Their new recruit is played by the slightly emo Liam Hemsworth of Hunger Games fame. Hemsworth is
ultimately wasted in the film, and meant to serve as a bridging gap for the younger generation of moviegoers. He is also
a sort of tribute to the young veterans of war, who often die young but leave the old behind to continue to go on.
There is a ponderous line in the film when Sly's Barney says: "Why is it that the one's who deserve to
live die young and the one's who deserve to die keep on living." This line while interesting is perhaps a metaphor for
these macho dudes place in the film business. Their stock continually plummets and their nostalgia considerably wears
throughout the years. Hell, if they aren't going to give it one last ride. The movie does have this touching air of the
Cowboys treading into the sunset on horseback, but not enough to justify it as The Avengers of the 70s/80s stars we've
come to love.
This is mostly like the first film with a bit of cameos thrown in for good measure. A decidedly strong opening action scene
does not emerge into much hope during the film's slower mid points. The movie spends a whole lot of time
with newcomer Yu Nan's Maggie who doesn't nearly give a good enough impression to merit any kind of serious heat
when compared to the team. We also get a lot of unwanted sap song from Hemsworth's poorly written "kid". This is
director Simon West's noble attempt to inject some drama and sentiment into the mix. However, this is not strong
enough a core plot point to merit any kind of sympathy.
There is also a divergent run with a legion of oppressed (vaguely European region) of people which doesn't
quite work but which allows Statham to show off his knifing skills (which he does quite frequently). The film does have
some bright spots. Jet Li's disappointing departure aside, Dolph Lungren poking fun at his real life personality as a
chemical engineer provides the famous Frankenstein like figure with some much deserved credibility. Van Damme has
some fun hamming it up as a mirror image of his own uneven film career but the performance is mostly depressing and
vacuous (despite it's unintentional laughs).
The appearances of Arnold and Chuck, while great fun and full of poignancy feel rushed, phoned in and painfully sparse.
I wanted the great majority of this film to be witty banter between Arnold, Norris, Willis and Sly. Much like the Avengers
cleverly traded smack down with smack talk. There is a whole lot of shooting and killing in this movie but it doesn't have
the emotional content or freshness of the first entry. There are a couple of poor one liners thrown in that also don't
quite deliver. For example: "rest in pieces", "you've been back to much, I'll be back!", so says Willis' Mr. Church to an
aging Arnold. Arnold retorts with what you expect in response to Willis' own screen persona.
The film leaves on a decidedly high note. Despite being an uneven film going experience in terms of story, execution and
directorial intent, we do feel the immense power of these aging titans. These guys were heroes to a generation of film
goers. Their charm everlasting in the face of an uncertain movie future. Yet The Expendables 2 could have been so
much more. So disappointing that is serves as merely another bookend to an already played out nostalgia nod. These
guys deserved a colossal send off when what we really get perhaps is a slightly wimpy high school reunion, which merely
recycles (strangely enough) the B-movie plots that made them immortal.
There is but one line in the film that delivers on all it's intended drama, nostalgia and emotional girth. "We should all be
in a museum!"
I must say, itís a first time I completely disagree with the bluray.com reviewer and for this reason I decided to write up something myself.
The long-waited Expendables 2 was overall quite a disappointment. I find it surprising that some people describe the plot of Expendables 2 as better than that of the first movie. Everything in this movie was so predictable and occasionally even absurd (the scene where all the culprits miraculously die, the tank explodes and the theme song of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly introduces Clint Eastwood... wait... no, itís the Texas Ranger Chuck Norris). Now how did he kill everyone including the tank with just one machine gun? Even though most of the movie appears to try to follow a usual funny action movie style, from that point on it sways towards absurd comedy action movie. The first movie was much more realistic and the characters had their own story that gave sort of dark seriousness to the movie.
Regarding the video quality I guess one canít really blame the people who cooked up this blu-ray since from the theatre experience it is obvious that the original material was intentionally shot in very bad lighting conditions and is sometimes out of focus. Not sure why the director chose to film mostly in natural light with very high sensitivity which in same darker scenes resulted ultra-noisy looking image. Then afterwards plenty of noise reduction was applied so that the end result looked like an awful photoshop with no detail left in the scenes. It almost looks like he was trying to hide the features of the aging stars. The outcome is just bad. The first Expendables did not had this problem. Believe me Ė we would love to see the faces of our heros regardless of their age rather than bad quality footage.
The audio was the one thing that the movie makers nailed. Well done!
For conclusion, the smart-ass dialogues and pickering between the characters came often across as forced and in some scenes seemed silly like this movie was supposed to be some kind of parody. The movie has many powerful action scenes but they seem abstract and donít really fit together to produce a good story. If only the video quality was better, the movie could have been recommended to a mindless action junky...
Itís very sad that the movie did not reach the potential it could have with all the old school action talent on the screen. I really wanted to love this movie.