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Friday, September 21, 2012

[6.00/10] The Expendables 2 (2012)

Brief review: In 2010 Stallone's "The Expendables" ended up being a bit of a misfire, despite it contained the most popular action stars of the last 30 years. Two years later, director Simon West brings them all back together for a second time, and the end result is much more satisfying. Thanks to West's capability and skills, this time around the execution is slicker, the pacing is neater, and  the direction is way more solid than Stallone's, which isn't a big surprise. That being said, while definitely an improvement over its mediocre predecessor, "The Expendables 2" still struggles to impress with its plot, which feels dated and very uninspired. As expected, this sequel focuses a lot more on the action, than it does on the story, and in this area, the movie delivers everything it promises - great stunts, stirring, over-the-top action scenes, lots of explosions, loud gunfire, and tense chases. The spectacular opening sequence and the 'airport' scene near the end are definitely the biggest highlights of the movie - action-wise and otherwise. Set in Albania, but actually shot in Bulgaria, "Expendables 2" offers some interesting, untypical locations that feel refreshing, despite their gloomy, 'step back in time' feel. The ensemble cast of past and present action legends all do a decent job - Sylvester Stallone is at the center of attention, Jason Statham and Chuck Norris the show as usual, while Jet Li is wildly underused.

Overall summary: Entertaining, satisfyingly action-packed and well put together, if ultimately shallow, "The Expendables 2" is a rare sequel that easily surpasses the original, but will hardly turn into an action classic, despite the all-stars veteran cast of actors it proudly flaunts.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Shame they couldn't give these guys a great vehicle, but good to know it's better than the first one.

George Beremov [Nebular] said...

Alex, it's a shame indeed. Those guys deserved better.

Still superior to the the first one though. :)

venoms5 said...

I reviewed this myself not long after it came out. I think the first film is superior from a story standpoint and cohesiveness. The sequel was often all over the place and erratic. A lot of people cover up for this by saying "It's supposed to be stupid." But that doesn't answer for a few gaping plot holes. The opening was the best part and should have been the ending in my view. On the whole, I liked it and feel both films do things better than the other.

George Beremov [Nebular] said...

venoms5, I appreciate your opinion, but I thought the first one was mediocre at best, and with very incoherent plotting and unimpressive action scenes. The sequel is a step in the right direction.

I agree about the opening scene though. It was the best in the movie.

venoms5 said...

I appreciate yours as well, and I guess we will just have to disagree on certain aspects of this one.

But I don't see the coherence in Van Damme ordering all the women and children to be rounded up to get all the plutonium dug up within three days--no later; at least a day passes between this time. They're never rounded up as the good guys prevent this, yet nothing is ever mentioned or done about it and the plutonium is retrieved anyways(?) and VD is oblivious to the fact that none of the ordered slaves have ever arrived.

Characters enter and exit the narrative without rhyme or reason and the ending begins abruptly without any transition whatsoever.

These things stood out to me and I noted them and more in my own write up for the film. Most are going to like this simply because of all the stars wrangled for it. While that's nice and all, the novelty eventually wears off.

In the first film, while it was mostly the Stallone and Statham show, there were at least characters you cared about and to me, the story was very well constructed (including the sub plots with Lundgren and the General) and much easier to follow than this one; with what little story we're given.

However, the action was better captured in the second film, (mostly) bereft of rapid editing and super close ups and Jet Li wasn't short-changed the second time around.

I like them both about the same since both films do different things better than the other, imo, but for Hollywood movies that spend 100 million and more on their movies, I expect them to be a lot less sloppy; and more and more big movies like this are hitting theaters without a longer fuse leading up to a big bang; that atrocious new CONAN movie being a prime example.

But yes, I do look forward to a third film should this one warrant it. Personally, the best attribute of this series, faults and all, is simply seeing a lot of old guys showing they still "got it", so to speak.

George Beremov [Nebular] said...

venoms5, good point, but I think you took the whole thing too seriously. :)

I try to keep my reviews short and sweet, due to the lack of time, that's why I never over-analyze things... or characters. My reviews are mostly informative, not analytic - that's my writing style and I can't help it. Plus, i try to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible. I can't compare my writing skills with yours, nor I claim I'm a good writer. I'm just honest and to-the-point.

I didn't say the first movie was horrendous. I just wished it was better, but sadly it left a bad taste in my mouth. "Sloppy" was the word that first came on my mind when I finished watching it. The second was better (if still far from great), probably because Stallone didn't direct it. LOL.

Definitely not looking forward to another sequel. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, anyway.

venoms5 said...

I don't think I took it too seriously, just noting and pointing out things that stood out to me. Otherwise, I had a good time with it overall, but I will always call things like I see them whether good or bad. Yes, I know I get long winded with things, which is why I start off reviews with a "Short Version", lol. I thought EX2 started out GREAT, but steadily fell apart from there. Honestly, i didn't watch the first movie till I got home from watching the second, lol.

You bring up an interesting point regarding Stallone, though. I used to dislike his work as well, but over time, came to appreciate the things he did more post ROCKY 2; especially in his desire to turn out a good product, or as good as possible barring any production problems, which we, the viewers aren't always aware of.

I am a bit curious as to how good the smaller budgeted action pictures from Lionsgate are; an offshoot of their AfterDark Horror arm, I think it is. I see the DVD's in the store.

George Beremov [Nebular] said...

venoms, trust me, writing shorter reviews is even harder than writing long ones, because there are so many things you want to mention, but at the same time you're trying to avoid unnecessary and sometimes necessary details. Usually, when I get very impressed by a certain scene or character, I shout it out in my review, by I didn't think VD was worthy enough villain to get a mention. LOL. :)

If it wasn't Stallone, this film would have never happened, so I respect him for his passion and efforts. He's just a weak executor. :)