Reviews: The Expendables

Completely overrated

When I've heard about 'The Expendables', I expected it to be a brainless, plotless rollercoaster of hammy lines and awesome fight scenes, in short: the perfect action movie. But what I've got was the biggest disappointment in years.

The problem about the plot is not that it's nonexistent. The problem is that the plot is there, and it sucks. The movie spends to much time with it and the dialogue is completely meaningless.

The only character who gets some characterization is Jason Statham. Yes, The Transporter is the best actor in this pile of shit. Jet Li tries so hard to have a personality that he seemingly forgot how to do fucking kung fu, and he spends most of his time getting his ass kicked. Dolph Lundgren is just annoying with his constant betrayal, Sylvester Stallones only character trait is 'hero', and his girlfriend is not only worthless, she also lacks the sex appeal to offset this, and yet, everyone seems to think she's goddamn Jesus, even though her idea of 'helping my people' is 'getting the shit waterboarded out of me'. That said, Steve Austin can't act worth shit.

Of course, no one watches a movie like this for its dialogue or its plot. What we came for was the action. Sadly, the action sucks ass, too. The movie makes heavy use of this goddamn Jitter Cam, and this, combined with the many characters and the fact that thanks, to their clothes, they all look the same, means that the fights are just confusing. The only characters who get some good moves are Randy Couture, Jason Statham and Terry Crews AA12. Another bad thing is that there's no aura of badassness surrounding the characters, at least not after the first few lines of dialogue. They simply get their ass kicked too much, and they give too much of a shit about getting shot. Yes, bullets hurt. Does that mean someone like Dolph Lundgren is allowed to cry about them? Nope.

All in all, The Expendables simply sucks. If you want to see a good action flick, watch Machete, or Commando, or Tom Yum Goong. But don't watch this overrated piece of shit.

Expendables II: Best Laugh I've Had This Year

As with its predecessor, I spent the entire of Expendables II laughing my ass off. I find it hard to not enjoy so much onscreen bombast and audacity, and Expendables II somehow outdoes its predecessor in both. But perhaps one of the most striking things about this film is how it manages to improve so much on the first; something that shouldn't be possible when it comes to a mindless, dumb, perpetual brawl.

Let's be clear. Many people had a lot to dislike about the first film, including those who enjoy their Reaganesque explodathons. They felt Jet Li got a raw deal, and that the characters were too interchangeable. Deaths weren't memorable enough, and that the action could be bigger. Surprisingly, the writers seem to have heard the criticism, because The Expendables II goes out of its way to resolve all those issues. Jet Li gets his action scene, and in fact so does everyone. The finale is impressive enough, in terms of how they managed to get so many big names on screen (more than you've ever seen before). As for the action, that's been improved too in terms of scale, tension, and variety. You see fist fights, knife fights, gun fights, kung fu, planes, boats, cars, tanks, and none stop explosions. It has everything.

That said, there were a couple of things I raised an eyebrow at. The otherwise excellent opening battle is set in Nepal of all places (No, Nepal does not have warlords). Then there are all the awkward catchphrases and cheesy pop culture references which crop up throughout. Finally there is a new character called Billy, a fresh faced youngster who sticks out like a saw thumb amongst all the beefy codgers. He's there as an obligatory nod to Afghanistan. I won't tell you what happens to him, but I'll give you a clue: one of the first things he mentions is how he is only a few weeks away from retirement. Cute.

The people who liked the first Expendables don't need my recommendation. They're probably already watching it right now. As for the people who found themselves disappointed by the first film, I suggest you still give this one a chance. This one is bigger, better, and everything a good sequel should be. If nothing else, watch it to see Willis, Schwarzenegger, and Stallone finally go back to back in battle.

Expendables 2 - now THAT'S more like it

While the first movie had its many faults - and whose sole appeal was the big names involved, it seems to have been a learning curve for the crew, who this time around deliver just about everything you've ever wanted in an action movie.

Unlike the previous one, this film actually has a (coherent) storyline, which alone has made a huge difference in the pacing of the action. Some great character interactions, many awesome and funny moments, some quiet drama, and enough meta references to make Deadpool's head explode. The humour by itself carries the movie, along with some witty, well-written one-liners for the characters. The guest stars (Willis, Norris and Arnold) don't push too much into the plot, and have just enough screentime to leave us wanting for more.

There are some things that'll make you scratch your head - for example, like the other reviewer mentioned - warlords in Nepal, and some plot inconsistencies (right after the Sangs go looking for people to abduct because they need more workers, the men in the mines finish their work) that you just need to choose to ignore.

A near-perfect action film. Could've used some better camera work, and a more realistic, Michael Mann-esque shootout, but all-in-all, it's a through-and-through entertainer and it doesn't pretend to be anything else.

Overall 7/10.

A successful coup against the meagre and hateful savantes

From the offset, this movie was full of high promises. It was to be the gathering of legends; all who have been great action heroes in their own right, onto one movie. But it also promised to be a return-to-form for those who had been weaned on the action movies of the 80s-90s. Such was the hype, that it promised to ferment a revolution by which all those who had chosen to undertake this movie would be known both as men, and brothers. A united stand against all that they had hated in modern cinema, whether it be rom-coms or overtly serious, dull movies. This was to bring back a lost magic of cinema and wasnít afraid to be called dumb or other insults. It was for all intensive purposes; critic-proof.

In a way this movie offers a bit of a compromise. It gives service to guns, blades, martial arts and of course explosions. All of this to offer exhilarating motion and edge-of-seat action. But it also has the grace to acknowledge that age has roughened them in a different way. This is shown in how they are no longer all so Herculean, whether it be requiring assistance or being encumbered by injuries. Meanwhile they take the time to recollect on other things from their long experiences in a more honest way, par evident by Mickey Rourke.

The cast all manage to gel well together and create the belief that they are all long-time buddies who go beyond being just workmates. But it is also true that not everyone gets their fair share of attention and time, although many movies also fail at this for understandable reasons. Itís a shame they donít get enough witty one-liners or raise any bars for competition and rivalry.

As far as villains go, itís very disappointing. For one, they simple canít go name-for-name on this against the onslaught of these heroic compadres. But nothing from their intent or skills makes them impressive. The bad guys are in some Hispanic land under some military dictator, which is a lacklustre clichť here.

The film also annoyingly uses shaky-cam and are a lot of scenes where it is too dark to see. A few modern pick-ups which should have been dropped here.

This movie is not for those who want a mellow experience, which appeals to the ordinary or the taut critics. It's a far cry from the great action movies of yore, but it's a good return to form nonetheless.

Exactly what it promised to be

Rule Of Cool personified. The execution, however, does leave a bit to be desired.

My biggest complaint is about the first act, which starts out and moves very, very slow. We get a Michael Bay-style introduction to our heroes where they kill a bunch of baddies, then it moves on to a lot of talking and exposition. Nobody gives a shit. Start killing more, please. The mercs then take a new job - the Banana Republic - and Stallone meets Bruce Willis to make the deal. Arnold makes an appearance, hands down an awesome One Scene Wonder with some very witty lines.

Stallone and Statham (Yeah, I know the characters have names, but nobody gives a shit about that, either) enter the island nation to do a recon. They meet the Damsel In Distress and are discovered by the country's army, and so we get some action, Stuff Blowing Up and some great HSQ as the guys make a getaway. The girl stays behind as a Plot Device to make them come back. More exposition. Willis is a CIA guy, there is a Man Behind The Man, blahblahblah. Stallone decides to go back and rescue the girl because No One Gets Left Behind. (Also, the two of them are getting Strangled By The Red String). A Chase Scene, some shooting. Then they all get on a plane and decide to fucking kill everybody, and finally we get what we came for. What follows is about thirty minutes of pure action and mayhem in which all bad guys end up dead. The End.

One bad point is that Jet Li suffers some very noticeable Badass Decay from a meta perspective. He still kicks ass, but his role is a combination of Token Minority and Plucky Comic Relief; he only beats up mooks and never wins a non-mook fight without assistance. It's a waste of a great action star.

Strangely enough, it's actually Terry Crews who gets the best Crowning Moments Of Awesome. He's a relatively obscure actor around here, but his antics with the BFG earned him several rounds of applause in the theatre. I hope the character hits Ensemble Darkhorse status.

All-in-all, I'd say it's worth a casual watch, but doesn't quite match the latest Rambo. Could've been better, given the talent lined up.

Be sure and turn off your brain before you watch it, 'cause it's basically a giant fuck-you to the laws of Newtonian physics.