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01/25/2013 21:18:20 •••

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.

08/24/2012 00:00:00

I didn't see the first film but I really liked this one.

The references and meta humor were mostly enjoyable, but Schwarzeneger was overdoing it. Maybe he's out of practice or something but his scenes didn't work as well as the others. Or maybe because his "I'll be back" schtick has already been done to death over the past 20 years.

08/24/2012 00:00:00

Well he had to do his schtick - its an obligation - but, I reckon he could have got away with it in the delivery. The secret to making the perfect, so bad its good 80s action flick is to be totally self-serious. But if you keep making knowing winks and tongue-in-cheek references, it undermines that effort.

08/25/2012 00:00:00

^ True, and Willis immediately lampshades it: "You've been back enough! Now I'll be back!"

I was surprised to see opener set in Nepal, as well. It's not helped by the fact that the place doesn't look anything like anywhere in Nepal - instead of Scenery Porn of the Himalayan foothills, we're looking at a cheap knockoff version of Burma or something. Were they even speaking Nepali?

08/25/2012 00:00:00

I always thought the Nepalis were some sort of terrorist group simply operating within the country, just like the Sangs operate within Albania.

Further research did show that Nepalis do have problems with terrorists (, but they're Maoists, which makes me wonder why they kidnapped a Chinese billionaire (unless this is a renegade group).

Anyways, I really think I'm looking into it too much.

11/24/2012 00:00:00

They're a bit well armed for Nepali's Maoist rebels. Some of them still use Napoleonic era muskets.

01/16/2013 00:00:00

I'm guessing this was a rather well armed group. That's probably why the Expendables were sent in.

01/16/2013 00:00:00

"Further research did show that Nepalis do have problems with terrorists (, but they're Maoists, which makes me wonder why they kidnapped a Chinese billionaire (unless this is a renegade group)."

Well, Maoists generally aren't too keen on Chinese billionaires, because the billionaires are mostly capitalists. China's not that Maoist these days.

01/25/2013 00:00:00

Fair enough. Probably should've known considering I'm actually Chinese American.

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