Critics report: The Expendables 2 packs a surprising punch
We all know that every possible action hero has been cast in this film, for the second time. While such an expansive cast risks the dilution of quality performances by recognisable actors, most critics were 'surprised' at finding themselves enjoying the action!hollywood Updated: Aug 24, 2012 13:42 IST
Film: The Expendables 2
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Liam Hemsworth, Randy Couture
Director: Simon West
Plot Synopsis: Mr Church (Bruce Willis) reunites the Expendables for what should be an easy paycheck, but when one of their men is murdered on the job, their quest for revenge puts them deep in enemy territory and up against an unexpected threat.
We all know that every possible action hero has been cast in this film, for the second time. While such an expansive cast risks the dilution of quality performances by recognisable actors, most critics were 'surprised' at finding themselves enjoying the action!
Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
Readers may be wondering if a knowledge of the original Expendables film, Sylvester Stallone’s blunt-edged billet-doux to Eighties American action cinema, is required for this second instalment to make sense. The answer is no: it makes very little sense either way. As before, Stallone plays Barney Ross, the Grand Poo-Bah of a squad of ageing musclemen who are deployed to the world’s troubled spots, where they make things considerably worse.
In the ultimate Eighties throwback, director Simon West (Con Air) stages the stunts and explosions in camera, rather than recreating them with computer graphics, which gives proceedings a flame-grilled authenticity. I was thoroughly appalled, mainly at myself for enjoying it.
Lou Lumenick, New York Post
More fun and somewhat more coherent than its Sylvester Stallone-directed predecessor, The Expendables 2 serves up a planeload of thickly sliced, well-aged beef and ham amid lots of stuff getting blown up.
Vigorously directed by Simon West (Con Air), The Expendables 2 otherwise eschews such philosophizing in favor of male camaraderie and explosions. Lest you get the wrong idea, there are the odd, half-hearted passes made at the group’s token female member, played by lovely Chinese martial artist Nan Yu.
The script, credited to Stallone and Richard Wenk, allows Stallone and Jason Statham to trade lots of mock insults while laying bloody waste to an army of bad guys. But it relegates other returning cast members Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture and Scott Adkins primarily to interchangeable comic relief.
They don’t get anywhere near the laughs of newcomer Chuck Norris, whose hilarious extended cameo begins on a backlot version of New York City that the script insists is an abandoned Soviet training base.
Fortunately, the film goes out with a rousing airport battle that cheerfully flouts logic and the laws of physics while allowing Norris, Schwarzenegger and Willis to join in the fun.
Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
There are a series of good moves that make '2' slightly better than '1', starting with Stallone's decision to turn over directing duties to West, an old hand at the genre with Con Air and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" among his credits. Richard Wenk came aboard to co-write the sequel with Stallone and the result is a cleverer script. Cinematographer Shelly Johnson gives it all a vintage postcard look.
For all the tough guy posturing in Expendables 2, they actually turn out to be a bunch of old softies — who knew? When they aren't discussing ways to crush their adversaries, you're likely to find them talking about their feelings. Hemsworth is a nice addition as the good kid who manages to pull off his Army sob story without totally embarrassing the guys, though there were a few wet eyes on screen.
As to the boom boom, those sequences are splashy and high-octane enough they should satisfy the adrenaline junkies. But what gives Expendables 2 its charm is the film's unabashed nostalgia for the genre's best B-movie moments. As Statham's character puts it so well while slipping on a pair of brass knuckles, never count out the classics.
Justin Lowe, Associated Press
Capping off the summer box office with explosive action, The Expendables 2 offers the send-off that adrenaline junkies are seeking before the more sedate pace of fall releases. As he proved with the original installment, Sylvester Stallone grasps the action-oriented DNA of the films' badass cast of reprobate mercenaries with an intuition derived from dozens of genre roles.
Taking over directing duties from Stallone, Simon West preserves the hardboiled action and wisecracking cast dynamics of the original, channeling some of the B-movie tonal elements he might have picked up directing Con Air. Managing the complexity of stunts, aircraft and vehicle pileups and frequent shootouts that comprise the majority of the running time is a major challenge that West executes with elan, even adding unexpected grace notes to some otherwise routine scenes. Abetted by cinematographer and action-adventure specialist Shelly Johnson, whose camera placement and movement are spot-on, the action choreography never disappoints. Numerous gunfights, combat set pieces and fight scenes are muscularly staged and skillfully supported by Todd E. Miller's editing, though the sheer sound volume grows repetitive and wearying.
With such an expansive cast, there's a risk that the quality of performances might be diluted by the quantity of recognizable actors. But co-screenwriter Richard Wenk and Stallone have generously given both major players and cameo actors their own often quite -humorous character traits and dialogue. When Schwarzenegger is onscreen, much of the banter is at the former California governor's expense — though, much as ever, he gets some memorable lines himself.
The plot doesn’t make a lick of sense, purely existing to generate ambushes, chases and explosions.
Former high-diver Statham and martial-arts star Van Damme get to do most of the action, virtually all of which is incredible but not always in a good way.Willis makes the obvious point — that most of these characters belong in a museum.
So does the film, but it’s fun in a primitive kind of way (no CGI tricks are involved) and directed by Simon West with more energy than the earlier film — which was directed by Stallone, seemingly under heavy sedation.
Peter Bradshaw, Guardian.co.uk
nyway, as with all action movies we're hoping for some great taglines, little insouciant bon mots that true action heroes casually drop after some piece of mayhem. Sly blows someone to smithereens and says: "Rest in pieces." Ouch. Good one. At one stage, he chances upon a pack of wild dogs, fires his gun into the air to make them scatter and then says: "Take off, Rover." Fido or Rex wouldn't have worked nearly as well.
There's some comedy in there, too, intentional – mostly. As a poignant study of the ageing process, it's on a rough par with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. For The Expendables 3, they might want to consider enlisting Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Judi Dench.Scott Mendelson, HuffingtonPost.com
he good news is that The Expendables 2 gives you more of what you wanted the first time around. There is a greater volume of action and the film has even more A-list action stars offering their services this time around. The picture is rarely dull and often amusing, but at what cost? The film barely tries to pretend that it exists as an actual motion picture, with the various onscreen tough guys openly referencing their iconic roles or real-life biographies in a manner that takes you out of the movie each time. The first picture may have been light on the A-level firepower, but it attempted to be a real film with an actual story and token attempts at depth. The original Expendables (barely) worked as a metaphor for a modern America that could still do the right thing for the right reasons in a manner honoring its alleged superior morality. This new film has 'more of what you came to see' but is paper thin without a hint of substance or even dramatic credibility. Comparing the two films is a classic example of 'trying and (perhaps) failing' versus 'failing to try'.
The biggest acting pleasure actually comes from Jean-Claude Va Damme, playing the main heavy this time around. Van Damme actually gives the best performance of the whole cast, showing that he's used his decade-or-so in direct-to-DVD action fare to bone up his acting skills. Van Damme is quite entertaining here as he clearly relishes the chance to play a vicious super-villain. I'd argue that he's at least as due for a big-screen comeback as the quite-terrible 'I forgot how to act' Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold's brief cameo in the first film was its low-light and he's equally as self-aware this time around in a comparatively larger role, to the film's overall detriment. Willis also delivers hardcore smirk instead of giving a real performance, which is odd as he's easily the best actor of the bunch and the one with the most accomplished big-screen career.
The Expendables may be a better film, but The Expendables 2 is a better movie. Now let's hope The Expendables 3 can muscle up to offer the best of both worlds.
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First Published: Aug 24, 2012 13:18 IST