While I am not a fan of the Rambo type film where it’s mostly all guns, I do love an action film with some hand-to-hand fighting, crazy action scenes, a few explosions thrown in, and a sense of humor about itself. This is where The Expendables excels. These men definitely have a sense of humor about themselves (i.e. all the Fulbright scholar/engineering jokes about Dolph Lundgren’s character Gunner reflect Lundgren’s real life, not to mention the age jokes). While they do not necessarily mock action films, they do pay tribute to the genre as a whole and intentionally go over the top with the violence, big bangs, knives, and blood. The movie starts out with an insane amount of bloodshed, guns and a really high body count I couldn’t keep track of. I knew it was only going to go off the rails from there.
What I enjoyed about most this film was the interaction between the stars. They all have the action film star cred, so they share this common ground. The group looks like they are having fun and truly enjoying the company of one another. The camaraderie seems genuine and this makes the group of ragtag mercenaries seem believable as well as gives the group a heart.
What I liked in the first film that is lacking in the sequel is the glimpses of the fellas back home in the states in their social environment. The sequel has only a scene at the beginning before they leave the US for the remainder of the movie. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Mickey Rourke’s character was missed. He had a poignant monologue in the first movie and oddly was the conscience of the film. Both the first and this sequel do have an air of sincerity and heart that is surprisingly not out of place amongst the insane body count and this group of man-hulks.
Overall, I think this movie improved on the original. There is consequence to their actions this time and it is not all happy endings. There is a scene that really left me on the edge of my seat. I almost built up a tear or two a few times, which did not happen in the original. And Jason Statham got to shine in some of the best fight sequences in the film. I laughed a lot more too, especially during a great scene between Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger who have much larger roles than in they did in the predecessor. And Chuck Norris, whose movies I admittedly have not seen, is an awesome treat. Most excitedly, they brought a female along this time. Nan Yu totally carried her own and was not overshadowed by the boys.
While I cannot think of anything that made this movie not work, there was the “What happened to his face?” factor. Arnold and Jean-Claude especially, lay off the plastic surgery and the Botox. Your faces freaked me out in the close ups. Arnold’s eyes were stretched into such small little slits he looked like a black eyed demon from Supernatural And please lay off the teeth bleaching Hollywood because I’m nearly being blinded as I sit in the third row of the theater when you smile. And while nothing ever got physical, I don’t think Barney (Stallone) needs to keep having emotional connections with the younger ladies that do appear in the films. Maybe it’s to emphasize his real loneliness; the emotions just seem forced.
In a nutshell, this film is not for everyone. This is a loud, bloody, boys club of a movie that knows when to poke fun at itself and lets the audience in on the joke. While it is predictable, there is a soul to this movie that fits in nicely, and not awkwardly, among the brutality. I look forward to an even better The Expendables 3 before these guys get too old to half of their own stunts. And what action stars can they add to the ever growing roster for the next one?