Category Archives: Expendables series

The Expendables 2 (2012, Simon West)

The Expendables 2 plays a lot like an eighties “G.I. Joe” toy commercial. The vehicles all fire missiles and have detachable smaller vehicles. As opposed to having absurdly named characters with silly themes (there’s no “ninja Expendable”), the characters instead have silly names and amusing personalities. The script, from Sylvester Stallone and Richard Wenk, throws realism out the window, gets way too meta for its own good (the Terminator jokes for Arnold Schwarzenegger are immediately tiresome), but a lot of the character work is good.

The best performances are from the returning principals–Stallone, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren. While Stallone only has one good scene–opposite new (and female) Expendable Nan Yu–and Statham’s just reliable, Couture, Crews and Lundgren are hilarious. Their little asides, while absurd, often make the movie.

As for the rest… Schwarzenegger is terrible, Chuck Norris is an unbelievably bad actor (one imagines Lee Strasberg turning in his grave at every line), Jean-Claude Van Damme’s villainous (doubly, since his name is “Vilain”) but disposable and Bruce Willis is okay if slightly embarrassed.

In supporting roles, Liam Hemsworth’s awful as another new Expendable but Scott Adkins’s decent as bad guy.

Shelly Johnson’s cinematography is weak, as is Bryan Tyler’s music, but a lot of Expendables 2 is passable. Even if it does heavily rip off Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Simon West’s action is intense but cartoonish, which also describes the entire project.

Better plotting would’ve helped a bunch.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Simon West; screenplay by Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone, based on a story by Ken Kaufman, David Agosto and Wenk and characters created by Dave Callaham; director of photography, Shelly Johnson; edited by Todd E. Miller; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Paul Cross; produced by Danny Lerner, Les Weldon, Basil Iwanyk, John Thompson, Avi Lerner and Kevin King Templeton; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Barney Ross), Jason Statham (Lee Christmas), Jet Li (Yin Yang), Dolph Lundgren (Gunner Jensen), Chuck Norris (Booker), Jean-Claude Van Damme (Vilain), Bruce Willis (Church), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Trench), Terry Crews (Hale Caesar), Randy Couture (Toll Road), Liam Hemsworth (Billy the Kid), Scott Adkins (Hector), Nan Yu (Maggie), Amanda Ooms (Pilar) and Charisma Carpenter (Lacy).


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The Expendables (2010, Sylvester Stallone), the director’s cut

Ah, the utterly useless director’s cut. Thank you, DVD.

Having only seen The Expendables once, I’m not entirely sure what Stallone added for this version. The opening titles seem long and awkward (there’s now a montage introducing the team, which is even sillier since most of them disappear for the majority of the run time) and the big action scene has new music. Neither addition makes any significant difference, though there do seem to be some additional moments with the cast and the cast is what makes The Expendables work.

Most of the film’s performances are good. Nearly all of them actually, which is startling given much of the cast is traditionally laughable. Even the wrestlers are all right, though having Steve Austin knock out a woman probably makes him a lot more menacing. Randy Couture has a fun, against type monologue and Gary Daniels is good in his little part.

But the film’s best performance is, shockingly, Dolph Lundgren. Lundgren’s drug-addled behemoth is constantly frightening, but also somewhat touching and amusing. Jet Li’s appealing. Eric Roberts and Jason Statham, no surprise, are both excellent.

Stallone, other than showing off his retirement age physique, doesn’t do much. But he’s fine.

Mickey Rourke is amazing. He does more to make The Expendables “real” than anything else. Though even he wouldn’t be able to combat Jeffrey L. Kimball’s incompetent photography.

The only bad performance is David Zayas, who’s awful.

The Expendables is sometimes too long, but the acting makes it worthwhile.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sylvester Stallone; screenplay by Dave Callaham and Stallone, based on a story by Callaham; director of photography, Jeffrey L. Kimball; edited by Ken Blackwell and Paul Harb; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Franco-Giacomo Carbone; produced by Avi Lerner, John Thompson and Kevin King Templeton; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Barney Ross), Jason Statham (Lee Christmas), Jet Li (Yin Yang), Dolph Lundgren (Gunner Jensen), Eric Roberts (James Munroe), Randy Couture (Toll Road), Steve Austin (Paine), David Zayas (General Garza), Giselle Itié (Sandra), Charisma Carpenter (Lacy), Gary Daniels (the Brit), Terry Crews (Hale Caesar) and Mickey Rourke (Tool).


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The Expendables (2010, Sylvester Stallone)

The Expendables is surprisingly good. I’m not sure Stallone would admit it, but it owes more to Soderbergh’s Ocean’s series than it does any of Stallone’s popular action movies. Apparently, following Rocky Balboa and Rambo, Stallone decided to direct actors, something I’m not sure he’s ever done before. But he gets some shockingly good performances here.

The most obvious is Mickey Rourke, whose role has an extended cameo size to it, but gives Rourke this amazing monologue. The writing has its weak points during, but Rourke’s delivery creates this transcendent moment. As with most good Rourke performances, large or small, it alone makes The Expendables worthwhile.

But then Stallone gives Dolph Lundgren the meatiest role he’s ever had–a junkie mercenary–and Lundgren nails it. It’s simply a great performance. While he’s on screen, it’s just astounding to see this slow-moving Swedish hulk deliver such a textured performance.

Lots of other good performances–Eric Roberts, Terry Crews, that Gary Daniels guy who’s never had a theatrical release is a great villain, and Randy Couture, who wrestles or something… he’s fine.

Jason Statham is solid (he and Stallone are good together when the movie’s in its buddy movie stage) and Jet Li has some amusing moments.

Only Steve Austin gives a completely worthless performance, but it’s passable as he’s usually silent.

Oh… Schwarzenegger. This performance might be his worst, which is quite a statement.

Technically, the film’s a tad under-budgeted for Stallone’s ambitions, but, in the end, it works.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sylvester Stallone; screenplay by Dave Callaham and Stallone, based on a story by Callaham; director of photography, Jeffrey L. Kimball; edited by Ken Blackwell and Paul Harb; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Franco-Giacomo Carbone; produced by Avi Lerner, John Thompson and Kevin King Templeton; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Barney Ross), Jason Statham (Lee Christmas), Jet Li (Yin Yang), Dolph Lundgren (Gunner Jensen), Eric Roberts (James Munroe), Randy Couture (Toll Road), Steve Austin (Paine), David Zayas (General Garza), Giselle Itié (Sandra), Charisma Carpenter (Lacy), Gary Daniels (the Brit), Terry Crews (Hale Caesar) and Mickey Rourke (Tool).


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