Sometimes you just want to step into a theater, munch on your popcorn, slurp your soda, and simply unplug. Forget the convoluted plots and perpetual layers of dream. Forget the twists and turns. Sometimes you just want to leave your brain at the door and view gratuitous action– at least I do. I found the perfect remedy for thinking with the second installment of “The Expendables”, the aptly titled “The Expendables2.”
With his latest “Rambo” film and the “Expendables” franchise, Stallone–who has at least written or directed all three movies– is apparently trying to resurrect the very type of no-brainer action film that I described earlier and dominated the 1980s and early 90s. Films like “Blood Sport”, “Kickboxer”, “Timecop”, and “Universal Soldier”—yes, these titles are foreshadowing something—where an excess of dialog wasn’t really necessary and ballad-powered montages reigned supreme, uppercut the box office.
The first “Expendables” film drew me in with a veritable who’s who of action stars: Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger–like a fantasy football team of onscreen hardasses, the list goes on. How can they possibly top that gritty cast of hard knocks? The answer, my friends, is cast a man that has performed more splits in his extensive filmography than Mary Lou Retton has in her entire life. With the casting of the grand master of splits, the one man who challenges Arnold in the unintelligible grunts category, Jean Claude Van Damme, “The Expendables 2” was primed to roundhouse kick film goers. The only thing that would truly set this film apart would be a surprise cameo by someone truly bad ass, someone whose tears cure cancer or who has visited mars and erased all signs of life, someone like Chuck Norris. Oh yea, the movie has Chuck Norris too. I mean, Superman does wear Chuck Norris pajamas. Ok, ok. I’m done. The Boogey man checks under his bed for… fine, it’s out of my system.
The film tells the continued story of Barney Ross (Stallone) and his crew, The Expendables (a team of do-gooder mercenaries and off-duty drinking buds). The team receives a seemingly snatch-and-grab mission from Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) that sends them to Albania to recover a mysterious item. Only, there’s one problem: a perpetually-sunglasses-wearing Van Damme (Jean Vilain in the film) has other plans for the undisclosed item. The Expendables and Van Damme’s cohorts lock horns leading up to the inevitable showdown between Stallone and Van Damme—no movie worth a fist rating is complete without a final boss battle.
I loved this film. I grew up on this sort of mindless, fight scene-oriented, plot optional brand of cinema and, call me biased, but “The Expendables 2” won me over. The only thing better than a movie that’s unabashedly cliché, is a movie that’s aware that it’s unabashedly cliché. This film is self-aware and pokes fun at itself, invoking both laughs and heart palpitations all the while; the Chuck Norris intro scene is a testament to this. A movie like “The Expendables 2” is the reason why I opt for fists in lieu of stars, thus I award 5 out of 5 fists.