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The Expendables 2 – An explosion that’s not as violent as you expect

The Expendables 2 - Theater Review
Release Date: 08/17/2012 - MPAA Rating: R
Clacker Rating: 3 Clacks

'The Expendables 2' is a bit of a mess, but is mostly an over-the-top series explosions and punches with more than a few winks to the audience.

When is an explosion just an explosion? Not this movie, that’s for sure. The Expendables 2 is basically two movies in one: it’s one part tongue-in-cheek over-the-top shoot ‘em up that is cartoonishly violent, and the other part revenge action thriller with manufactured pathos and a blatantly nonsensical romantic interest. As you might imagine, that first movie works a lot better, although for an R-rated movie, it’s not nearly as bloody as you might expect, and there is no strong profanity. Apparently there was a lot of whining from Chuck Norris about wanting to make the movie PG-13, so perhaps this was the compromise? A watered down “R” movie? It just about goes over the line into “R” territory in terms of violence, but only just.

The movie has a plot that works best if it’s taken as a comedy movie, and it actually starts completely in that vein. Puns, big guns, and references to other works of the actors. It seems that due to the Expendables crew stealing money in the first movie, handler Church (Bruce Willis) tells Barney (the returning Sylvester Stallone) that he owes him for not going to jail back then. So they have to retrieve a lost MacGuffin until they are thwarted by the villainous Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme practically twirling a virtual evil mustache — and yes, that is the character’s name). Eventually it all comes down to a massive shootout and punchout with the entire team involved, as to be expected. And a few more explosive scenes in the meantime.

But there are some odd beats, and incongruous elements — the new kid Bill (Liam Hemsworth) has a completely unnecessary and predictable arc, Jet Li just disappears after the first act (a waste!), and while the inclusion of Chinese agent Maggie (Nan Yu) seems to be about a competent woman in the midst of all this testosterone, there are still some problematic sexist and racist undertones. And are we really supposed to buy the immediate sexual tension between her character and Barney? In real life, Stallone is literally twice her age. The moments of dramatic monologue and character development seem like they belong in a different movie from Arnold Schwarzenegger figuratively winking at the camera. I suppose if it was really done well, it wouldn’t be a concern, but I far preferred the kabooms and smashes to the “sometimes life is dark, yeh know?” bits.

When everyone’s having fun (and everybody basically does a great job at the part, especially Van Damme), the movie’s just a blast. If you ignore the slower parts that don’t fit, you can just wait for the next explosion.


Photo Credit: Lionsgate

3 Responses to “The Expendables 2 – An explosion that’s not as violent as you expect”

August 20, 2012 at 10:37 AM

I watched these guys walk the red carpet for the Hollywood premiere last week – the only stars I saw up close were Arnold and Sly, but it was interesting, though not worth getting trapped between a street light and a metal barrier for 2-3 hours whilst being crushed by foreign tourists screaming “ROCKYYYY!!!”

Later I was coerced into attending a midnight screening of the movie, and it met all my expectations for pure awfulness. However, it managed to be funny awful rather than boring awful. I was laughing out loud whenever Chuck Norris showed up. With this franchise’s combination of parody humor and violence, it could be awesome in the hands of a director like Quentin Tarantino.

August 21, 2012 at 11:28 AM

. . . . . .

Can’t we just love it for the fluffy popcorn movie that it is?

Just wonderin’ …

August 21, 2012 at 11:32 AM

Sure, for the 78% of the movie that is just that, it’s a lot of fun. It’s only those “sincere” moments when the movie takes itself too seriously that are out of place.

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