The Expendables 2 (2012): Twice the Fun

For pure escapism and a plot that has more holes in it than a hunk of Swiss cheese, you cannot beat The Expendables 2. But damn it, it’s  entertaining and fun and who can complain about that?

Is it realistic? Hell no, no more than The Guns of Navarone or The Wild Geese was.

Are they similar? You bet.

All three films feature heroes past their prime facing outlandish, impossible odds…and winning. Sure the big bad has changed. In Navarone it was the Nazi’s and in Geese it was an African government; in each case though the bad guys were bad.

To the bone.

So are the bad guys in both The Expendables and The Expendables 2. The first film featured a villainous Eric Roberts and the second one featured Jean-Claude Van Damme as an egotistical greedy and downright nasty villain. Both men had an equally nasty cohort and a plethora of arms toting men.

Van Damme as the Vilain…

But despite the similarity in plot and the difference in directors – Sly directed the first one and Simon West directed # 2 – the film covers familiar territory and features almost all of the guys from the first film.

Conspicuous in his absence is Mickey Rourke (who says he only did the first film as a favour to Stallone anyway) and Jet Li is missing for 99% of the film – a massive disappointment as I adore Li – and Charisma Carpenter has an even smaller cameo than in the first film, but none of these things take away from the enjoyment of the actual film.

Instead we have both Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in bigger cameo roles and they both get to shoot copious amounts of ammunition and kill absolute legions of baddies. Chuck Norris shows up for the party and it just doesn’t get any better than that.

I could almost forgive Chuck for endorsing Mitt Romney (almost but not quite) and it would have been nice to see more Jet Li, but hey; we got Nan Yu to represent the Asian member of the team and a “new” member in Liam Hemsworth as the ultimate eagle-eyed sniper “Billy the kid.”

Now for the plot, did I say, plot? Do you really care? Of course you do, no matter how ropey and loose it is, plot is important. But before we go there let’s talk about the opening of the movie.

New temporary Expendable member Maggie.

Expendables 2 opens just like Expendables did, with a hostage being rescued by the guys. Everyone infiltrates a terrorist hideout that is heavily armed and looks to be pretty impregnable. Except that these are the Expendables and they can go anywhere they like.

This time the hostage is a Chinese fellow who was supposed to be protected by Trench (Schwarzenegger) who is also a hostage. Just like the first film, our heroes kill all the bad guys and release Trench and they take the Chinese chap back home. Mid-air they put Yin Yang (Li) in charge of him; he attaches the man to himself and his parachute and they leap out of the plane. Li says that he may or may not return.

Once they get home and are celebrating in their old watering hole, Billy (Hemsworth) tells boss man Barney Ross (Stallone) that at the end of the month, he is quitting and going back to his French girlfriend. Barney leaves and heads back to his plane where he finds Church (Willis) who tells him that he has not forgiven him for stealing 5 million dollars from his organization and that Barney owes him one last mission.

Barney also finds out that he has to take a woman on board for this mission, Maggie (Yu) and over his objections that is just what he does. Their mission is to retrieve a valuable object from a plane that has been shot down in hostile territory. They accomplish this but get the object stolen by Vilain (Van Damme) – villain get it – but the bad obvious joke aside, Vilain is not a joke and he kills one of the Expendables to prove a point.

With the smell of revenge thick in their nostrils the guys and Maggie go to take down Vilain.

There are enough bullets shot and cartridges expended that the lead and brass companies could retire from the weapon’s business. There is enough blood spilt to sink the Titanic and while the violence is slightly over the top (a sniper bullet can take a man’s head right off) it is not in your face; hence the rating of 15.

With everyone making fun of their own acting careers (with the possible exception of Chuck Norris because really it is hard to tell with him) the chuckles keep coming. The cast do their usual good job in their interaction with one another and the “new girl” Maggie.

For the record the “guys” are: Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Terry Crews and Randy Couture. I just thought I’d mention it, you know, in case you forgot.

Bruce and Arnie, car-pooling.

The film is a great big bundle of action-man (and action-woman) fun. The nods and the winks keep coming and the action is practically non-stop. Even though the aim of the film was to do a pastiche of the 80’s action films that made all the big names in the film famous, Sly and director Simon West have gone back even further.

Years ago, when silent films were all the newest rage, there was a cowboy star who would kiss his horse rather than kiss his leading lady (nothing strange, trust me) and Stallone does something similar at the end of The Expendable 2. Well in spirit at least.

It is not often these days that a sequel is just as good as, or better than, the original but that is this case here. Maybe the secret is in not having a too cohesive plot or not caring too much about plot; either way it works and it is pure entertainment.

Just don’t take the film seriously and you will love it.

The “Lone Wolf” aka Chuck Norris. Seriously though, how old is this guy?

Dead West (2010) AKA Cowboys and Vampires…Don’t Bother

The IMDb credits listing for Dead West lists Douglas Myers as the writer of this cross-genre film. Not too surprising is the fact that there is no listing for a director. The DVD that I purchased gives Myers’ name as both writer and director. This film appears to be his first venture in the film world. I would not be surprised to see it as his last.

I’m sure that first time producer Lisa Hilton must have thought this was a good idea for a film. Looking at the plot on paper it should work.  But it doesn’t.  Using stock 1995 footage of Old Tuscon Studios burning and then showing the burnt, gutted buildings was the most authentic and exciting part of the film.

The film stars Jasen Wade a young actor who looks like a cross between Brad Pitt and a young Chuck Norris. Unfortunately his acting skills don’t resemble either actor. Although he does come close to the  young Chuck Norris in his performance. Just imagine how wooden Chuck Norris was when he first started out and then multiply it by two. Jasen looks good as Johnny Dust, the films main protagonist, but only from a distance and with his mouth closed.

But then I am being a bit unfair to the rest of the cast. Their performances were just as wooden and unbelievable. Before I start pointing out their shortcomings though, I’d better outline the plot.

Johnny Dust is a western actor who has never risen  higher than the film’s title that he is in. His slender to non-existent back story indicates that he was friends with “The Kid” an actor who was ‘big’ in westerns. Played by William R. Scott, he is the best thing in the film  (apart from the stock footage of Old Tuscon burning) and he’s not even listed on IMDb.

Johnny works as a ‘stunt’ cowboy working at Old Tuscon. He is divorced and running around with Gloria Valenzuela (Angélica Celaya) and their relationship is not too stable as she is using him to further her career. That she thinks Johnny can further her career shows that she is obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed.  Old Tuscon as a tourist attraction is not doing well financially and the only filming that takes place is for local television commercials. The town gets taken over by a big corporation that specializes in theme parks.

The company representative explains that they are going to turn the old western  town into a ghost town theme park and make use of the broken down ‘Haunted Dutchman Mine ride.’

The first part of the film was boring, slow, amateurish and cheap. The soundtrack sounded like old non-copyright music lifted from an 1970’s television show. It does not help the film one bit, but having said that, I don’t think anything could have helped the film.

The second part of the film, where the company opens up an old Indian burial jar and releases an evil spirit, does pick up a bit. We finally get to meet the company owner who looks like the great-great grandson of Nosferatu. Gloria is turned into a vampire along with the company rep.

The ‘new’ themed town will open up on Halloween and the unsuspecting public are to be the vampire’s and ghoul’s midnight snack. The funniest part of the film is when the editor shows several cut shots of peoples feet entering the mine ride. One woman is wearing a very distinctive pair of shoes. By the amount of times we see the shoes, she is either going in and out of the mine repeatedly, or the editor and director failed to notice that they were using the same piece of film to indicate a huge crowd of people were going into the mine.

Johnny realises that he must stop them and he takes a silver cross blesses it with holy water and turns it into a small amount of silver bullets. Unfortunately as he is an actor playing a cowboy and not the real deal, his aim is so poor that he places most of his shots on the surrounding area and not his intended victims. He must kill all the vampires and ghouls to save his ex-wife and daughter who are in the mine.

Johnny does manage to save the day, but he dies in the process.

This film is something of an anomaly for me. I generally love independent films. Dead West is indeed an independent film. Unfortunately it was so bad that when the second half of the film actually reached the grand heights of mediocre, I didn’t care. It was a case of ‘way too little, way too late.’

I do hope that Jasen Wade’s resemblance to Pitt and Norris doesn’t stop him from working. He needs as much work as he can get to help him learn his craft better. Any more films like Dead West and he can star in the film Dead Careerwritten and directed by Douglas Myers.

Deutsch: Chuck Norris
Deutsch: Chuck Norris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Expendables (2010) Tattooed Tough Guys Getting Ready for # 2

The Expendables (2010 film)
The Expendables (2010 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With The Expendables 2  opening across the UK in August this year, with bigger roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and with the news that The Expendables 3 will soon start filming, I’ve decided to take another look at the film that started it all.

The Expendables was directed by Sylvester Stallone who also co-wrote the screenplay with  Dave Callaham.

The hook or draw, if you prefer, was the presence in one film of a lot of tough guy actors from the 80’s and 90’s, famous for playing action-type heroes or bigger than life characters.

The list was long. Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, as well as relative newcomers  Jason StathamRandy Couture, Steve Austin,  Terry Crews and of course Arnold and Bruce (in uncredited cameos).

The token females were Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel), in what has got to be the worlds shortest cameo, as Stratham’s wishy-washy girlfriend and Giselle Itié is the “love interest” for Stallone’s character.

Stallone and his buddies are mercenaries who, at the start of the film, are rescuing hostages from some Somali pirates.  It is a short scene, designed to show us, the audience, how the group dynamic works and who is really in charge. It also shows us that Dolph Lundgren’s character is not playing with a full deck.

In rapid succession we find that: Gunnar Jensen (Lundgren) is off the team, Lee Christmas (Statham) finds out his girlfriend, now isn’t, and Barney Ross (Stallone) is unhappy with the way his life is going. We also get to meet Tool (Mickey Rourke) the groups tattooist. *on a side note – what a cool name for a character…Tool, just had to mention it.*

English: Mickey Rourke at the 2009 Tribeca Fil...

The guys get hired by Mr Church (Willis) and Ross finds out that his only competition for the job, Trench (Arnie) doesn’t want the job. The group vote on whether to accept the job and Ross and Christmas decide a fact finding mission is in order.This is not a film with great depth or hidden meanings What it does, it does very well. It is an “old fashioned” buddy/action/blockbuster film.

The Expendables is a great big ‘romp’ of a film. It features enough explosions and gunfire to start and win a war in most third world countries. It never at any time takes itself too seriously and it gives us bad guys (Eric Roberts as the supreme bad-ass we love to hate)  who are really bad and his underlings are easy to despise.

Of course the cast list gives us enough bulging muscle that everyone appears to have been vaccinated with steroids at birth. At no time in the film do you ever need to ask, “Where’s the beef?”

But like I said, it is ‘old-fashioned’ the bad guys wear metaphorical black hats, and the good guys with their metaphorical white hats ride in to save the day.

The one disappointment for me was that we didn’t get to see a lot of Jet Li. I am a huge fan, but to be honest, I was not really surprised to see how little he got to do. Hollywood has never really known what to do with Li and it carries over into this film.

I also missed seeing some of the other “80’s and 90’s action men” but that appears to be taken care of in the cast list of The Expendables 2.  The second ‘Expendables’ (in what is apparently becoming a series) will include Jean-Claude Van Damme  , as well as  Chuck Norris.

Charisma Carpenter is coming back for the ride and we can only hope she gets a little more screen time in this one.

Charisma Carpenter at Fan Expo 2007

One thing has been bothering me about the upcoming The Expendables 2. With Chuck Norris on your team surely you don’t need anyone else. Although, he could be batting for the other side, in which case I don’t think Team ‘Expendable’  have enough men.

Deutsch: Chuck Norris