Mention the name Jean-Claude Van Damme and it makes one think of Steven Seagal, Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee. The image of a spinning 360 degree head kick also springs to mind. The “muscles from Brussels” has been proving that you are never too old for a comeback. To take it one step further, he has also shown that you are never too old to have a viral video.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.*
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.
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.