This post is the original copy of the review published at Dawn.com, 31st August 2012. The online version is linked at the end of the post.
Got a gun? A Handful of Vengeance? Will Travel!
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
“It is believed that Chuck Norris’ tears can cure cancer. It’s a pity he never cried”. If you’ve heard this truism, then it’s about time you started believing in them – so says “The Expendables 2”.
There’s a lesson to be learned from Expendables 2, the rip-roaring sequel to star-writer (and former installment) director Sylvester Stallone’s loud return to blockbusters: you can never have too many people running guns on your side. That and Chuck Norris.
And so he strolls, post-apocalypse, with his shades on. His targets, dozens of mercenaries and a tank, already mowed down by invisible cannonade. Mr. Norris’ stride heralds the awesomeness of his post-career legend – no doubt thanks to late-night American television and internet Meme’s. And he’s amiable enough to laugh-along with the joke.
In the scene Mr. Stallone asks Mr. Norris to corroborate a rumor about him being bitten by a deadly king cobra. “Yeah, I was” he replies, “but after five days of agonizing pain…the cobra died”.
Mr. Norris plays a “lone-wolf” commando unit called Booker (a nod to his first hit Good Guys Wear Black), who walks-in mid-picture and elevates it to instant stardom.
But Mr. Norris isn’t screen-greedy. He shares Expendables 2’s notoriety with Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the ludicrous – and mandatory – climax inside an airport terminal. There amidst raining chaos and scattering bystanders, bullets only end-up inside terrorists. The most our guys get is a nose-bleed, and the cruel-end of a punch-line (“You’ve been back enough”, Mr. Willis snaps back to Mr. Schwarzenegger. “Now I’ll be back”, he retorts).
In a self-mocking scene at the beginning of the picture, Mr. Stallone is hit by a lonesome stray bullet amidst a barrage of open-fire.
Sometimes, I guess, it is fun to be Bollywood, even when you’re not.
Ganging-up with his old war-dogs, Mr. Stallone’s Barney Ross has about as much reason to lash out punishment as the last Expendables. But moral high-grounds, capital punishment or group-penance (and let’s not forget, brash one-liners) shouldn’t be the only reasons to enjoy this semi-grand sensory assault.
The directorial reigns now lie with Simon West (Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), so Mr. Stallone could concentrate on his acting and writing chores (the latter he shares with Richard Wenk). Mr. West’s touch isn’t as direct, or as 80-ish as Mr. Stallone’s – and believe you me, being 80’s is a compliment here.
As it is, the script shits focus from individual characters, ramping-up on pyrotechnics, body-blows and a re-look at old-school terrorist playgrounds from B-movies (small town Bulgaria and Albania anyone?). Replaced are scenes of weighty emotional baggage (and so, Mickey Rourke). In its place stand lots of fake-CG blood splatter, a bogus mission on digging out tons of plutonium for terrorist sales, brotherly put-downs and alternating cameos.
Jet Li’s Yin Yang is replaced early by the film’s other Asian minority, Maggie (Yu Nan), a tech specialist sent by CIA op Church (Mr. Willis, in an extended cameo) to uncover a black-box from an airplane shot down in Albania. In their second mission, the boys have a baby-sitting mission (or so Church tells Barney).
Barney’s roll-call goes: Christmas (Jason Stratham) – the group’s jack of knives; Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) – the barrel-weapons wielder; Toll Road (Randy Couture) – the calm go-to demolition guy; Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) – who we learn is an insane genius; and newbie sniper Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) – a recently war-scarred youngster smitten to a Parisian nurse (Nikolette Noel).
An early casualty catalyzes the gung-ho’s into action against Jean Claude Van Damme’s villain – whose name actually is Jean Vilain – his second played by Scott Adkins, and his own mercenary army. And before you ask –– yes, there is a mano-e-mano skirmish between Mr. Stallone and Mr. Van Damme at the end (watch out for one of Mr. Van Damme’s spin-scissor kicks).
Even with “so much to fit-into” (note the sarcasm), Expendables 2 feels like a diversion; a sequel bound to happen, if only for no other reason than to cash-in its ensemble-star cast, whose careers, individually (and lest we forget commercially), have been demolished by comic-book heroes or Sunday morning cartoons-turned movies.
Nearly gone are the days of bare-knuckled man-vs.-man action – unless you’re renting one of those annual direct-to-DVD Steven Segal movies (I hear he has a part in the next Expendables). Mr. Segal may not be in Mr. Norris’ league, but hey, he’s cool too (…I suppose).
Released by Lionsgate and HKC, The Expendables 2 is rated R.
There’s way too much violence, but that’s part of the reason you’re buying the ticket, right?
The published version is at: http://dawn.com/2012/08/31/movie-review-the-expendables-2/
And it looks like this: