I was born in 1983, which means that by the time I was old enough to watch and actually understand what was happening in movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were the 2 biggest names in Hollywood. Those two were churning out some of the greatest action movies of all time, stuff like Predator, Conan, Terminator, the Rambo series, and the Rocky movies. However, they were also rolling out crap like Cobra and Red Heat too. As young as I was, I couldn’t really tell which ones were destined to be remembered as classics and which were fated to be forgotten (Raw Deal? Lock Up?) but I loved all of them. I was just a kid, but I can remember many an evening spent on the couch with the old man watching Rocky IV or The Running Man and through that, I grew attached to the genre and its stars. The action movies of the era were totally over the top (get it?) and I couldn’t get enough.
As the ’80s came to a close, a third action icon would emerge – Bruce Willis. His breakthrough role in Die Hard, still arguably the greatest action movie in existence, placed him rightfully in the conversation with Arnold and Sly, and for years, that was the hierarchy. But, as with every hero, age took its toll. Stallone did Cliffhanger in ’93 and Arnold had True Lies in ’94, but after that they both turned out a series of near unwatchable garbage – The Specialist, Assassins, Daylight, End of Days, Collateral Damage, The 6th Day – the list goes on and on. While Willis would find success in a few more Die Hard movies, even he started to shy away from the genre for a while. That is until 2006 when Stallone, desperate for a hit, went back to the role that made him with Rocky Balboa. At 60 years old, he proved he could still draw audiences and he repeated the feat 2 years later with a 4th Rambo movie. Suddenly, the gears started turning and the movie I had prayed for 20 years earlier began to take shape…
In 2010, Stallone started recruiting his aging contemporaries to make a star-studded action movie that revolved around the idea that they could all still fire guns and blow shit up, and it was great. Ok, so maybe not ‘great’, but it was entertaining as hell and pure nostalgia was often enough to power you through the weak dialogue and thin plot. Then on Thursday night, August 16th, at about 11:55 pm, I loaded myself into a theater seat and got ready for the sequel to begin. I was not disappointed.
This time around, we were given not only Stallone (66) and Jason Statham (45) again, as well as much larger roles for Willis (57) and Schwarzenegger (65), but we also get the return of Jet Li (49), Dolph Lundgren (55), Randy Couture (49), and Terry Crews (44). Not to mention the inclusion of Chuck Norris (72 years old!), Thor’s little brother (22), and a 52 year old JCVD! It was awesome. Norris told a ‘Chuck Norris’ joke while going by the moniker ‘Lone Wolf’ (like Lone Wolf McQuade), Van Damme did multiple roundhouse kicks as the villain named ‘Vilain’, and Dolph Lundgren’s backstory was that of his real life – a chemical engineering degree from MIT…it’s like Stallone was writing the script while watching an action marathon on SpikeTV and reading Wikipedia.
The movie also featured Nan Yu, who’s mostly Chinese resume I’m unfamiliar with. While she wasn’t bad, I would’ve gone with Maggie Q instead. With her resume already boasting adrenaline fueled flicks like Live Free or Die Hard, Mission Impossible: III, and the action-packed TV show Nikita, it just felt like a missed opportunity to grab the biggest cast they could. However, Nan Yu probably has more global pull and that could be why the decision was made. That being said, Yu did kick some ass in here.
This was a movie that didn’t take itself too serious and delivered on the action. There were a few parts that might have come off as cheesy dialogue-wise, and it’s doubtful many people under the age of 18 could really appreciate most of the references, but for me, at the wise age of 29 – I was thrilled. The Expendables 2 delivered exactly what was promised and didn’t try to be something it wasn’t. The ‘R’ rating is barely warranted as the language wasn’t super harsh, there were zero female chesticles exposed (as Aaron pointed out), and much of the violence was so stylized it wasn’t intensely gory.
There is also something I want to give them credit for – something that seems to be a lost art form in most newer action movies – HOLDING THE GODDAMN CAMERA STILL! Ever since Spielberg wow’d everyone in ’98 with the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, directors have been shaking the camera around so much you can’t tell what is happening. Perfect example would be ALL of the Bourne sequels. This time around the camera stayed stationary long enough for us to actually see the action happen – so thank you Simon West (Con Air, The Mechanic).
Overall, while the plot was a little thin and, quite often, the characters just seem to appear out of nowhere for the purpose of delivering a one-liner, this movie was a fun ride, and I think trumped the first movie easily. I give it 4/5 Grizzlies for delivering on its intended purpose and staying fun.
Despite the movie only being out a day in its spread its seed of unabashed 80s magnificence, there are already rumors that for the 3rd movie Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood, and Nic Cage are all wanted.
As sweet as Eric Roberts and JCVD were in the first 2 movies, Nic Cage could be the greatest villain since Hans Gruber if written correctly (Editor’s Note: Honestly, he’d be the best villain ever if written incorrectly, which is what I’m rooting for.-C Tan). PUT HIM IN A BEAR SUIT!!!
Personally, I’d like to maybe see Linda Hamilton or Sigourney Weaver pop up as they were the baddest ass action heroines around when I was a kid. You could also see if Uma is busy, let her do some more sword play as it will have been over a decade since Kill Bill…
And, it may just be my movie-riddled mind drawing connections where there are none – but I spotted references to all the following movies – did anyone catch one that I missed?
– Good Guys Wear Black (1978)
– Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
– Conan the Barbarian (1982)
– First Blood (1982)
– Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)
– The Terminator (1984)
– Die Hard (1989)
– Total Recall (1990)
I’m sure there are more, I just have to go see it again…