Articles & Notes — September 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Expendables 2: a puzzle that doesn’t glue together

How could I’ve known, that one of the most expected, explosive action movies of 2012, would turn into a personal bitter disappointment?

In all honesty, the thing I was least expecting – is that the film will leave me disappointed. And yet it did.

I was not the first in line to see the film when it was first released in the theaters, yet I’ve witnessed all the preparations, ad campaigns, pre-release interviews, and everything, prior to blockbuster’s release. It was a feeling of something big coming up.

A couple of days ago, when it all became relatively quiet, I’ve decided to watch the film. After 90+ minutes were gone, I felt having mixed feelings about the film. Below, I’ll try to explain why, accepting the fact that I just might be the minority here. Just have to get it off my chest.

A small comparison.

Imagine someone has told you that you’ve just won a jackpot, and there’s a brand new 3-storey house waiting for you just to move in. You’re handed the keys, and everything. You go out to the location, and instead of a big house, you see a big building, with thousands of appartments, one of which is yours. You are stunned.

– But, I thought you said I’be living in a house! In a big house! And, this is just an apartment!
– Isn’t one apartment big enough for you? You should be thankful for what you got!

“Expendables 2” left me with similar feelings. Yes, I got a free apartment (all the great action heroes in one movie). Yes, it is enough for me alone to live in it (was nice seeing them all on screen). But there’s a big difference between a damn house and an apartment…

First things first.

“Expendables 2” of course is not a complete failure, as it does deliver what it has been promising prior to the grand release. There are all these action heroes in one film, lots of explosive action, fights and tongue-in-cheek jokes.

Digging in deeper (meaning actually watching the film) has revealed lots of these small bitter points, that have nearly ruined the whole experience.

Story and directing – I have no complaints against Simon West – the man did the best he could with this kind of film, with so many action stars. While he was the one that has been mentioned the least in the ad campaigns, he did a great job.

With regard to the story, it looks like washed clothes being thrown on a tight rope to dry up. While in this kind of film few would expect a serious deep story, it certainly could have been better with “Expendables 2”. Characters keep appearing out of nowhere, just for the “wow” factor, start to irritate, you know.

– Trench appears out of nowhere to rescue Barney and his team.
– Booker appears out of nowhere twice to help Barney’s team.
– Lacy appears and disappears just as quickly.
– Church appears all of a sudden all geared up for the final battle, yet the way he’s portrayed, he’d never go out on a mission by himself.
– Booker keeps saying that he’s the “lone wolf that works alone”, in the end he says “sometimes it is better to run with the pack”.

But that’s all minor cavils. The real disappointments were surprisingly with action and this tongue-in-cheek jokes I was writing about earlier.

The “fight of the century”.

Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of action, but it is not what the fans wanted to see. I remember witnessing all this “Stallone vs Van Damme fight” fuzz, and that was one of the things that disappointed me the most.

Van Damme revealed in some of his interviews that the fight scene between his character and Stallone’s was re-written by him (I imagine how bad it was in the beginning), and the end result is mediocre at best.

The fight is short, we don’t get to see Van Damme actually fighting Sly, and what enraged me the most – the ending, when Vilain just stands up and waits for Ross to throw a chain on his neck…

Not only Van Damme’s character in the film has very little screen time, his character is not exploited, he’s forced to run around with background Bulgarians, and the final fight is just an excuse to get Vilain and Ross to exchange some blows. Is this the road from DVD’s to the Theaters? If so, then Van Damme better be off doing his own films…

Add to that, the problem of too many protagonists going up against one antagonist is quite vivid. More on this can be read here: Will “Expendables 3” repeat the same mistake of the first two movies?

Everything else.

Dolph Lundgren’s character in the first “Expendables” was amazing, I loved everything about him. He easily became the favorite “Expendable”. In the second film, we never see the factors that ignited him in the original film. A mention of “degree in chemical engineering”, a few phrases, no fight scenes, and Gunnar Jensen does not stand out anymore.

I was pleasantly surprised by Scott Adkins’ and Liam Hemsworth’s performances, as these two young (compared to others) actors were among those, who actually managed to show some intensity. The award for the best fight of the film goes to Jason Statham and Scott Adkins.

When the tongue doesn’t reach the cheek, or goes beyond it.

Remember the last shootout at the airport? While the shootout itself was good, these catchphrases (Rambo, I’ll be back, Yippie ki-yay) were really cheesy. It seemed like the film was trying to scream at the audience, trying to remind them of who they were seeing on the screen. The first film had some of those as well, but in “Expendables 2” there are just too many of them. It wasn’t funny anymore.

Summing it up.

Expendables (2010) was made for $80 million, and went on to gross over $274 million worldwide. Expendables 2 (2012) was made for $92 million, and thus far grossed over $234 million wordwide. Obviously, while being rated “R”, the second film was going for a mass audience, and that’s what it got. More demanding fans like the one who is writing this – were disappointed.

The film will remain special in some sense, as we may never see all these action heroes again in one film, however, as already mentioned before – there’s a big difference between a damn house and an apartment. And “Expendables 2” at least at this point, looks like a great puzzle, but it just doesn’t glue together.


—– After “Expendables 2”, it seems like the actors of different levels will be appearing jointly in other projects. Stallone and Schwarzenegger will appear in “The Tomb”, while Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins will be seen in “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning”.

—– It is safe to say, that Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins have gone full circle. In 2007 Adkins and Van Damme did “Shepherd”, where Adkins was villain, and Van Damme the hero.

Then in 2011 the duo did “Assassination Games”, where they fought the bad guys side by side. In “Expendables 2” they both play villains. In “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning”, they switch sides, as Adkins now plays the hero, while Van Damme is the villain.

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