The Scoop: 2012 R, directed by Simon West and starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, and Jean-Claude Van Damme
Tagline: Back for War.
Summary Capsule: Rambo, The Transporter, The Terminator, John McClain, and Chuck Norris team up to take down JVCD.
Eunice’s Rating: “It’s alright It’s okay It doesn’t really matter if you’re old and grey”
Eunice’s Review: Growing up, right alongside my Disney movies and musicals and kiddie adventure, I was really into ’80s action. Sometimes by personal choice, there’s nothing quite as thrilling when your nine like sneaking a peek at a forbidden action flick like Predator, Robocop, or The Terminator at your babysitter’s. Sometimes it depended who I was with, my dad liked Rambo as a form of “war movies,” my mom had/has a weird crush on Jean Claude Van Damme which has led to me discovering that I have seen EVERY JVCD MOVIE but two. The Die Hards, Steven Seagal movies, the Lethal Weapons were considered family viewing. And as for Chuck Norris, my mom had a friend who was absolutely in love with him and totally shared the love, and yes we watched Walker Texas Ranger (Because, when you’re in Texas, look behind you… THAT’S where Chuck Norris is gonna be).
The point to all this is to show where I’m coming from in this review. I love big goofy violent action flicks. Is it a little weird? Maybe by other people’s standards, but who wants to be normal anyway?
If you didn’t see, or forgot, the first one, here’s the skinny:
Sylvester Stallone is scarred been there done that Barney Ross. Barney is the leader of a group of rough and tumble mercenaries: his right hand man Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), not quite all there Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), martial arts expert Yin Yang (Jet Li), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) who loves very big guns, and dumb muscle Toll Road (Randy Couture). They like go and save kidnapped people and blow stuff up real good. Also introduced in the first one were Barney’s shadowy contemporaries Church (Bruce Willis) and Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
After saving a Chinese businessman (and writing Jet Li out of the script to go make another movie by having Yin Yang deliver him home), Barney gets a visit from Church. Barney owes Church big time and he’s come to call in his mark. A top secret McGuffin crashed with a plane in a forest near a place called Gazik. The McGuffin has a code attached that needs to be broken a certain way, so Barney has to take along Maggie (Nan Yu), a code breaker/interrogator with combat skills. Also along is new member and ex-Army Bill the Kid (Liam Hemsworth, who looks so much like his brother Chris it’s freaky weird). Gunner has a crush on Maggie, but Maggie is diggin’ on Barney and Barney’s all “Diggin’ on you diggin’ on me.” And it is on like that.
Well they find what’s left of the plane, break the code with only some minor hitches, grab the McGuffin and go home for tea and crumpets. Roll credits.
Oh wait, wrong movie. They do all that stuff up ’til grabbing the top secret shiny thing. Then a short weapons dealer with a Brussels accent shows up. It’s JVCD in, as far as I can remember, only his second bad guy role. The oh so subtly named Vilain wants the shiny thing and he has Bill the Kid hostage to get it. He takes the groups’ weapons, the shiny, humiliates them, and then -just to prove how evil he is- kills Bill by roundhouse kicking a short sword into his chest (the only reason he doesn’t twirl his sinister mustache is because he has a henchman [Scott Adkins] for that). So they have to go get the shiny thing back, save some slave miners, and kill Vilain for revenge.
Now before anyone calls a spoiler foul, let me sum up why Bill is dead meat from the beginning for you:
- 1) He’s the only new member.
- 2) He’s the youngest and the prettiest (Liam Hemsworth is down right beautiful, just sayin’)
- 3) This is his last mission
- 4) He’s got a girl waiting for him
- 5) He and Barney have a kind of father/son thing going on
The only thing he’s missing to complete the action/war movie death mark cliche is talking about how he can’t wait to go back to his ma and pa’s farm.
I was doubtful going into Expendables 2 as I didn’t really like The Expendables. The first just took itself so serious, and Mickey Rourke just waxed philosophical waaay too much, I found it, personally, a little boring by the end. Plus they played up having Sly, Ahnald, and Willis being in a movie together, only to have two out of the three in the movie for all of two minutes. Cheated, I felt it. And didn’t Dolph Lungren die in the first one? I only saw it once, but I definitely remember him being a badguy and dying.
Anyway, with a different director at the helm (not saying that Stallone is completely horrible as a director, I actually liked Rambo and Rocky Balboa), there’s a lot more humor without going full blown comedy. So instead of making you roll your eyes with how serious it takes itself it’s more like “look you’re fans, we’re fans, let’s all just have a good time together.” But it still respects the first one by continuing the characters tones from the first one, and carrying over the story lines (if you will) with Barney, Church, and Trench, and the one between Lee and Lacy (Charisma Carpenter). Not in a big way, but still a nice touch. It works well together to balance out the put hair on your chest testosterone-fest.
It also remedies the ‘we got big ’80s action stars, but don’t actually use them for anything’ sin, by getting them back and actually using them. I know, shocking concept. I can’t get into it too much without spoiling the second half and ending. But I will tell you that when the trailers said it has Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Chuck Norris – I wouldn’t lie to you about this, trust me – they throw down and get quippy.
More points scored for switching out the Kidnap Bait Girl for a capable woman who can hold her own with the fellas. Sure she’s the only real female character (Lucy and the village leader Pilar [Amanda Ooms] are the only other women who aren’t just extras), but I’ll take what I can get and liked the chemistry they found for her character to have with the team as a whole and Barney specifically. Would totally welcome her back for a sequel.
And Vilain is totally over the top, but Van Damme plays him with such complete arrogance and narcissism. He just embodies the villainously obnoxious A-hole, and it works. The final show down is pretty good too.
So I liked it, it was fun and enjoyable. And when it winked at the audience, it was like it was winking at me. If you’re a fan of macho actioners, or just want to see sexagenarians who are still ridiculously fit, it’s a must see.
- Chuck Norris’ wife suggested using the cobra meme.
- The film reveals that Gunnar Jensen has an advance degree of chemical engineering. This is a reference to Ludgren himself, who has a master’s degree in chemical engineering. The character abandoned his career a scientist to work as bouncer in order to impress a girl. In real life, Ludgren turned it down to work as bodyguard for his then girlfriend Grace Jones.
- References to: Terminator, First Blood, Die Hard, Good Guys Wear Black, Lone Wolf McQuade, Dark Angel, The Transporter, Demolition Man
- Songs I caught were ‘The Wanderer’ by Dion, ‘Mustang Sally’ by Wilson Pickett, ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion’ by Tommy James & The Shondells, ‘It’s a Beautiful Morning’ by The Rascals, ‘Rip It Up’ by Little Richard, and ‘I Just Want to Celebrate’ by Rare Earth
- Speaking of music, Chuck Norris is the only one who gets to use the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Understood?
- A stuntman died and another was left in a critical condition while filming an action scene for the movie in Bulgaria, that included an explosion on a rubber boat.
- So when Barney says, “You wanna man up? I’ll man you up.” and reaches for his pants… let’s just say my mind went to a very different place.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Planet Hollywood shirt. Cute.
- So who’s left to use? Seagal is obvious. Kurt Russell emboding Snake Plisken? Wesley Snipes. Bolo Yeung. Jackie Chan. And what about women like Brigitte Nielsen, Grace Jones, Linda Hamilton or (if they could get her) Sigorney Weaver?
- The Expendables 3 is already in preproduction
Gunner Jensen: Who am I gonna pick on?
Yin Yang: You’ll find some other minority.
[talking about food]
Maggie: Crispy aromatic duck with plum sauce. Very sexy.
[looks at Barney]
Maggie: But I like Italian, too.
Lee Christmas: By the powers vested in me, I now pronounce you man and knife.
Barney Ross: I’ve heard another rumor, that you were bitten by a king cobra?
Booker: Yeah, I was. But after five days of agonizing pain, the cobra died.
Lee Christmas: What’s the plan?
Barney Ross: Track him, find him, kill him.
Trench: Who’s next? Rambo?
Trench: I’ll be back.
Church: You’ve been back enough. I’ll be back.
Vilain: You wanna kill me like a man? Or you wanna kill me like a sheep? So. What’s it going to be? Man or sheep?
Barney Ross: You wanna man up? I’ll man you up.
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