Since we’ve had so much cool Expendables 3 news this week, I thought I’d take a look back at the previous 2 installments.
THE EXPENDABLES (2010)
Expendables is a spectacularly entertaining, old fashioned, shoot ’em up action movie that not only brings back memories of the 80’s action flicks but, shows that Stallone and company, including Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Randy Couture and Terry Crews, still got it when it comes to kicking ass. Expendables is the story of mercenary leader, Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team of veteran guns for hire who are recruited to do a mission on a small South American island run by military dictator, General Garza (Dexter’s David Zayas) and rogue CIA agent, Munroe (a slimy Eric Roberts). Of course things don’t go quite as they planned and are further complicated by Barney falling for the General’s rebel daughter (Giselle Itié) and a simple mission becomes a literal fight for life as the ‘Expendables’ have to take on Garza’s entire army and Munroe’s trained killers to get out alive. The Expendables is one of Stallone’s best efforts as a director, he keeps things moving fast enough to cover up the plot holes but, not too fast as to not enjoy some of the commraderie between the characters. And there are some really great scenes from this cast of action icons, especially between Stallone and Statham, who work very well together, and Stallone and Rourke, who has a very poignant dialog scene about half way in. Not to mention a great fight between Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren’s Gunner, who turns rogue after being thrown off the team. Round out some balls to the wall action sequences and a cameo from Bruce Willis and the Austrian Oak, that brought down the house, and you have some rip roaring, testosterone fueled entertainment! Also stars Stone Cold Steve Austin and martial artist Gary Daniels as Roberts’ thugs and Buffy’s Charisma Carpenter as Statham’s girlfriend, Lacy. Fun stuff!
A solid 3 and 1/2 bullets!
THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)
Expendables 2 is a fun follow-up to the 2010 eighties action throwback hit that isn’t quite as engaging in it’s quieter moments as the previous flick but, thankfully there aren’t too many of those. This installment finds the gang being sent by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) after a downed plane in Eastern Europe to recover the contents of an onboard safe. Along for the ride is Maggie (Yu Nan), a tech specialist and new sniper, Billy (Liam Hemsworth). But, they are intercepted by a gang of armed thugs headed by the cold blooded Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and henchman, Hector ( Scott Adkins) who take their quarry and kill one of the team. Now it’s personal, as Barney (Stallone) and Co. seek to track down Villain and put him down… for good. Along for the bullet-ridden ride are old rival Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Mr. Church and legendary ‘Lone Wolf’ mercenary, Booker (Chuck Norris). When the action is flying fast and furious, EX2 is a real blast. It’s great to see Arnold, Van Damme and Norris back on screen doing what they do best. Van Damme in particular seems to be having fun chewing up the Eastern European scenery as the lethal bad guy and he doesn’t get enough screen time, sadly, to really establish the character’s full menace. Aside from an overuse of CGI blood, director Simon West gives us some good, old-fashioned rip-roaring action scenes that fit the retro action icon cast perfectly and some good hand to hand combat as well. Although some of those, especially Stallone v.s. Van Damme, could have gone on a bit longer to give them more dramatic impact. And drama is where West stumbles. The scenes between the action, which should be engaging and strong to keep us involved until the bullets fly again, are rather ho-hum. The dramatic scenes, though few, needed some more energy, more “pop”. The camaraderie between the team members that Stallone captured so well in part 1 is weak here and because of that, we are less forgiving of the cheesy dialog and the characters are less engaging as well. Perfect example is Lundgren’s Gunner, who practically stole the flick first time around. He’s nowhere near as fun as in EX1 and the fun Statham/ Stallone relationship is also weaker. The in-between scenes also had a quicker pace under Stallone’s direction last time and thus we were able to overlook the plot holes easier. But, this is an action film and there is plenty of that and who is in action is why we sat in our seat and on that level, Expendables 2 delivers on what we came to see. I am all for Expendables 3 but, find a director that can put some energy in the drama, give the team their team spirit back and a writer who can give them some livelier banter… as well as deliver the carnage.