Saturday, 25 August 2012

Expendables 2: Review and summary (1/2)

BANG! Always open with a bang when you're making an action movie. That advice probably applies when writing about one, too. Beware spoilers below, folks. Now read on. BOOM!

If you saw the first Expendables movie, you will have guessed that this is a series that does not take itself terribly seriously. If you missed this, then my opening paragraph starting and ending with silly sound-effects should have clued you in. I have to admit, first off, that I didn't really enjoy the first Expendables flick. The main problem I had with it was that the villains were both too nuanced for a traditional action flick and yet of insufficient depth for a thoughtful piece. I like my cerebral stuff, and I like my mindless explosion-based nonsense. Separately. Also, it seemed to lack the surfeit of explosions I had hoped for. I am happy to report that neither of these is a problem I had with this film. In fact, I had no problems with this film.

We are directly thrust into the action with a daring raid in Nepal. Some villainous chaps have abducted one of our heroes, and have fastened him to a chair to beat him up. In roar Mr Stallone's Vice-Presidential Action Rangers, with lots of shooting, and some amusingly modified vehicles. You will have seen the battering ram in the trailers, but I don't recall the plough myself. Actually, this is an American film, and my spellcheck is admonishing me, so perhaps we should call it a plow. Yes, I remember that from Sherlock Holmes. Anyway, explosions ensure, lots of chaps end up as dead as a 0.50cal HMG round can make you - which is very. Dead. Very dead. Our heroes then decide to eliminate a helicopter, not with their small arms, fair enough, nor their 0.50cals - more questionably, but maybe they expended all their ammunition eliminating the Blue Meanies - but with a motorcycle.

This attack confirmed for me my enjoyment of what I had experienced thus far. Those of you who follow Bruce Willis' comedies (any good action film is a comedy in my book) will recall that the last Die Hard to hit the silver screen featured just such an anti-aircraft moment. I do like nonsense in these films. One of my favourite examples of the genre remains Commando, which all aficionados will recall as stuffed to the gills with nonsense, excessive brutality, a ridiculous death count, a villain modelled on Freddie Mercury, and the use by an air hostess of a missile launcher on an American police van to free Arnie. Speaking of Arnie, our heroes drive through a building, blast the baddies, and rescue - some Chinese chap whom we haven't noticed before, and then the man in the chair, who is everyone's favourite Californian governor.

He is rather upset at having to be rescued, and one does wonder to what extent his mild vexation mirrors his unexpected return from politics to cinema. No time to worry, however, as it is time for a ridiculous escape down some wires, preceded only by literally washing away the baddies who would chase them in a manner reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Those of you who enjoy a complete novelty in their films are probably wondering whether to watch this film now, and I can only ask what you thought you were going to get from a flick with Arnie, Stallone, Statham, &c, &c, &c! So it's down the zipline, where we meet that sniper we know from the trailers who shoots the chaps who surround Stallone and Statham. Most of our merry band board some zippy little boats, which some more baddies pursue. Messrs. Statham and Stallone, however, have collected an aeroplane (another perfectly cromulent word my American spellchecker doesn't believe exists), and Sniper Billy pops the heads of some nameless (and literally faceless once his rifle has banged up their noggins) naughty fellows in slightly different zippy boats, chasing our heroes in their other boats.

This chase scene is revealed to have been arguably superfluous, as everyone gets onto the aeroplane, Mr Statham having shot up the nasty men's boats with a machine gun. A meany boards the aircraft shortly beforehand, allowing Stallone to beat him up and throw him out the door, in the finest traditions of action cinema. So everyone gets onto the 'plane on their jet-skis, at which point I began to wonder how much money was being spent on this rescue, and then Statham loads the big gun (75mm? 105mm? Someone check out Wiki) that lives in the nosecone, and they start shooting at a raft on which some baddies are standing. This having been blown up with some HE rounds, they squeak over the top of a dam, and zoom away. They drop off the Chinese billionaire (which explains where they got the money for jet-skis) together with Jet Li (who suggests he might come back for Expendables 3 if he's free.

Homeward bound, they are, and there's an engagement party for Mr Statham, who is getting wed to Cordelia from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wait, didn't she die and become a prophetic ghost? Sorry, I never saw Angel. Apparently, Carpenter's character cheated on Statham between this film and its predecessor, or Stallone's pre-wedding banter is just some odd masculine nonsense. We then get some relationship stuff which is so classic I think it came from an old black and white movie about WWII. Or a silent movie about WWI. Anyway, Billy the Sniper doesn't think this life is for him, so Stallone encourages him to go and be with his lovely French nurse girlfriend whom he met when he was in serving in Afghanistan. Stallone then drives off, moodily thinking about being alone all his life, and goes back to his surrogate woman: the aeroplane. Mr Church (Bruce Willis) is there, and with quiet viciousness excoriates Stallone for the events of film #1, and bids him take a specialist with him to collect a mysterious MacGuffin from a 'plane downed in Albania or Bulgaria. We don't meet any Bulgarians or Albanians, so I forget. Anyway, the new young lady appears on a motorised bicycle, and refuses to be ruffled by Stallone's "no wimminz" policy.

To Albgaria! Everyone, including this pretty new young lady, gets into the 'plane. On Jet Li's departure, Dolph Lundgren had demanded whom he know could bully, and Li remarked "You'll find some other minority". This new young lady being of Chinese extraction, there inevitably follow some gently humorous failures by Dolph to woo her. So they land and trundle off to the crashed 'craft. I remark privately on the inadvisability of wearing white jeans if one is supposed to be a covert mercenary - I doubt I would mention this to Mr Statham were I to meet him. Anyway, everyone trundles about slowly in a very clumped formation designed to favour cameras over sensible deployment - which is damned right for this sort of film! No fancy-schmancy sensible military tactics here, please! Needless to say, they find the downed 'plane, perform some amusing strength exercises, and send off Billy the Sniper to sit somewhere safe to keep an eye open.

Out of the fog emerges the diabolical, the evil, the deplorably French-sounding Jean-Claude Van Damme. Billy, don't be a hero! Billy has been taken prisoner, and now J-C makes Stallone's people put down their guns, threatening to shoot Billy otherwise. So they put down their guns and hand over the doodah they got out of the downed 'plane, and so J-C stabs Billy to death and nips off in a helicopter. The dastard! You know J-C is a naughty boy because he has a tattoo of a stylised goat's head on his neck, and he advises us that the goat is the Devil's pet. I'd missed that. I knew of the theory that the god Pan was conflated by early Christians with Satan, hence all the goat-stuff, but I realised at that point that I was over-thinking this film. So tune in tomorrow and find out what happens to our heroes? Will Flash Gordon save Earth? What of Professor Hans Zarkov, formerly of NASA? Wait, wrong film! More on Expendables 2 tomorrow, folks!

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