My buddy Mattress flew in from Houston last Friday night. The purpose of his visit? Watch Expendables 2 with the guys. And watch it we did. All ten of us. Were we the most obnoxious movie watchers ever? Probably, but then again, I find it hard to believe anyone was really taking things too seriously. From the opening military compound infiltration to the subsequent mortar speedboat chase to Van Damme’s trademark roundhouse kicks to Arnold’s completely cheesy screen time, this movie has it all. Oh, and if you’ve ever wanted to see Chuck Norris say a Chuck Norris joke with quite possibly the worst delivery in cinema history, there’s no better place than Expendables 2.
Now, if you’re looking for the next Schindler’s List, or if you have a hard time looking past terrible acting performances, then this movie might not be for you. At least, not at full price. Heck, the guys and I loved it, but we also watched at the cheapest theater in town, Tinseltown. If you’re scoring at home, did I have a great time? Yes. Would I have enjoyed it less if I spent twice as much to see it at AMC? Sure. That is why I want to introduce the Where My Money At? gimmick. This is a scale I’ll use to establish how much each part of the movie is worth so you can decide if you want to see it at the top-shelf Cineplex ($12), the bargain-bin theater ($6.50), Redbox ($1), or wait to maybe catch a snippet some Saturday afternoon for free ($0). Let’s give this a try.
The acting was generally awful, but none of these guys have ever really threatened to bring home an Oscar. What you’re really watching for is the moment when Arnold mentions his intention to return or to see Van Damme roundhouse kick some dude to death. I would like to especially highlight Dolph Lundgren’s performance. He puts the spectacle in spectacular. His character acts dumb, drunk or delirious the whole time (often a combination of all three), and during the requisite “calm before the storm” bar scene, he wears the most unbelievably alternate lifestyle bandana ever. Shortly thereafter he painfully hits on an Asian girl and later totally assumes she’s Chinese. He is marvelous. Of course, Sly is Sly, and most of the same guys from the first Expendables are back and just as effective. The big treat is the inclusion of a couple new Expendables, Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Chuck is deplorable (probably because he wants to be) while Jean-Claude is fairly effective as the villain. Arnold Schwarzenegger has an expanded role this time around, and he seems to enjoy being back in the thick of things. Also back with a bigger role is Bruce Willis. He is totally solid. Where My Money At? – $1
This screenplay is chock full of outlandish lines. Actually, after you see the film, you might have a few dialogue moments as standout memories. Sadly, there is nothing quite as fantastic as “Why are you here? I just am.”, but there are a few gems here and there, namely “Track em. Find em. Kill em”, “My shoe is bigger dan dis caaaaah”, “Rest in pieces”, and the Chuck Norris joke. There also seemed to be a priority placed on incorporating as many iconic catch phrases as possible into the dialogue. This leads to several “I’m Back”s, a “Yippie Kay Yay”, and numerous references to Chuck being a Lone Wolf (referring to the greatest bad action movie EVER, Lone Wolf McQuade). If you’ve enjoy the catchphrases in Aliens, Terminator, Die Hard, or any other bad action movie starring these guys, you will probably walk out of this flick with a smile on your face. Where My Money At? – $12
Though this sequel delivers the goods nearly as well as the predecessor, the one thing that seems subpar is the cinematography. Several times at the beginning, I couldn’t help wondering if the projector was out of adjustment. The picture is really, really fuzzy. This is a departure from the first entry in the series that featured crisp, vibrant photography. Maybe the powers that be were trying to hide how old some of the actors are. If I had to guess, I would attribute this to the change from Sly as the director of the first to some other guy for the second; simply a stylistic choice. Since none of my buddies really mentioned the fuzziness, most moviegoers might not mind either, but since I often love movies JUST for the cinematography, this was a bit of a letdown. Like, I loved the island shots in the first Expendables – there was nothing like that in this joint. I’m not saying the cinematography completely ruined the movie – I’m just saying it is nowhere near the level of the first. Where My Money At? – $0
This story was pretty contrived, but then again, I didn’t show up expecting the next Gladiator. Honestly, the plot is no better or worse than any other bad action movie. There were a couple of totally unnecessary moments and characters (which seems to be a growing staple of 21st Century movie-making), but the basic good-guys-trying-to-stop-the-bad-guys-from-creating-mass-nuclear-warfare element worked fine. Uhhh….that is really all I have to say on the story. In a nutshell, it is absolutely wonderful. Where My Money At? – $6.50
There’s not much else to say at this point. The music stayed out of the way which was fine, the effects were very well done, and the costumes were unremarkable as was the editing. There is one really creative moment in the climactic fight scene where the audience is treated to a new perspective on watching a man get blown to smithereens. I won’t give it away, but it was pretty memorable. Oh, and speaking of memorable, those mortar speedboats were really something else. I mean, it is so inconceivable to think those could actually work that I feel compelled to look up “mortar speedboat” on Wikipedia just to see what comes up. Where My Money At? – $6.50
Overall, you should watch this film, but don’t spend too much $$ to watch it. Try to catch it at a cheap theater, or if you’re really not sure if you can enjoy something this amazing, then wait for the Redbox release and get the thrill for $1. No matter what, watching all these washed up actors deliver their signature lines is worth the price of admission. Especially when Chuck Norris delivers his own Chuck Norris joke. Ohhhhhhh my goodness is that a cinematic moment for the ages. Totally made Mattress’s trip worth it.
Overall Where My Money At? – $6.50
Grant Stevens loves awful action movies, and he also loves great action movies. He can’t wait to see who will be in the next Expendables, and he is also looking forward to the next Fast/Furious flick. In other news, his favorite movie is Chariots of Fire. Go figure. He is also a musician. Check him out @ www.grantstevensgroup.com. Feel free to leave a comment below.