Expendables 2: Oscar-Worthy?

In a word, no.  But The Expendables 2, Sylvester Stallone’s latest ass-kicking vanity project, is currently sitting at 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, which by any measure, falls 34% short of where it should be.  To be clear, The Expendables 2 isn’t a perfect movie in the “classical” sense of the word, but I have to imagine that it perfectly fit Stallone’s vision for this film.  Clocking in at a brief 103 minutes, the film manages to pack in ridiculous action, ludicrous one-liners, and gratuitous references to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movies, Chuck Norris’ jokes, and Dolph Lundgren’s life, as well as a plot that almost manages to justify it all.  Here’s a brief rundown of the highlights, and if you require a spoiler alert for this movie, then allow me to welcome you to America:

  • Jet Li on how the Expendables will replace him: “You’ll find another minority”
  • In the climactic airport showdown, Norris shoots a member of the Sang through a security X-ray machine, as the audience sees the gyrating, lead-filled victim through the lens of the X-ray
  • References throughout to Gunner Jenssen’s (Lundgren) intelligence, culminating when Jenssen mentions his Fulbright scholarship apropos of nothing, a scholarship Lundgren received in real life
  • Terry Crews’ nationality: “Blackfoot”
  • A ratio of 100 rounds fired for every word of dialogue (estimated)
  • That ratio clearly being higher in the first cuts of the movie, and then Stallone adding dialogue only to appease producers
  • The quickest transition from grief to outright anger, as shown by Stallone at the funeral for Billy the Kid
  • The longest scene of dialogue being a non-sequitur about the Expendables’ ideal last meals, which apparently only existed so Gunner Jenssen could hit on Maggie, the Asian female in the group, with the subtle line, “I could kill for some Chinese
  • A healthy number of scenes where the protagonists were required to–literally–flex their muscles, most notably when Terry Crews and Stallone have to struggle to hold open a door (don’t worry, it was the only logical solution)
  • After the Expendables go on a killing spree throughout the village, the coda consists of all of the protagonists spying one last enemy Sang, each firing off 20 or so rounds into him, and then Stallone grunting out a “Rest in pieces” to the corpse
  • Both Arnold and Bruce Willis dismissively removing doors from a smart car
  • Over 20 years after the end of the Cold War, Stallone making a movie based off of just that, with no shortage of more plausible subjects available
  • Chase scenes across virtually every mode of transportation imaginable
  • Significant amounts of one-armed machine gun firing

So yeah, this was a pretty awesome movie.  And to those who gave it a bad review, I ask, what were you expecting?  You just went to a movie starring Stallone, Lundgren, Willis, Schwarzenegger, Crews, Li, Norris, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, featuring a script written by Stallone.  You knew what you were getting into.  Were you hoping for character development?  Exposition?  A little restraint?  Subtlety, perhaps?  Dialogue that isn’t filled with puns, references, or double entendres? Sylvester Stallone doesn’t care about none of that.  All he wants to do is make some awesome fight sequences, kill some bad guys, give the audience some laughs, and then drive to the bank to drop off his massive bags of money.

Now, as a “work of art,” The Expendables 2 doesn’t compare to, say, The Dark Knight Rises.  But as a cinematic experience, well–I don’t know the last time I had as much fun watching a movie as this latest, audacious, and thoroughly explosive Stallone effort.  Yes, it was stupid; no, that doesn’t preclude it from being awesome.  And if you can’t understand that, then I hope you “rest in pieces.”


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