Archive for the Buddy Movies Category

RED 2 (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, All-Star Casts, Barry Dejasu Columns, Based on Comic Book, Bruce Willis Films, Buddy Movies, Campy Movies, Comedies, Fun Stuff!, Government Agents with tags , , , , , , on July 23, 2013 by knifefighter

RED 2 (2013)
Movie Review by Barry Lee Dejasu

RED2PosterSeveral months after the events of RED (2010), former CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is trying to happily move on with his life, now truly retired and living with his girl Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker).  When Frank’s old buddy Marvin (John Malkovich), also a former CIA agent (but with a bad case of paranoid eccentricity due to decades of LSD experimentation), shows up, it’s clear that trouble won’t be far behind…and sure enough, trouble comes for them, in spades.  With conspiracies, assassins, and weapons of mass destruction abound, it’s up to Frank and his R.E.D (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) friends to save the day again.

Director Dean Parisot (best known for his 1999 film GALAXY QUEST) turns in a decent action-comedy with RED 2.  The film is rated PG-13, which is understandable, since it’s aiming for a widespread audience; as a result, there are numbers of pulled punches—sometimes literally, as an early fight sequence left me a little confused as to what was happening at times.  There’s lots of gunplay, fistfights, and explosions, and a few well-staged sequences, but nothing particularly new or unusual—which was probably the idea, since the movie is played more for laughs than anything else.  Still, a few of the fight scenes might benefit from an “Unrated” cut, and one can hope that such may show up on the eventual home video release.

Like with the first film, however, what I enjoyed most in RED 2 was its cast, which, even with an occasionally stilted conversation (more on that later), gets along very nicely, and works together well in some genuinely screwy scenes.

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich in RED 2.

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich in RED 2.

 “You haven’t killed anybody in months,” Marvin says at one point, and the same could be said for Willis at this point in his career, with A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD and G.I. JOE: RETALIATION having been released just earlier this year. Bruce Willis has become one of the main go-to guys for action movies the past couple of decades; generally speaking, his presence brings a fun and laid-back (yet simultaneously rugged and smarmy) presence in the middle of the cinematic chaos—and this movie is no exception; he nicely chews up the scenes with his relaxed (and occasionally grumpy) persona, and while this vehicle is nothing new or unusual for him, it’s hard to ignore his charm.

Mary-Louise Parker is a hoot in her return as Sarah.  Although her character is now quite familiar with Frank’s former career and skills, she’s also his dedicated lover, and will do anything to help him—including eagerly stepping in to fight alongside him in every situation he’s faced with.  This of course leads to much bickering about her safety versus his, and more than a few times she has to “prove” herself in action.  If you think Mary-Louise Parker can’t handle an action scene, well, think again—that’s the whole idea with her here, and because she’s a capable actress, it worked quite nicely.  (Coincidentally, Parker also appears in this past week’s fellow acronymic action-comedy R.I.P.D., directed by the original RED’s director, Robert Schwentke!)

Now, traditionally, I’ve disliked John Malkovich as an actor; I find him to be very hammy and more than a little unpleasant most of the time, even when he’s portraying (allegedly) sympathetic characters; yet, I have softened a bit towards him in recent years, and that reason, I now realize, began with RED, and continues now in RED 2.  He portrays Marvin in a very goofy, dopey-eyed manner, and I genuinely laughed a few times with him in these films.

Dame Helen Mirren steals every scene she’s in, which is to be expected when you put an automatic weapon into the hands of the Academy Award-winning actress.  She portrays Victoria every bit as tongue-in-cheek as she did the first time, coolly portraying a charming lady who’s more than ready to deliver asskickery.  (There’s also one scene of hers in particular, which I won’t spoil, that had me seriously cracking up; I’ll just say that for anyone who’s familiar with her career, it’s a real treat.)

Helen Mirren + gun = scene officially owned.

Helen Mirren + gun = scene officially owned.

Alongside Malkovich, Byung-Hun Lee was the real surprise for me in this film.  Previously, I’d only seen him in the two G.I. JOE films of recent years – coincidentally alongside Willis in the second one; and as a result, I didn’t really have much of an opinion of him.  Here, however, I got to witness just how charismatic he can be, and he’s gracefully capable of some truly jaw-dropping stunts.  He was also very funny, which went a long way towards fleshing out his role as Han Cho Bai, a contract killer seeking revenge.  (“You stole my plane!”)

When Catherine Zeta-Jones appears, everything seems to stand still—and I’m not just saying that as a longtime fan of the actress (here portraying former KGB agent Katja, also an ex-flame of Frank’s).  She comes sweeping across the screen, in full movie star glamour, just before delivering a hard kiss on Frank (much to Sarah’s disgust).  Her screen time is unfortunately a bit limited, and her character’s nature a bit uneven, but if the filmmakers were seeking a memorable and gorgeous actress for the role, then they succeeded.

It’s also quite funny that Anthony Hopkins is in this film, and for more than one reason.  As an eccentric scientist (and weapons maker) being kept in a mental institution, Hopkins turns in a rare comedic role in this film.  Oddly enough, he has starred alongside not only Jones and Mirren in previous films (respectively in 1998’s THE MASK OF ZORRO and last year’s HITCHCOCK), but even has a face-to-face appearance with “the other Hannibal Lecter” himself, Brian Cox (1986’s MANHUNT).

Anthony Hopkins once again finds himself in a mental hospital.

Anthony Hopkins once again finds himself in a mental hospital.

Like the first film, RED 2 is based on characters and a general setup from the DC Comics graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.  This film takes a nice wink at this origin with various screen shots of the actors transitioning into stills of their respective comic characters; it helped serve as a reminder that this isn’t a film to be taken too seriously, and thus was all the easier to enjoy.

That said, there were times where I found the plot kind of hard to follow (mostly in the shell game of different characters’ shifting loyalties and/or revealing their true natures), and there were a few stretches of wooden dialogue, but then again, the script (written by the first film’s team of brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber) exists solely to set up one funny scene after another, and it works well for that.

So ultimately, RED 2 was a bit of a retread of the first film, but it took all the elements that worked well and put them to good use here, starting and ending with a fun and enjoyable cast.  If you liked the action-packed screwball antics of the first film, then you’re in for more in RED 2.

I give it two and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by Barry Lee Dejasu

Barry Lee Dejasu gives RED 2 ~ two and a half knives.

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BULLET IN THE HEAD (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Buddy Movies, Cop Movies, Crime Films, Gangsters!, Intense Movies, Killers, Michael Arruda Reviews, Sylvester Stallone!, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2013 by knifefighter

MOVIE REVIEW:  BULLET TO THE HEAD (2013)
By Michael Arruda

 bullet_to_the_head

This movie earns its title and then some.

BULLET TO THE HEAD is one brutal action flick, featuring more bullets to the head than a Corleone family reunion.

James Bonomo (Sylvester Stallone) is a hit man who hates cops, mostly because he’s spent his life in and out of jail and doesn’t trust anybody, cops included, as he’s seen his share of crooked law enforcement officers in his day.  After he and his partner finish a hit, they are double-crossed by the folks who hired them, who send in a hit man of their own, an ex-military beast of a man named Keegan (Jason Momoa, who was CONAN THE BARBARIAN in the 2011 reboot of that franchise), who promptly slays Bonomo’s partner—- displaying some vicious knife work— but fails to complete the job, as Bonomo turns the tables on him, sending him fleeing from the scene with his tail between his legs, at least for the time being.

It turns out that the man Bonomo and his partner killed was an ex-cop from D.C.   The man’s former partner Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) arrives in New Orleans to investigate his death, and his investigation leads him to Bonomo.  Kwon wants more than just Bonomo.  He wants the men who hired him, because he wants to get to bottom of the whole sordid affair by taking down the men at the top.  Bonomo wants these men too, because they killed his partner, tried to kill him, and never paid him his money.

Bullet to the Head

Faster than you can say buddy cop movie, Bonomo and Kwon find themselves working together to find the men behind the murders.  The trail leads them to a slick lawyer, Marcus Baptiste (Christian Slater), who throws huge parties where beautiful women prance around in their birthday suits, and to the man he works for, Robert Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) a baddie who went to the Lex Luthor school of villainy, as he’s obsessed with purchasing real estate.

Morel of course hires Keegan to kill both Bonomo and Taylor, and when that plan fails, he sends Keegan to kidnap  Bonomo’s daughter, Lisa (Sarah Shahi), for leverage, since Bonomo and Taylor have in their possession a flash drive containing incriminating information against Morel.

As you might expect, Bonomo doesn’t like having his daughter kidnapped, setting the stage for a confrontation between Bonomo and Keegan that is worth the price of admission.

I really liked BULLET TO THE HEAD.  In the triumvirate of recent action movies I’ve seen the past month— Schwarzenegger in THE LAST STAND (2013), Jason Statham in PARKER (2013), and now Stallone in BULLET TO THE HEAD, I liked BULLET TO THE HEAD the best, as it’s the most complete movie of the three.  That being said, I liked Statham’s take on the character of Parker a lot, with his unique set of rules and sense of honor, and so I liked PARKER just about as much as BULLET, but in terms of sheer brutality, BULLET TO THE HEAD takes the prize.

Sylvester Stallone, at his age, 66, still makes for one convincing bad ass tough guy, and when he looks at Jason Momoa’s Keegan at the end of the film and says “I’m going to kill you,” the audience believes him.  Rarely has Stallone played a colder killer than Bonomo.

The deaths are up close and personal.  Director Walter Hill, a veteran of these buddy cop movies, going back to the 1980s with films like 48 HOURS (1982), with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy, brings the camera in close for some jarring execution style murders that are actually quite wince-inducing.  I found myself looking away a few times, and the two gentlemen in the seats in front of me, not tiny men by any means, jumped on a couple of occasions.

There are also some memorable fight scenes in this one, as again, Stallone still looks like he can really bring it.  The concluding bout between Stallone and Jason Momoa is every bit as good as the clash between Stallone and Van Damme at the end of THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012).  One of my gripes about the concluding hand to hand fight in THE LAST STAND was that Schwarzenegger’s opponent looked so wimpy.  Not so here.  Momoa looks like he could handle both Stallone and Schwarzenegger at the same time.

Speaking of Momoa, he’s quite impressive as the unstoppable killer Keegan, and he delivers one of the better performances in the movie.  Often these big tough guy villain roles come off like robots, but Momoa’s Keegan is infused with personality.

Sarah Shahi is also very good as Bonomo’s daughter, Lisa.  She’s a tattoo artist who moonlights as a doctor, helping her dad patch up his buddies from their various bullet and knife wounds.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Robert Morel, the guy in a suit pulling all the strings, played a similar bad guy role in KILLER ELITE (2011), making life miserable in that movie for Jason Statham and Robert De Niro.  Akinnuoye-Agbaje, you might remember, played Mr. Eko on the TV show LOST. 

 bullet_to_the_head_banner

Christian Slater is sufficiently slimy as shady lawyer Marcus Baptiste, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen Slater do before.

Perhaps the only weak link in the movie is Sung Kang as Stallone’s cop buddy Taylor Kwon.   Kang’s acting is decent enough, but the clean-cut pretty boy Kwon stands out like a bright cheery light in an otherwise dark gritty movie.  I would have preferred a Mark Wahlberg-type in the role.

The screenplay by Alessandro Camon is a winner.  While the plot is nothing more than your standard buddy action flick, an excuse, really, to allow Sylvester Stallone to make tough guy wisecracks and beat up on the bad guys—and because Stallone is so good at this, it lifts the material above what it otherwise might have been without him— there were still some nuances to the story which I really enjoyed.

I liked the character development of the hit man Keegan.  As we learn more about what makes him tick, we find out that he’s driven by a sense of honor more than the almighty dollar, and when his boss Morel shows no loyalty to the men he employs—he’s only interested in money— this doesn’t sit well with Keegan.  Keegan actually cares about the men who work alongside him.  Of course, he also loves killing.

The story also does a good job convincing us that Stallone and Kang want to work together.  At first, I thought, no way, Stallone’s Bonomo hates cops, so there’s no way I’m going to believe he’d want to work with Kang’s Kwon, but screenwriter Camon succeeds in pulling this off.   In one instance, for example, old school Bonomo is clearly impressed with the wealth of information Kwon has at his fingertips on his smart phone and realizes the advantages of working with the officer outweigh his personal disdain for his profession.

BULLET TO THE HEAD is a completely satisfying action thriller.  It’s brutal, dark, and intense from its opening execution scene to its closing clash featuring Stallone and Momoa going at each other with axes.

Sure, its buddy action movie plot offers little we haven’t seen before, but what it lacks in originality it makes up for in ferocity.

I give it three knives.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda  gives BULLET TO THE HEAD ~three knives.

RUBIN AND ED (1991)

Posted in 2012, Buddy Movies, Comedies, Cult Movies, Just Plain Weird, LL Soares Reviews, Strange Cinema, Weird Ones with tags , , , , , , on September 14, 2012 by knifefighter

“WEIRD ONES” Presents:
RUBIN AND ED (1991)
Movie Review by L. L. Soares

Back when David Letterman had a show that aired at 12:30 at night on NBC called Late Night with David Letterman (this is before his CBS “Late Show”),  actor Crispin Glover went on the show one night and almost hit Dave with a karate kick. Crispin was dressed in tight pants, had long hair, and wore huge platform shoes. This kick led to Glover being kicked off the show, but he came back the next night to explain that he wasn’t  really a psychopath, he was simply playing a character from his latest movie. That character was Rubin Farr from the 1991 flick, RUBIN AND ED, which he was promoting at the time.

Crispin Glover’s infamous appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman,” where he dressed as his character, Rubin Farr.

I remember that show (back then I used to tape Letterman’s show at night and watch it the next day after work), and Glover was definitely a highlight of Dave’s run on NBC. On his second night, when Crispin “apologized,” they showed a clip of the film, showing Rubin hallucinating that his beloved cat, Simon, was water skiing. The scene ends with Rubin saying, “My cat can eat a whole watermelon.”

For years, that was the only part of RUBIN AND ED that I had ever seen. It is a movie that is notoriously hard to find and has been out of print for decades. The only way I was able to see it was to find an old VHS copy on Ebay. But I wish someone would re-release this on DVD. It’s exceedingly strange, and Crispin fans will definitely get a “kick” out of it.

The story begins with Ed Tuttle (Howard Hesseman, who played DJ “Johnny Fever” on the original WKRP in Cincinnati from 1978 – 1982), a down-on-his-luck schmo, attending a seminar by a motivational speaker named Mr. Busta (Michael Greene). The message is  the “Power of Positive Real Estate.” Ed then goes out on the street, trying to get other people to go to the seminar. Now that he’s on Mr. Busta’s payroll, and even gets to use the company car, Ed calls his ex-wife, Rula (Karen Black) and tries to convince her that he’s finally successful (his lack of cash is why she left), but she doesn’t buy it. In her book, it’s once a loser, always a loser, and she’s not interested in giving Ed a second chance.

Howard Hesseman as loser Ed Tuttle.

Enter Rubin Farr (Glover), an oddball with long hair, tight clothes and very big shoes. He lives in a big brick motel owned by his mother (Anna Louise-Daniels) where he just stays in his room all day, playing Mahler on his turntable and squeaking a rubber mouse that used to belong to his cat, Simon. Rubin’s mother pulls the plug on his record player, saying that he won’t get it back until he goes outside and makes a friend. Just one friend. If he can get this friend to come over the house for dinner (so Mom can see he or she exists), then he can have his music back.

Rubin reluctantly goes out into the world, where he bumps into Ed handing out flyers and trying to get people to attend the motivational seminar. Everyone ignores him and walks past, except for Rubin, who gives Ed odd answers to his questions, but seems like a possible customer. Rubin says he’ll go to the seminar if Ed comes and picks him up at his mother’s motel. Ed, eager to finally make a “sale,” says yes and they arrange to meet at Rubin’s room at 6pm.

Crispin Glover as Rubin.

When Ed gets there, Rubin won’t leave at first (he wants to wait for his mother to get home, so she can see his “friend”), but then Ed finds something odd when he looks in the refrigerator for ice. He finds a dead cat, frozen solid in the freezer. At first Rubin freaks out (“Don’t you dare touch my cat!”) but then realizes that, since Ed has a car, he can give him a ride out to the desert, where he wants to bury his cat. Ed, desperate to show his boss he’s made at least one prospective sale, agrees.

Rubin gets to the car first, gets behind the wheel, and drives. When they get close to the seminar place (Ed is giving him directions), Rubin drives past it and just keeps going, for hours, until they reach the desert.

They keep going until the car breaks down. Then Rubin, who is carrying around his frozen cat Simon in a cooler, can’t decide where he wants to bury his pet. Every time he starts digging a hole in the sand, he changes his mind. Ed, meanwhile, is losing patience as he follows Rubin around the desert. And, since this is the time before cell phones, and they’re in the middle of nowhere, there is a chance they could end up dead.

They both have moments where they hallucinate in the desert (Ed hallucinates about his ex-wife—she’s all he seems to think about, aside from the motivational seminars—imagining her wanting him back. Rubin sees a swimsuit model from his calendar at home (Brittney Lewis), and of course, his cat. In one scene—the one they showed back on Late Night with David Letterman— a hallucination shows Rubin floating on the ocean in a rubber tire watching Simon water-ski (the motor boat is driven by the swimsuit model). There’s also a funny part where Rubin ends up in a cave, and when he hears his voice echo, he thinks it’s the “Echo People” talking to him.

A still from the infamous “Water-Skiing Cat” sequence.

Will they ever get out of the desert? Will Rubin ever find a spot good enough to buy his cat? Will Ed ever get Rubin to attend one of the motivational seminars? Well, you have to see RUBIN AND ED to find out – if you can find a copy.

Some of the movie is funny in the way that will make you laugh. But just as much of it, if not more, is funny strange. I’m not really sure who this movie was made for (it certainly wasn’t a hit back in 1991), it’s too strange to appeal to mainstream audiences, but it will definitely appeal to fans of Glover. It’s just the kind of weirdness you’d expect him to be in. With his long, stringy hair and strange clothes, Rubin is a classic Glover character. Hesseman is also good as Ed, with his giant toupee. I always wondered why Hesseman wasn’t a bigger star, and I guess because he appeared in movies like this one.

Director Trent Harris is also known for another odd cult movie called THE BEAVER TRILOGY (2000). It’s made up of three short films. The first one (from 1979) is a straight-on documentary piece about a kid Harris meets from Beaver, Utah, who does impersonations. The kid, who calls himself “Groovin’ Gary,” begs Harris to come to his hometown talent show and see him perform. He says that one of his impersonations is of Olivia Newton-John. Intrigued, Harris brings his film crew to the talent show, where they watch in horror as Gary comes out onstage in full Olivia drag and performs for an audience of conservative, small-town people. Harris was so enthralled by this kid that he remade the story in a fictional version —sticking pretty closely to the first movie, the short documentary—except this time starring a young Sean Penn as “Groovin’ Larry.” Penn does a good job impersonating the kid. In the third short film that makes up THE BEAVER TRILOGY, Crispin Glover plays “Larry,” and we once again go through the same story, except this time it is called “The Orkly Kid”(from 1985)  and has more of a story to it, including a backstory and some insight into “Larry’s” life outside of the documentary footage. Strange, but strangely fascinating, THE BEAVER TRILOGY is worth checking out as well (and is just as difficult to find).

Whether RUBIN AND ED is worth hunting down depends on how much of a fan of Crispin Glover and/or strange cinema you are. But this one really should be saved from obscurity. It’s an oddball classic.

© Copyright 2012 by L. L. Soares

THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Buddy Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Heroic Warriors, Jason Statham, Kung Fu!, Sequels, Sylvester Stallone! with tags , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)
By Michael Arruda

(With Special Appearances by L.L. SOARES, PETE DUDAR, MARK ONSPAUGH, NICK CATO, DAN KEOHANE, JOHN HARVEY and COLLEEN WANGLUND.)

(The Scene: A beat-up military plane which has seen better days, flying low over a South American jungle. At the controls sits MICHAEL ARRUDA. Next to him with a cigar dangling from his mouth is L.L. SOARES.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  We’ve reached our target. You’d better tell the rest of the team to be ready. It’s show time!

L.L. SOARES (bangs on door behind them):  Okay, people, look sharp!  We’re going in.

(CUE Dramatic military music. The door on the side of the plane opens. Into the doorway, wearing a parachute appears NICK CATO with his name superimposed on the screen in big bold letters. He leaps from plane. He’s followed by PETE DUDAR, MARK ONSPAUGH, DAN KEOHANE, JOHN HARVEY and COLLEEN WANGLUND, each with their names emblazoned on the screen and a dramatic beat of music as each makes their appearance. Finally, the camera settles on MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES as they prepare to bail, with their names also in massive letters on the screen, followed by the huge, larger-than-life title:

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHTERS

(End opening titles)

MA:  Say, there’s only one parachute left.

LS:  You don’t need no stinkin parachute!  (He grabs parachute and leaps from plane.)  Sucker!

MA:  Gee, thanks, you no good cigar-chomping critic!  (addresses camera)  Well, I guess this is it. It’s been a nice ride.

On the other hand, who says I have to go down?  This is a plane. It has landing gear. I’ll just find a nice spot to land, and I’ll be all set.

(Looks below to see thick forest and mountains everywhere.)

MA:  Well, who says I have to land here?  (looks at fuel gage which reads EMPTY.)    Would you believe this is a new-fangled electric plane with a long-life battery?  I didn’t think so. (flies over a large body of water). Would you believe this is a seaplane?  Actually, it is a seaplane!

(Crash-lands plane on water. Gets into a lifeboat and paddles towards shore.)

MA:  That wasn’t so bad after all. I’ll catch up with those guys eventually. In the meantime, I’ll review today’s movie, THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012), Sylvester Stallone’s action-packed sequel to his 2010 summer hit, THE EXPENDABLES.

If you like thunderous explosions that’ll blow out your eardrums, and guns the size of cannons, then THE EXPENDABLES 2 is the movie for you. There’s so much testosterone in this one, they’ve called for a congressional hearing.

In THE EXPENDABLES 2, Sylvester Stallone returns as Barney Ross, the leader of a group of misfit mercenary soldiers known as The Expendables. The group includes Ross’s right hand man, Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), as well as Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture), and newcomer Bill The Kid (Liam Hemsworth of HUNGER GAMES fame, and younger brother of Thor—er, Chris Hemsworth).

Ross is once again hired by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), this time to locate a missing safe which contains extremely valuable contents. Church adds a new team member to Ross’s group, a safe expert named Maggie (Nan Yu.)

It’s supposed to be a routine caper, but—surprise! surprise!—before they can finish the job, the Expendables are intercepted by a force greater than their own, led by an evil villain named Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Vilain is one cold-hearted bastard, and after he forces Ross and his group to hand over the contents of the safe to him, he brutally kills one of Ross’s men.

Quicker than you can say “revenge,” the plot of the rest of the movie is set into motion, as Ross

and his team vow to avenge their friend’s death, get back the contents of the safe, which is valuable because it has to do with weapons-grade plutonium, and completely annihilate Vilain and his forces in the process.

But this is easier said than done. Vilain commands an entire army, and so Ross and company need some help along the way, and they get it from some old friends, Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Booker (Chuck Norris). Even the mysterious Church comes out of the woodwork to lend a hand, setting the stage for the massive concluding battle which puts Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Norris, and Willis together on the big screen in an eye-popping ear-splitting finale that is a dream come true for the 1980s action movie fan!

I have to admit, I really enjoyed THE EXPENDABLES 2. I enjoyed the original EXPENDABLES as well, but that one left me a bit disappointed. For all its collective action-star firepower, the action sequences in the first one weren’t that memorable, the plot was rather flat and silly, and the villain a dud. All of these items have been improved upon in the sequel.

The movie opens with a blast, as its riveting pre-credit action sequence is better than any of the action scenes in the original.

Stallone, who directed the first one, turned over the directing duties to Simon West this time around, and I think this was a good decision because the action scenes here have more oomph and are much more high octane than what we saw in the original.

(A speed boat pulls up next to MA, and it’s driven by SYLVESTER STALLONE.)

STALLONE:  Are you saying I’m too old to direct an action movie?

MA:  I don’t know if you’re too old, but this sequel does seem to have more energy about it.

STALLONE:  I’m not too old!  (He speeds away.)

MA:  If I had to guess, I’d say Stallone’s still got plenty of juice left to make movies like this, but nonetheless, director West does a nice job here.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 also has a better story than the original, a better script by Stallone and Richard Wenk, and better use of the film’s stars.

(STALLONE’s speed boat returns.)

STALLONE:  So, I’m not too old to write?

MA:  I never said you were too old.

STALLONE:  That’s good, because I don’t think I’m too old, if you know what I’m saying.

MA:  Yes, I know what you’re saying.

(STALLONE speeds away again.)

MA:  Where was I?  Oh yes. If you go see THE EXPENDABLES 2 to enjoy this collection of action stars do their thing, you won’t be disappointed as these guys all have generous screen time.

(MA reaches land. He ditches the life boat and begins walking through the jungle.)

MA:  It goes without saying that the impressive cast assembled here is a lot of fun, and the script seems to give each of them key moments to savor and enjoy.

Sylvester Stallone is still damned believable as an action star.

(Wielding a machine gun, STALLONE runs by MA).

STALLONE:  Glad to hear I’m not too old to act!

MA:  Not at all!  Even at your age, 66, you still look ripped.

STALLONE:  I’ll kick Van Damme’s ass!  (Disappears in jungle.)

MA:  Rocky is still going strong, and in his climactic bout vs. Van Damme, it’s believable that he could take everything that Van Damme dishes out.

Jason Statham is also enjoyable once again as Lee Christmas, though his screen time is slightly diminished here to make room for the extra time given to the other big name players. I like Statham a lot, and I’ve become a fan over the past several years. He and Stallone share an affable chemistry on screen, and they really do seem like friends.

Even Dolph Lundgren gets to enjoy some fun moments, as the story reveals that in spite of his size and brawn, he’s also a Fulbright scholar with an advanced science degree.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis both have more screen time than they had in the original, and they get to play a large part in the film’s explosive conclusion. They also get to poke fun at themselves. Schwarzenegger seems to say “I’ll be back” every time he has a line, and at one point Willis complains. “You’re always coming back. I’ll  be back!”  To which Schwarzenegger replies, “Yippee-ki-yay!”

Chuck Norris plays things straighter than Willis and Schwarzenegger, but still gets to enjoy some decent screen time. Nan Yu is also very good as newcomer Maggie.

But the best performance in the movie belongs to Jean-Claude Van Damme as Vilain.

Van Damme plays Vilain as one icy cold dude, and he’s one of the better screen villains I’ve seen in a while. He has to be. He’s up against nearly every 80s action star on the planet. It seems a bit unfair. As formidable as Van Damme is, the numbers are clearly stacked against him. Perhaps Stallone should have cast some 80s villains to team up with Van Damme to make things a bit more even.

Even so, Van Damme rocked, and he easily delivered the best performance in the movie. The intense hand-to-hand battle between Van Damme and Stallone during the film’s conclusion is worth the price of admission alone!

THE EXPENDABLES 2 won’t leave you feeling ripped off or cheated. It delivers the goods and then some.

In spite of its R rating, THE EXPENDABLES 2 is free of any “F-bombs” and the violence, while bloody, is strictly of the neat video game variety. It’s as unrealistic looking as it comes. The film as a whole has a larger-than-life comic book feel to it. Never once do you feel as if Stallone and his men are in danger. They shoot, their opponents die. The bad guys shoot, and Stallone and friends remain untouched. In fact, that’s how you can tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys in this movie. The good guys hit everything they shoot at, while the bad guys can’t hit a damn thing!

I didn’t mind this though. It just added to the fun, in a Bugs Bunny sort of way.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 is a wildly entertaining thrill ride that doesn’t attempt to be anything more than what it is, an exciting action movie that’s full of gargantuan weapons, thunderous explosions, and larger than life characters.

It’s easily one of my favorite movies of the summer, and I give it three knives.

 

Hey, I’m finally here!

(Walks by a sign which reads “Welcome, Cinema Knife Fighters to GuerillaCon!”  Sees his fellow Cinema Knife Fighters sitting behind a table on a panel. The audience is comprised of men, women, and zombies dressed in military fatigues.

ZOMBIE raises his hand and stands up to ask a question.)

ZOMBIE:  As a zombie myself, I found the movie’s interpretation of zombies completely unrealistic. I don’t know where Romero got the idea that we can’t run!

SOLDIER IN AUDIENCE:  Who cares about that crap?  All we want to know is, how many heads get blown off in the movie?

MA:  Well, here’s where I say so long. Time for me to join the panel.

LS:  Hey, it’s Mike Arruda!  What took you so long?  What did you do?  Crash the plane or something?

MA:  As a matter of fact, I did.

LS:  You goober!  Didn’t you know it was on autopilot and programmed to land right outside this building?

MA:  Er— of course I knew. I just wanted to man up and rough it. This is a review of THE EXPENDABLES 2 after all. Autopilot?  Who needs an autopilot?

(Suddenly SYLVESTER STALLONE stands next to MA.)

STALLONE:  What’s the matter?  Too old to land a plane?

MA:  I made out okay.

STALLONE:  But the plane didn’t.

MA:  So, is there going to be an EXPENDABLES 3?

STALLONE:  Dunno. I’m not getting any younger. (smiles)

MA:  I hear Steven Seagal might be available—.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives THE EXPENDABLES 2 ~three knives.