Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Jet Li, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Scott Adkins, Liam Hemsworth, Yu Nan
Fight Choreography by Don Theerathada (also as Don Tai)
Directed by Simon West
The first Expendables film was a modest hit, showing that the old aging action stars still had what it took to carry a film. More must be better as more stars are added and Stallone, while co-writing the story handed the directing chores to Simon West (Con Air) and even had some new talent play with the ‘boys in what amounts to a far stronger film than the previous effort, but not without a small problem or two.
Expendables 2 catches up with the crew of Barney Ross (Stallone) Lee Christmas (Statham), Toll Road (Couture) Hale Caesar (Crews) Gunnar Jensen (Lundgren), Yin Yang (Li) and their newest recruit Billy the Kid (Hemsworth) as they break into a south american base to rescue none other than Trench (Schwarzenegger) who had been embarassingly captured while trying to extract a wealthy Chinese businessman. The Expendables save them both, and Yin Yang takes the businessman back home.
Meanwhile the Expendables are sent on another mission by Church (Willis) whom you remember they screwed over in the previous film, so here is payback. Church has Ross and Co. escort one of his agents Maggie to a plane that has crashed in Russia to retrieve a computer. Their mission is failed when they are ambushed by Vilain (JCVD) and his henchman Hector (Adkins). Vilain kills one of the Expendables, and the group vows revenge, and takes the fight back to Vilain, but not without some high powered help…
As a film, The Expendables 2 has a much better story than the first, but the characters remain the same, with the most character development given to the character with the least amount of screen time. That’s not a bad thing though as we don’t need to know much more about them. The main stars are basically playing their most famous onscreen personas, and no one takes the film seriously, which for a film of this type is a good thing. What is not so good is that there isa little too much winking at the camera as each character goes through their most famous lines, like Arnold with the “I’ll be back” which, in all fairness, is actually a long set up for a joke that comes toward the end of the film, and Chuck Norris plays on just about everything from his films to the Chuck Norris jokes.
The funniest scenes in the film involve Lundgren, and they actually weave Dolph’s real life chemical engineering degree and MIT background into the already twisted Jensen, now making him an insane genius. Van Damme is fantastic as Vilain, and really shows that JCVD can be a very good charismatic bad guy in action films, and he can still give those pretty jump kicks. Just like Stallone and Arnold, JCVD needs to return to A-list Hollywood films! Scott Adkins (Undisputed 3 and Ninja) kinda channels Yuri Boyka as he plays another Russian bad guy. Jet Li is funny once again as Yin Yang but his part nearly amounts to a cameo, which was disappointing. Liam Hemsworth and Yu Nan, as the new young faces on the team are able to more than hold their own.
The fight choreography is much better than the previous film, because 1) Corey Yuen decided to stop slumming it in American films and didn’t do this one and 2) Simon West’s camerawork was MUCH better as was the editing so you can actually tell what is happening in the fight scenes, especially Jet Li’s, whose fight scenes are a lot better than what he did in the first film. Perhaps the most improved though is Jason Statham, who gets the lion’s share of martial arts fighting, and his duel with Scott Adkins is a highlight. Don Tai did the fight choreography, and that is a name you need to remember. Don is part of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, and did stunts and some choreography for films like Blood and Bone, Rush Hour 2 and 3, Haywire, GI Joe Retaliation, Bullet in the Head (new Stallone film), and had even been offered a starring role in Ong Bak. What that means is that ALL the fights had a singular voice, as even Randy Couture had fight moments that were reminiscent of Hong Kong cinema, having him perform his fights a lot faster than he did in the first film. Don Tai is a new talent that I think we will see a lot more of, and soon.
Overall, The Expendables 2 is a fun time in the theater that finally tickles that 80’s action vibe that proves it’s still fun to watch Stallone and the boys crack a one-liner while blasting/punching/kicking/maiming/exploding the baddies at the same time!
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)
CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Solid work all around, as Don Tai is able to give Jet Li a great fighting moment, as well as making Randy Couture look great, and especially for giving Statham a faster Hong Kong style of fight choreography which he did well with, and his duel with Scott Adkins was pretty good. JCVD never looked better.
STUNT WORK: (9) Bodies really went flying all over the place and the stunt performers did a great job during the fight scenes and dealing with explosions and nasty falls.
STAR POWER: (11) It doesn’t get much better than this, but I’ll say that it’s the young upcoming talent that has me intrigued, starting with Don Theerathada and Liam Hemsworth, who is in the upcoming Red Dawn remake and of course you know his brother Chris (Thor). Scott Adkins brought the goods for his first starring A-list film. Now get him his own damn A-list film, Hollywood!
FINAL GRADE: (8) The Expendables 2 is leaps and bounds better than the first film, with great new additions, funnier camaraderie, and a fantastic finale that will leave you in action hero bliss!
NEXT: Cliff Lok takes on Shaolin Assassins in Choi Lee Fut!