7.07.2013

Referential Soldiers

Stop Running, Man! Expendables are back in the Octagon* and they're ready to Die Hard for what is right. They won't wait till Friday After Next to see that their Forced Vengeance is Unleashed. No, when you incur the wrath of Barney and his crew, it will be your Judgment Day and you will bear witness to their Design of Death. It won't matter if you're a Ninja or some guy playing Hunger Games, the Expendables are ready to to Transport(er) you to the next life. Rambo.

Did that opening paragraph make your brain hurt? Trust me, it made mine hurt and I wrote it! That one paragraph makes it pretty clear what my biggest gripe with Expendables 2 was, I think. While it was, over all. a huge improvement over the first film, I still don't like it as much as I liked Rambo. The reason is that Rambo had a very consistent tone, whereas the Expendables films can't decide if they want to be Rambo or GI Joe. I am fine with either, but Sly needs to pick a direction and hit the gas.

If he wants to go GI Joe, any and all sentimentality and attempts at “emotional dialogue” need to go. In the first one, I didn't care about Lee's girlfriend and that hasn't changed. In Expandables 2, I don't care about the horribly developed "sexual tension" between Barney and Maggie. I don't care about Billy's decision that the group wasn't for him and they could have made him a character worth caring about without the crap about his french girlfriend or his war stories. The funeral scene was terribly painful, as well. All these things are attempts to add gravitas to a film with lines like “I now pronounce you man and knife”. It's tantamount to Bugs Bunny giving a speech about human rights and then smacking Elmer in the face with a rubber chicken.

If he wants to make Rambo, he needs a better script, less over-the-top villains and characters that don't feel like cartoon characters. In other words, strip out all the stuff that made these 2 movies remotely fun to watch and make the boring bits less boring. If you stripped out the silly stuff and tightened up the script, Expendables would essentially be Predator and since Predator is one my favorite movies of all time, I am perfectly ok with that, on paper. The thing you have to remember, though, is Predator was simple. Team of bad asses go in to do a job, job goes south, bad asses try to fight their way out. Simple. You had one emotional moment in that film and it was Bill Duke's short monologue about Jesse Ventura being his only friend. That worked because it gave us an understanding for why he was so willing to run headlong after this thing that he obviously had no chance against. Expendables 2 wanted us to feel that way about Billy's death, but they spent so much time telegraphing his end to us that there's no way anyone was actually shocked when it came. 

Did you hear Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis are in this? Me too. Did you know that, in the 80s, those guys were in a bunch of better action movies than The Expendables? Me too. For god's sake, stop rubbing our faces in your cameos! I fucking get it! Chuck Norris was in Lone Wolf McQuade. Bruce Willis said "Yippie kay aye" and had big feet in Die Hard. Don't even get me started on every scene involving Arnold other than "you've been back enough, it's my turn". They'll call Jackie Chan a supercop and then get him drunk in Expendables 3, spurring someone to refer to him as a "drunken master". No one that knows who these guys are needs this stuff and no one that doesn't know who they are is going to get it.

Like I said in the beginning, I liked Expendables 2. The action was very well done and it seemed like we got a lot more martial arts porn in this one than we did in the first. Li's big set piece was joyous and the Adkins/Statham and Van Damme/Stallone fights were outstanding. Hell, the one action sequence they let Nan Yu play around in just made me wish she'd done more ass kicking and less pining for the Italian Granpa. Give me more of that and less posturing and bad exposition. Set your plot, place your pieces on the board and just hit the damn gas, man. All their bad dialogue robbed me of a good fight between Terry Crews and, I don't know, that huge motherfucker in the bar? That could have been something, I think.

*It's a double pun, see? Coutoure is an MMA fighter, but it's also a Chuck Norris movie!