Man, I don't even know what to feel right now, just half an hour after watching an advanced screening of The Expendables 2. My adrenaline's pumping because of all the badassery, but I'm still kinda giggling from all the jokes that had me slapping my knee. It turned out exactly how I expected it to, and that's probably the best thing about it.
The Expendables 2 is directed by Simon West (Con Air) and stars about every action star who ever made it big in the 80's and 90's and then some - Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth and a buncha other people. The movie comes with a warning - those with weak hearts and weak asses may experience discomfort due to overwhelming asskickery.
At its core, it's a popcorn action movie. Don't expect anything deep, but you should strap in and sit back for one hell of a ride. You'll be pleasantly surprised and find that there's more to it than what's immediately obvious.
Like I said, don't expect convoluted plot lines with twists and turns. Like Stallone said in the trailer, "track him, find him, kill him" pretty much sums it all up. It's a classic tale of blowing shit up and looking cool while doing it.
Apart from the action, what I found most pretty interesting is the amount of time they took to develop the characterization of each character that needed it. Though that wasn't always successful, it was there for you to enjoy it. I like how Terry Crews got to show a lot of who Hale Caesar was, even without a lot of screen time. Most of those scenes were nice breaks from the frantic pace of all the action.
In this movie, you absolutely knew when the effects were digital and when they were practical. The particles and rendering looks like they were done by a guy who just learned how to do it last year. Either that, or they used a rig that can render cutscenes for PS2 games. Everything digital looks cartoony and way too shiny. It made the film look like some high budget B-movie. Thankfully, all the practical effects rocked hard.
Things that go boom - Explosions! Explosions everywhere! Even things that aren't supposed to explode do, but that's okay, because they're The Expendables. There's probably something blowing up every 5 minutes during the quiet bits and about every 2 seconds during the gunfire scenes.
Arsenal - M4A1s, UMPs, G36Cs, AA-12s, M-32 grenade launchers, AK-47s and pretty much everything you would expect to see in a testosterone fueled movie.
Fan service and humor - There was a lot more of this than I bargained for. I love that the movie didn't take itself too seriously, and each character took potshots at each other and was hilarious. The veteran actors were there mostly for fan service, but the plot was able to make use of them well enough. Willis, Stallone, Norris and Schwarzenegger had a bunch of references to their old movies, some were more obvious than others.
As expected, Crews really brought it in this department. Cheeseburger Eddie's lines made me laugh out loud in the theater, and he really played well off the other characters.
Chuck fucking Norris - Every single time this guy was on screen, people just went NUTS! Sure, he barely did anything, but I bet if he exerted any effort, no matter how little, would've made the movie unbelievably short as all the bad guys would just keel over and die.
Oh, and there's a Chuck Norris fact in there somewhere. Just watch out for it.
Jean-Claude Van Damme - Woah. The guy's still got it, surprisingly. He can still act as well as can be expected of an artist of the action movie persuasion.
Acting chops - Action movie actors were never really known to be great thespians. They were there to deliver cheesy one liners and kick some ass. Norris, as awesome as he is, looked like he was reading off idiot boards. Couture, not really being an actor did well enough, but looked like he was in an informercial. For some reason, Lundgren wasn't all that great either. Only Hemsworth, Stallone, Willis, Crews and Statham felt believable. Good thing Statham and Stallone got the most screen time.
Like G.I. Joe - So, our merry crew of psychotics are facing off against at least about 3 dozen guys with fully automatic weapons drawn at any given. With that many bullets flying towards our heroes, you'd think that someone'd get clipped, at the very least. But no, it seems our guys are going up against sight impaired baddies.
Only two bullets hit the good guys in the entire movie and it did mostly nothing.
Couture and Li - These guys were underutilized. Li wasn't even in the whole thing. I guess there were scheduling conflicts, but I can't be too sure.
Couture, being the most legitimate fighter there, threw only about 4 strikes total. When he did, though, people cheered. They knew who he was and they knew he came to kick some ass. But alas, he barely did anything.
It's a really fun movie, especially if you were around to see these guys in their prime in movies like Die Hard, Terminator, Rambo, Rocky and a buncha others. To really enjoy it, though, you're gonna have to turn off any sense of logic or any idea of physics you might have. I say watch it once, then buy it for home video use.
Oh, and a friend of mine asked me immediately after I tweeted "CHUCK FUCKING NORRIS," "Avengers or Expendables?" That question really isn't as weird as you'd think. If you grew up watching these guys, in your eyes, they're as close to superheroes as you'd get.