The Expendables 2 [Blu-Ray]
Published Nov 24, 2012
Much like Super Smash Bros.
(Nintendo's battle royal mash-up of famous characters), the idea behind The Expendables
is to appeal to the nostalgic novelty of pitting iconic entertainment products of the '80s against each other. Unlike Nintendo, however, this gathering of muscle heads fails to recognize that an inherently ludicrous concept works best when treated with a high degree of cheeky self-awareness. This second embarrassing attempt by Sylvester Stallone to extend his indestructible man myth into his twilight years improves upon the original — not that the bar was set very high. There are still far too many attempts to interrupt the gunplay and explosions with character development that relies entirely upon a grab-bag of stock phrases and motivations, but the action choreography and overall cinematography are more coherent this time around. Unfortunately, Jet Li (the most capable physical performer to grace the project) has little more than a cameo, which means the majority of the action is muzzle flare and bulky grappling — every fight that follows pales in comparison to Li's brief display of highly developed martial arts skill. Since wowing with physicality isn't much of an option for elderly strongmen like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris and Dolph Lundgren these days, they rely on the sheer novelty of their presence and the obvious fan baiting of their pre-existing catchphrases. As the villain, only Jean-Claude Van Damme has a grasp on the tone the film should be going for: grandstanding camp with a side of ultra-violence. You can see how much fun he was having in the Blu-Ray's gag reel, as he tries out different levels of lunacy while taunting Stallone's Barney Ross before their climactic showdown. A small handful of deleted scenes are inconsequential. "On the Assault," a look at the real-life weaponry used in the movie, will only appeal to gun fetishists and "Gods of War" is typical self-congratulatory interviews with the cast and crew. However, "Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: The '80s and the Rise of the Action Film" and "Guns for Hire" are actually quite interesting. The latter is a relatively thorough look at the life and training of authentic "private security contractors" and the former is an astute breakdown of the cultural and political conditions that gave rise to the action heroes the franchise is doing a very mediocre job of celebrating. The only other extra is a feature commentary track with Simon West, which is notable only for the half-competent director's chauvinistic assertion that Nan Yu obviously required a male stunt double to do a simple scene of parking a motorcycle. (Alliance)