I know that Expendables 2 received a 66% rating from critics polled on rottentomatoes.com. Who really cares, right? American action movies changed with the production of Batman with Michael Keaton, where all an action hero had to do was strap on a suit that gave him the appearance of muscles and of course, moviegoers would flock to the cinema because, hey, it’s Batman.
I graduated from high school in 1989, and as a teen grew up on action stars like Arnold Schwartzenegger, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, and of course Chuck Norris. I think the first action movie I watched as a teen was Missing in Action starring Norris, then came MIA2, The Octagon, Lone Wolf McQuade and could we really ever forget Delta Force, which is where the Expendables plot came from in the first place. I loved Die Hard, and consider it to be one of my favorite movies of all time. The Rambo films must be mentioned as well, and we can never forget the Terminator movies. The point is, action movies in the ’80’s were a different breed of film.
’80’s action films were about explosions, hilarious one-liners, musclebound un-woundable iron heroes, impossible firepower and stunts that made the man in you grunt with pleasure. I would have to say that The Expendables 2, like its predecessor, has this in spades. From the opening scenes, we are taken on a thrill ride of violent action that shows these heroes blasting their way into an enemy base as if playing a football game with their friends. The audience reacted with shouts of glee when the heroes won the day, and laughed when the glorious one-liners were bantered back and forth by some of the greatest action stars in American movie history.
The Expendables 2 is a tribute to their work in film, as we watch Schwartzenegger, Willis, Stallone and Norris walking side by side with guns blazing toward the enemy. Yes, it is violent, but of a type that is over the top to the point of becoming laughable. It is more like a comical video game. In one scene, after defeating the enemy with extreme prejudice, Stallone points out that there is one left, and as the poor guy rounds the corner, they all unload on him and then Stallone remarks: “Rest in pieces.”
This movie, like the first film, caused the teenage boy in me to explode to the surface, and I relished in seeing Chuck Norris on screen again, who as it turns out, tells a Chuck Norris joke when we first see him introduced. He is in the film as more than a cameo role, and it was fun to see him hamming it up with this dream team of action stars. Because Norris is in the film, that means that the language was toned down quite a bit, and was a stipulation for his appearance in the film. I think the film would not have been as exciting (and wonderfully nostalgic) if Norris had not been a part of it. In many ways he steals the show.
All in all this movie is simply what it is: an explosion laden, musclebound thrill ride. If you are a child of the ’80’s and loved this type of action film, you will totally “get it” and completely enjoy it for the nostalgic value of seeing these giants of action film together again. If you are not, then you probably won’t “get it” and that is perfectly fine. I would liken the Expendables movies to more of a comedy franchise than action films, because I found myself laughing much more than being held in suspense.
I think the Expendables said it best when Willis gives Stallone a horribly old plane as a gift to take his “little rascals” home and Stallone remarks “That thing belongs in a museum.” The Govenator then says “We all belong in a museum”. That may be true, but it was loads of fun taking the tour.