Monday, August 20, 2012

Stallone and company better than ever in The Expendables 2

Good men get better with age. Good action stars even more so.

Sylvester Stallone together with director Simon West has achieved the near impossible with the sequel to his blockbuster action film, The Expendables--not only is it a successful second installment, but a film so remarkable in its own right that there's just no beating it. This is all the bad ass you've ever dreamed of, and more, too.
The film works wonderfully in that it's good writing, great visual storytelling, and above all, fun. This is an incredibly violent story, but done in an unapologetic way that revels in its excess; bad guys aren't just shot, they're shot, stabbed, and occasionally run over, all at once. In one of the early scenes where Jet Li suddenly finds himself unarmed inside a kitchen full of attackers, the fight simply shifts from guns and knives to pots and pans, each metallic bludgeon sounding more like a carefully composed percussion solo than a man fighting for his life. Gamers, are you watching? They're doing all this for real.
Also good for laughs is the continual self-reflexive stand the film takes in not only assembling basically every action star from the eighties onto one screen ("Who's next, Rambo?" one asks another in the midst of an all-out battle) but in that these guys know each other, they know the tag-lines, and they've all seen each others' films (clearly crafted by a screenwriter who knows his film history). The fight choreography is nothing short of amazing, especially in Jason Statham's scenes, and attention to little details like props ("Knock, Knock," on a tank's cannon among other choice stenciled phrases) and classic music ("Crystal Blue Persuasion,")--extremely well done. This stuff made for a literally smashing experience.
Ironic, isn't it? Best-selling books are getting less cerebral while action films get smarter? Keep 'em coming, Sly, keep 'em coming.

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