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szdaily -> Movies -> 
The Expendables 2
    2012-09-14  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

“THE Expendables 2” is imposingly violent, dramatically clunky, and more than a bit cynically conceived — but, despite all of that, it’s also shamelessly entertaining.

Improving on the first film but still hopelessly barbaric in its attitudes, this sequel once again casts Sylvester Stallone and his band of graying or forgotten action stars as a merciless team of mercenaries who kill everything in sight, although there are few things they mangle as badly as their woefully hokey dialogue. Nonetheless, “The Expendables 2” delivers the goods with such a brazen confidence that its obvious flaws end up feeling more like adorable quirks.

Barney Ross (Stallone) and the rest of his Expendables (including Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren and new member Liam Hemsworth) are recruited again by the mysterious Church (Bruce Willis) to retrieve a valuable safe inside a plane that crash-landed in Albania. But when Barney’s team arrives at the crash site, they realize that the contents are more valuable than first realized — and that a ruthless madman named Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) wants them for his own evil purposes.

The novelty of the 2010 film was that it showcased a group of fading stars who banded together in an unapologetically bloody, stripped-down action film that lacked the polish of modern-day studio blockbusters. Whether that throwback novelty still remains is up for debate, but “The Expendables 2” copies the formula of the first film, opting for a gritty, brutal approach to its action sequences. (In “The Expendables 2,” unlike most Hollywood movies that try to tone down their violence, bad guys are riddled with bullets, sending blood spurting everywhere.)

Unfortunately, this new movie also sticks to the original’s fondness for cardboard characters, male chauvinism (the presence of new female cast member Yu Nan notwithstanding), and wincingly bad dialogue replete with creaky punch lines.

But after directing the first film himself, Stallone has turned the reins over to Simon West (“The Mechanic,” “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”) for this sequel. West isn’t exactly a visionary action filmmaker, but he’s a stronger craftsman with a better eye for spectacle, mixing violent overkill with taut tension. His skills keep “The Expendables 2” zipping along at a compelling clip, never more impressively than in a bravura 15-minute opening that showcases all the franchise’s strengths in one sequence: terrific, brawny action scenes and very little human interaction.

The movie’s lean, muscular propulsion and more-is-more showmanship work well to smooth over the simplistic storytelling and give the proceedings a pulpy, giddy urgency.

Stallone, who co-wrote the new film (as he did with the original), embodies the spirit of these movies as well as anyone in the cast. There’s a certain laziness in his portrayal of the haunted, inexpressive Barney — even in Stallone’s prime, he wasn’t a particularly gifted or supple actor — but the enthusiasm he brings to the fight scenes is arresting. Stallone doesn’t have the grace of Statham or the commanding presence of Willis, but his warm charisma and gravelly gravitas make him a comforting sight nonetheless.

Self-aware of its retro appeal, “The Expendables 2” overrates its own charms, especially in a second half that features too many jokey references to previous action movies starring these same actors.

On one hand, this strategy indicates the filmmakers’ good-natured recognition of the ludicrousness of having all these aging stars save the day, but at the same time, there’s a cynicism in capitalizing on audiences’ nostalgia. While this self-amusement can grate, let it be said that “The Expendables 2” does have its genuinely funny self-deprecating moments, including a memorable action scene involving muscle-bound heroes cruising around in a tiny Smart car.

When these stars were in their heyday, acting was never their strong suit, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that “The Expendables 2” really cooks when they keep the dialogue spare and let their guns and fists do the talking.

The movie is now being screened in Shenzhen.

(SD-Agencies)

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