I love action movies. Roger Ebert always complains about how he doesn’t like action movies and turns his brain off whenever a car chase starts. I have a huge amount of respect for Mr. Ebert, he’s pretty much the Godfather of movie reviewing, but I couldn’t disagree with him more. I like movies that are exciting and get your blood pumping. I like movies that no one else seems to for just this very reason. I liked the new Total Recall. I liked G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. I liked the first and third Transformers movies (the second one was terrible). I liked Clash of the Titans AND Wrath of the Titans. I like every action movie Arnold Schwarzenegger has ever been in (except Batman and Robin).
I like all of these movies for one very simple reason: they’re FUN. I go to the movies primarily to be ENTERTAINED, and I like movies that accomplish that.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that every movie should be an action movie, or that movies serve no purpose beyond entertainment. Part of the appeal of movies is that they’re versatile. Movies can tell any kind of story you want them to. So I’m not saying that every movie has to exist solely for the purposes of entertainment, all I’m saying is that when I go to the movie theater, 9 times out of 10 it is just to have fun.
Which is why I’ve been spending quite a bit of time at the theater lately. Over the past month, I’ve been to the theater seven times, which I’m pretty sure is a record for me. Four of those trips were to see The Dark Knight Rises (tying another personal record for me that has stood since 2004, when I saw Spider-Man 2 four times). I’ve also seen Total Recall, The Bourne Legacy, and, this past Friday, The Expendables 2.
Expendables 2 was my second-most-anticipated summer movie, after The Dark Knight Rises of course (Avengers came out in May so I didn’t really count it as a summer movie, though I guess it kicked off Summer Movie Season). I enjoyed the hell out of the first Expendables movie, as you can probably imagine. Take all the biggest action heroes of the past few decades and put them together? Yes, please. The sequel, of course, promised more of the same, with the more-than-welcome additions of Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, and expanded roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. All of this was just fine by me, so I headed out to the theater last Friday afternoon, and am happy to say that my expectations of a rollicking good time were largely met.
I say “largely” instead of “entirely” because the movie was mostly missing two elements that are common to most movies, said elements being plot and character development. As in, there were none. Of either. The plot amounts to this: Bad guy (Jean-Claude Van Damme, playing a guy named Vilain, just in case you somehow missed the point that VILAIN is a VILLAIN) wants to get plutonium so he can sell it or something. Good guys don’t want this to happen.
Seriously. That’s it. That’s the entire plot summary, right there. Vilain the villain is given no motivation and no personality whatsoever, aside from one seemingly random moment where he yells, “Let’s make some MONEY!!” or something to that effect. Pretty much nobody in the movie has any personality or really gets to do much of anything remotely interesting.
Jet Li, for example, exits the film after about 10 minutes and does not show up again. He does get to thrash a roomful of henchmen using nothing more than a pair of frying pans however, so I guess that helps make up for it. Chuck Norris appears randomly midway through the movie, shoots some dudes, disappears for a while, and then randomly shows up a little later to shoot some more dudes. He has maybe four lines.
Ditto for Willis and Schwarzenegger. They toss off a few one-liners, blast some bad guys, and that’s about it. The movie’s climactic final battle consists almost entirely of hordes of faceless henchmen being machine-gunned en masse by our motley group of heroes while they toss off one-liners. So from any traditional way of judging a movie’s quality, Expendables 2 was more or less a complete disaster.
But was I entertained? Yes. Absolutely.
It was fun, so I liked it, despite the aforementioned laundry list of flaws. It brought together a ton of recognizable faces, and even though none of them got to do much of anything, it was fun to see them all onscreen together. The action scenes were badass and there were lots of ‘em, although I was a bit disappointed with the final battle. And even though none of those familiar faces got to do anything interesting plotwise, at least they all got to kick some ass.
And let’s face it, a movie like this barely even needs a plot anyway. It’s pretty much just an excuse to bring a bunch of badasses together and let them go town on some bad guys. And you know something? I am okay with that. Expendables 2 is pure entertainment, no more, no less.
I probably liked the first one more since it felt fresher and at least had a semblance of plot and some small amount of character development, and the final battle was more satisfying. But both movies are lots of fun for action fans such as myself, enjoyably self-deprecating about how old some of their stars (especially Schwarzenegger, Willis, and Stallone) are getting. Who needs plot when you can have 100 minutes of straight-up ass kicking? That’s what these movies are for, and they succeed marvelously at being exactly what they set out to be.
And for my fellow action fans, may I recommend “The Raid: Redemption,” an excellent Indonesian martial-arts film that is already something of a cult classic. It’s really, really badass, and there’s already talk of an American remake which will no doubt be nowhere near as good as the original.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.