The Expendables 2
DIRECTED BY: Simon West
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris
The Expendables 2 is the kind of thing that will never make it on to a best film list. You know, the kind of list where the likes of Citizen Kane battles with Vertigo for the top spot with some dreadful French and Asian rubbish that critics pretend to like circling the edges looking for space to perch. The main reason it will never appear on such a list is that, well, it is just too much fun.
There are other reasons, of course. For instance, it is an incredibly stupid film – almost too stupid for words. Then there is the fact that it is directed by Simon West, who has never been forgiven for making the excellent Con Air, in much the same way that Robert Zemeckis has not been forgiven for making the even more excellent Forrest Gump. If certain critics allow themselves to praise these films at all, it is with weasel words like “guilty pleasure”. Guilty because their fellow snobs might think badly of them.
But mostly, for The Expendables 2, it’s the fun that will be its undoing.
Now, to fully appreciate this fun, it is probably necessary that you grew up in the 1980s, on a diet of action movies featuring unstoppable muscle men who could single-handedly wipe out the entire armed forces of an enemy nation, save the world from communists and karate chop a truckload of terrorists to death in ten seconds flat. But even if this wasn’t your youth, there’s plenty here to enjoy.
It kicks off with a rescue mission, a galloping action sequence over land, sea and air that features every weapon known to man, and about ten gazillion bullets, none of which comes even close to mortally wounding our heroes. These guys are protected simply by the shield of their own awesomeness.
Mr Church (Willis) of the CIA then has another mission for the boys. Led by the snarling Barney Ross (Stallone), the ageing mercenaries go hunting for a missing plane and its valuable cargo.
The codgers are joined by young sniper, Bill The Kid (Liam Hemsworth), and, this time, there’s also a woman in their ranks. She’s code breaker Maggie (Nan Yu), a girl with a knack for torture and a fondness for motorbikes, because the modern action woman simply cannot be seen without her motorbike.
The mission goes a tad bad when a villain turns up looking for a piece of the action. This villain is so villainous, his name is Vilain (Van Damme). You can’t get any badder than that.
True to his name, he does a very bad thing, and now he’s in serious trouble. Because the Expendables are coming for vengeance.
But they might as well be coming for tea, because the plot is of no concern. All that matters is that a bunch of old geezers are getting together to relive old glories by blasting everything that moves, and making jokes at their own expense.
As if to make it clear that this is the only intention, they even roll out Chuck Norris, one-man joke machine and king of the invincible action heroes.
It’s all dreadful foolishness but you can’t help but enjoy watching these old action icons flex their stuff and kick lumps out of each other, and speak the same unfortunate English they’ve been mangling for decades.
It’s nice, too, that they’re not taking this half as seriously as they did last time around. For the next instalment, I’d like to suggest Steven Seagal, Wesley Snipes, Kurt Russell, Rutger Hauer and Harrison Ford as additions to the pensioner mercenary squad, with John McTiernan (Predator, Die Hard) being an absolute must for the director’s chair.
Tony Scott might have been a perfect fit for that job, but sadly he left us this week. He’ll be best remembered for Top Gun, the quintessential 1980’s military action flick. But True Romance (1993) was probably his finest film, and he was back on great form with Unstoppable last year, an action drama as good as any in recent times.
His talent will be missed.
The Wedding Video
DIRECTED BY: Nigel Cole
STARRING: Russell Hound, Lucy Punch, Robert Webb, Miriam Margolyes
The Wedding Video is a comedy without too many laughs, though there’s something about British comedies that makes them likeable even when they’re not much good.
Raif (Hound) has returned from his travels abroad to be best man for his brother Tim (Peep Show’s Robert Webb). As a wedding present, Raif has decided he will make the video, a documentary of the build-up to the big day. Things get slightly complicated when he finally meets bride-to-be Saskia (Punch), and realizes she’s not the quite the posh girl she seems but the hell-raising mad young thing he used to know in school. Her mother, meanwhile, is determined to make this the society wedding of the year and nothing is going to stop her.
The Wedding Video is more like a series of TV sketches than a film, though it manages to fit in all of the wedding movie clichés – the eccentric vicar, the dodgy planner, the neurotic dance instructor and, of course the cantankerous granny (Margolyes) who gets way more time than she should. Its one stab at originality is that it’s filmed like an actual wedding video, but the documentary style isn’t exactly original anymore.
It’s the cast who make a half decent job of it, and leading man Russell Hound will go on to lend his talents to better stuff than this.