‘Expendables 2’ returns with more familiar action stars
When you are a film critic who admits liking everything from R-rated action flicks to high tone British period dramas, there is a reason you adopt the nickname Moviejunkie. So perhaps it isn’t necessary to declare Expendables 2 a “guilty pleasure.” Hell, I’m not guilty at all about enjoying the movie’s excessive body count, with action scenes that play out like the most violent video game you could imagine, and a cast of old school and new school action heroes that starts with Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham, and continues with Bruce Willis, out-of-work politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lungren, Jet Li, Terry Crews and Randy Couture.
Joining this original Expendables crew is rising action star Liam Hemsworth, Chinese film star Nan Yu, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris. What, no Steven Seagal? Too bad, he could have competed with Schwarzenegger as worst actor.
Not that a plot is really necessary, but basically villain Van Damme is planning to steal weapons grade plutonium to sell to a variety of clients. When he gets the drop on Stallone’s crew of mercenaries he kills one of them just for spite. This is when Stallone declares it is time to, “Track ‘em. Find ‘em. Kill ‘em.”
That is what they do under the direction of Simon West (Con Air), who takes over the directing helm from Stallone, who is content this time to co-write, star, and have an incredibly entertaining final hand-do-hand showdown with Van Damme.
The best addition to the sequel is Chuck Norris, who provides a hilarious cameo while Willis and Schwarzenegger do a bit more than a cameo this time, but not so much that they make much of an impact beyond The Arnold re-booting his “I’m back” line. You would think that being governor of California would have sharpened his acting skills but not so much.
Statham hangs in the background as the likable sidekick, but his presence provides the only sustained acting skill in this testosterone fueled action comedy.
Expendables 2 delivers exactly what one expects — excessively engaging action and a few laughs.
Streep Wants Her Sexy Back
Oscar’s grand dame Meryl Streep teams up with Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell in Hope Springs, the mildly amusing contemplation of a 31-year marriage on life support directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) and written by Vanessa Taylor. Streep’s Kay is tired of being little more than husband Arnold’s (Tommy Lee Jones) housekeeper. Sex went out the window years ago; they don’t even touch. However, Kay decides to do something crazy and gives her husband a directive — join her for a week of intense couples counseling (Steve Carell is the doctor) to see if their broken marriage can be repaired. This would be a Lifetime movie with a lesser cast, and even with this amazing trio, it drags along with only the occasional moments of honest insight and at least one hilarious sequence involving Streep attempting to be sexually adventurous at a movie theater. Beyond that highlight, Hope Springs is a series of small moments that don’t come together as much as one might expect from this A-list cast.
The Expendables *** (out of four)
Directed by Simon West; rated R
Hope Springs **
Directed by David Frankel; rated PG-13
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