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The Expendables 2: Keep or Kill

20 Aug 2012
Who’s Essential? Who’s Expendable?
The Expendables, Stallone’s Festival of Man, rounded up some of the biggest names in action cinema (washed up or otherwise) and gifted them with an army of talented stuntmen to brutalize. It was a pleasant diversion, no doubt, but ultimately a missed opportunity. I’m going to say it outright: the Expendables 2’s biggest draw doubles as its fatal weakness.
It is that very cast, THAT impossible gathering of action stars, old and new, preventing Sly’s frenetic franchise from actually resonating with those brains audiences so readily sport this weather. Cast your minds back, beyond exploding prosthetics, crumbling walls, bloody squibs and copious detonations: The Expendables peaked in act one as a Statham/Stallone buddy comedy, with maybe just a hint of Terry Crews mixed through for good measure. Yet too many of its damnable burly protagonists had the nasty habit of surviving seemingly suicidal encounters! So yet again, it’s time for me to do what a well armed militia led by Eric Roberts failed to do back in 2010...
Chuck Norris... KILL As I understand it, I risk being Roundhouse Kicked right out of the comforting confines of Space/Time by even suggesting this, but I’m sorry The Internet, Norris has to go. His mere inclusion in the final product betrays a submission to trendy self depreciation over legitimate action cinema. Additionally, every moment he’s onscreen not only will he stink up the joint (honestly, watch ANY of his films) he’ll steal time from the Cranker doing something brilliant or Crews screaming something nuts. Norris is the most expendable cast member. With any luck, he’ll get the chop before the opening titles.
Dolph Lundgren... KILL By now, the franchise has established that Lundgren can barely talk, let alone move. And movement, some pedants might argue, is something of a requisite of the action brand. Good old Dolph nearly bought it during the last outing, before inexplicably, miraculously healing for the film’s final scene. Let’s hope Sly aims a little truer this time.
Randy Couture... KILL I’ll freely admit Couture had an entertaining line or two regarding cauliflower in the original. And there can be little doubt that this former UFC champion would eat his cast mates for breakfast in ‘Real Life’ (The one with less guns, explosions, tanks, etc.) Unfortunately for Couture, I’ve yet to unearth a 2nd Unit of Fight Choreographer capable of making MMA look in any way appealing, visually. I’m happy for poor Randy to exit stage left in a blaze of broken limbs, crushed trachea and barred arms. But he needs to go.
Terry Crews... KEEP Anyone who thinks Mr Crews is simple cast bloat obviously needs their eye and earballs checked. Because you obviously missed THIS...
Terry Crews is basically the greatest person to ever be alive live on this planet. An enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in about 300lbs of crazy, he’s more cartoon than man, larger than life in every conceivable sense.
Even the Stath thinks so, and have you seen his chin?! Crews has yet to convince anyone of his acting chops, but combining his unbelievable physique, impossible volume and irrepressible lunacy, Crews remains utterly irreplaceable for a film built about the notion of nonsense.
Speaking of tangentially related lunacy, he’s also the world’s biggest dancer or something...
So yes, if you’re brow is furrowed in confusion but your eyes leak in elation you’ve found the appropriate response. Good for you!
Liam Hemsworth... KILL Though sadly the one without the Hammer, alike his brother this Hemsworth is big, fun and a capable actor. But this isn’t the place for actors, the kind on the cusp of superstardom with promising careers on the horizon. This is a place where stuntmen fall to Stallone’s guns, Li’s kicks and Statham’s cockney magnetism for ninety minutes. There is only room for archetypes. And maybe some one-liners. Actors need not apply.
Scott Adkins... KILL It’s entirely possible this widely unknown actor is the finest performer among an already impressive cast. With enough black belts to strap his waist a dozen times over, Adkins has flipped, cart-wheeled and 360 twisting dummy roundhouse-kicked his way through some of the decades greatest fight scenes. And with Statham and the mighty Jet Li himself on the A Team, Adkins is ideally positioned to play sub-boss Hector. With any luck he’ll survive the runtime’s bulk, exhilarating audiences with his martial prowess during a vicious eight minute encounter with Jet Li...
Jason Statham... KEEP ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Jason Crank is the very life blood of this franchise. If he’s not the reason people put their asses in the seats you can rest assured he’s the reason they’re kept there. As the only true action star still working in Hollywood, the Stath comfortably stole the show during the Expendables and looks set to do the same to its sequel. But even contemplating this is redundant. If there actually WAS a substance capable of ending Statham’s life in Expendables 2, the film would need to reclassify itself as Science Fiction!
JCVD... KILL Anyone who has actually seen JCVD in the film JCVD will automatically love the man JCVD. As such, any and all exposure this underrated gem of a human receives, being cast as the villain in a Summer Blockbuster to whimsical advertisements for Coors Light, it’s good just to see Van Damme getting some love. That said, I’m happy for him to do the splits, kick a cigarette out someone’s gob and get killed during the finale. Don’t love him THAT much!
Jet Li... KEEP Though Statham has shifted a billion dollars kicking ass, NO-ONE moves like Jet Li! It’s in the name really... If Stallone ever decided to cull his cast, he needs to retain some showstoppers. And while the Cranker’s charisma and Crew’s craziness can crack a smile or six across audience mugs, someone is needed to drop those jaws. And kick them clean off. Jet Li has proved himself time and again in both comedic and dramatic capacities. Couple that with the fact he’s ARGUABLY the greatest martial arts star to ever live and you’ve probably got yourself a keeper.
Willis... KILL As unique as it was to have the Willis-Schwarzenegger-Stallone GodHead feature in a church, I predict the novelty might wear thin by the second film’s close. Willis’ continued casting is another indication of the intention to appease fans rather than craft a genuinely thrilling experience, with genuine drama, momentous set-pieces and palpable repercussions.
Schwarzenegger... KILL Ditto.
Stallone... KEEP In fairness to Stallone, despite protestations that he’s over the hill, limited as a filmmaker and increasingly difficult to comprehend as a person who speaks English from his mouth, he is the innovator. He’s wisely given up the director’s chair for The Expendables 2 but retains some capacity of creative control. And though his eye for detail could use a monocle, he doesn’t want for ambition when it comes to set pieces, ahem Rambo’s Finale ahem. Finally, his chemistry with the Stath was undeniable two years ago. The prospect of more obviously remains a significant draw. As do the, you know, explosions. Of which there are many...
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