Today: July 18, 2024

The Expendables 2

It’s bigger, it’s badder and it’s funnier. Yes, the muscle-bound, movie star mash up which is The Expendables, is back. And this time personal, as the gang hunt down the man responsible for killing one of their own. FilmJuice Features Editor, Paula Hammond, braved the testosterone-soaked press launch to find out why six of Hollywood’s veteran stars are suddenly very big news indeed.

It’s
bigger, it’s badder and it’s funnier. Yes, the muscle-bound, movie star mash up
which is The Expendables, is back. And this time personal, as the gang hunt
down the man responsible for killing one of their own. FilmJuice Features
Editor, Paula Hammond, braved the testosterone-soaked press launch to find out
why six of Hollywood’s veteran stars are suddenly very big news indeed.

There’s no doubt about it. The Expendables is a
genuine phenomenon. In a business dominated by rebooted franchises, fronted by
actors barely out of nappies, a film in which the combined age of the lead men
was 450, was bound to set the cat amongst the pigeons. But when it subsequently
made $274 million world wide, then really people started to sit up and take
notice.

Of course, the critics hated it. In fact, The
New York Post’s Lou Lumenick called it “the brain-dead male equivalent of
Sex And The City 2”. But what most
reviewers seemed to have missed is that those of us who grew up watching and
loving films like Commando, Rocky and Universal Solider, were never that
discerning in the first place. And, after a hard day in the office, and the
grind of the daily commute, 103 minutes of unashamedly old school action is
exactly what the doctor ordered. Yes. It is Sex In The City 2 for guys (and we
honorary guys) and that’s why we love it.

Just two years on, and The Expendables 2 hits UK
cinemas Arnie, Sly, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy
Couture, Terry Crews
and Bruce
Willis
are back for more. Chuck
Norris
appears for a downplayed cameo as lone wolf, Booker. Speed Racer’s, Nan Yu provides the feminine touch. While Jean-Claude Van Damme gives a chilling performance as the Jean
Vilain – the bad guy with the Bond moniker.

It’s a slick, superbly silly piece of kidult
entertainment which looks like delivering the biggest box office returns that
many of its stars have enjoyed for some years. And that’s fact which
Jean-Claude Van Damme certainly appreciated: “I have to say thank you to
Stallone for putting me back on the big screen! Because I’ve got these good
eyes, good face … and you don’t get to see that on DVD! So thanks Sly. Thanks Mr Stallone!”

Arnie too, had nothing but praise for Stallone,
whose big idea it was to bring that old ‘80s magic back to the silver screen:
“When I was governor and I visited a movie set, which I did quite frequently
… my assistant or aide would
always ask ‘ Don’t you miss that?’
Once, we were coming from the set of a Tom Cruise film, and he was in a
harness hanging upside down and I said ‘No”. I’m so happy I don’t have that I
don’t have to hang upside down in a harness and do this fight scene over and
over. I’m happy being governor and I cannot imagine doing that again. And then,
just a few years later, I’m having the greatest time. I think Expendables was
just the ideal movie to come back with … First of all because you’re working … together, so the
spotlight does not go on me. It’s spread out amongst all of us action heroes.
It was a safer way to come back and I was very fortunate that Sly liked what I
did in the first one – the little cameo – and asked me to come back and do
something bigger. And I had the best time … it was the perfect way to get
into the movie business again.”

Sequels are notoriously difficult to make, but
with action movies, the pressure to deliver something bigger and better has its
own problems. Sly: “I had my neck fused in the last one when a stunt went bad.
And I had two back operations a shoulder operation. An Achilles operation. The
last movie took its toll! And the
doctors said don’t take any rough falls. Let the stunt fella do it. But
sometimes you just have to do it. I can’t help myself. It’s a fools paradise
for me.”

Sly wasn’t the only member of the cast having a
whale of a time, either. Having been there, done that, Dolph Lundgren and
Arnold Schwarzenegger, looked to be thoroughly enjoying their slice of movie
fame second time around. Though, having so many Alpha Dogs running with the
pack, clearly made things on set ‘interesting’. Arnie: “Everyone came together
… which was really terrific but at the same time we were very competitive. I
think if you want to be your best, you have to be competitive because the more
of a challenge it is, the more your performance improves. Because of that – and watching them in action
movies – I tried to step it
up. We were always competing about
who has the most defined muscles or who has the best thighs, least amount of
body fat, biggest gun, who kills the most people, who kills in the most unique
ways … there was competition like that all the time!”

And it shows. Expendables II is no Avengers Assemble. But what it does
well is juggle an ensemble cast of big names in a way that gives every Arnie,
Sly, Dolph, Jason Statham, or Jean Claude Van Damme fan their value for money.
“Every sequel has to be bigger and better,” said Statham. “But if anyone knows how to make action
movies, it’s Sly and when he gets this crowd together, you know you’re in safe
hands. I think that’s very important. There are so many people who don’t know
how to make action movies and …
that situation’s not a good one, put it that way. But we’re in the
company of the greats. We’re relaxed and we know we’re going to do something
good.”

The only problem is where to go from here? The
Expendables III is already being hotly discussed and Sly had some intriguing
comments to make about what we might expect to see. Usain Bolt? Michael Phelps?
How about Olympic Boxing champion, Katy Taylor?

“See that would be an interesting choice I
think, really. We are thinking about lots of different concepts. The third one
is the hardest by far. The second one’s a natural progression but we’re
thinking pretty ambitiously about it, so she would fit right in there. We’re
going for odd choices – we have to. To give the audience something they won’t
expect. Maybe even go into a different sort of genre. Get out there a little
bit.”

Which means that, in the world of fantasy
movies, there could yet be room for that Predator sequel where Trench returns
to the Predator jungle with pals in tow to even up the odds a little. Throw in
Rutger Hauer, Wesley Snipes, Michael Biehn, and Sigourney Weaver for good
measure and it’s boom boom time. Hell, throw in anyone you like. This is one
franchise which could just run and run.

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email: writerpaula@icloud.com

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