Caught EXPENDABLES 2 and THE RAID: REDEMPTION and the sound of grunts and gunfire are still echoing in my brain...
Squint your eyes and you could almost mistake EXPENDABLES 2 for one of Charlie Sheen's HOT SHOT movies. But you'd have to squint pretty hard, since between the absurdist macho posturing and out-sized action sequences, EXPENDABLES (unlike HOT SHOT) features an copious amount of (often CG) blood and flying body parts.
But that's okay. You have to be in the right mood for this kind of movie, and I sometimes I'm in that mood. Enough apologies -- it is what it is. Truly brainless action sequences and gunfight scenes interspersed with cocky jokes and a story so paper-thin (Jean-Claude Van Damme is stealing plutonium! Yikes!) you could write it on a napkin and have room left for a lengthy grocery list.
But you've got be ready to suspend your disbelief. Big time. Our heroes are rescued from certain death three times (three!) by other heroes who just happen to be in the right place at the right time. Equipped with insane amounts of weaponry. One of the White Knights we haven't even met before he comes out of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere, to rescue our guys. These last minute saves are probably the toughest narrative nut to swallow. At one point early on, stars Stallone and Stathem are sliding down a cable to escape various bad guys when the cable is hit by gunfire. Our heroes drop in the jungle and are surrounded by evil soldiers. Fortunately they have a sniper positioned right there, you know, over the spot where our guys couldn't possibly have expected the cable to snap, to shoot all the bad guys.
The coolest guy in the movie is Jean Claude Van-Damme, who is making a bit of a comeback after too many years of too many bad movies (TIMECOP, *ahem*, exempted). He's not exactly a revelation here, but he does add some dark swagger to his villain character (named Vilain), even if he does a couple of incredibly stupid bad guy things. Note to future "Vilains": if you're stealing tons of plutonium and killing literally hundreds of civilians in the process, deciding NOT to kill the ridiculously armed mercenaries who've come to lay waste to your plan out of some left-field sense of soldier-honor is probably a mistake.
THE RAID: REDEMPTION has just as thin a story, but done with dead-serious intent. The set-up is simple: a gang-lord lives on the top floor of a crappy apartment building somewhere in Indonesia. A truck-load of cops are sent in to get him. But virtually the entire building is occupied by armed, murderous thugs who have an incentive to take the cops down, so -- mayhem ensues. Copious mayhem, only instead of extended gun violence we get extended martial arts violence, which frankly I find inherently more interesting. The athleticism of the actors and inventiveness of the fights takes on a brutal balletic quality... so I liked it.
But jeez, it's time for something a little less violent... where's my blu-ray of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE...