Weekend Muvie Revue
The Expendables 2
Action movies are by necessity the most masturbatory of any genre. Their entire purpose is to allow you to indulge in violence. The goal isn’t to teach you a lesson about violence and when it is or isn’t necessary, the goal is to show you how awesome it is. People refer to Saving Private Ryan as a ‘war’ movie and not an ‘action’ movie for the same reason we separate Sex-ed films and pornos. One is teaching you a lesson about it and the other is just trying to show you as much of it as possible. So just like any other indulgent genre, the creative minds behind an action movie have a choice to make – do they hide their indulgence or display it proudly?
The obvious choice should be to display it proudly. You can make a smart action movie, Die Hard being a good example, but that’s really rare. 99% of the time you’re just copy-pasting from other movies you’ve seen because you need to make it look like your movie is something other than packing peanuts stuffed around everything you wish you could do to everyone who was ever mean to you. Everyone who came to watch your movie really only wants to see the same thing so when your movie has an uncomfortably terrible love story thrown in you’re taking away from the one thing they want and making them feel bad for wanting it. That’s bad. If you’re going to be indulgent go all out with it. Fuck story, fuck lessons, fuck everything but people getting dead.
It might seem like I’m defending the Michael Bay method of filmmaking, but I’m not. I’m saying he doesn’t take it nearly far enough. People joke all the time about him replacing plot and character with explosions but when you leave a Michael Bay movie is your complaint ever ‘there were just too many explosions’? No, your complaint is that everything in between the explosions was the stupidest shit you’ve ever seen. If you’re going to indulge, just do it. Don’t cover it up or pretend there’s some grand lesson you’d like to teach us. Just get to the money shot.
The Expendables 2 is the most shamelessly indulgent action movie you will see for a long time. ”This should make more sense” is not a thought that crossed a single mind involved in the making of this film, ever. It has the exact same plot/payoff ratio as a porno and also the exact same amount of close-up-on-a-dude’s-screaming-face shots. For the most part, it really works. And because it’s honest about it, the porn dialogue parts don’t bother really bother you. They exist to give the character a reason to move from one setpiece to another. There are times when they suddenly decide to try and give the characters dumb things like ‘motivation’ or ‘chemistry’ and the result is truly horrific. Partially because it made me feel betrayed. I thought me and Sly knew there was no point in pretending. Also partially because what led me to believe that is that you can’t cast the people that you did cast in a movie and tell me you’re going to take anything seriously ever again.
Seriously, Look at the poster. Does that look a group of actors you want to watch talking about their feelings and how justice needs to be served? Does it look like a group you want to watch talking about anything at all? Honestly, you don’t even have a choice. There are approximately three lines of dialogue in this entire movie that are actually understandable. I mean, there’s kind of a reason these actors aren’t finding a lot of work nowadays. If you’re going to hire them all and put them in the same movie, don’t even pretend you’re trying to get me emotionally invested in their characters.
The Expendables 2 probably gives you less ‘movie’ than anything else you’ll see this year or ever again in your life. But it also gives you more of what it promises than anything else ever will. It’s easy to say ‘if you like this type of movie, you’ll like it’ and that’s why I do that all the time. In this case though, it’s really a compliment. I’m not calling it unoriginal or pandering, I’m saying it said it would give you an indulgent action movie and it gave you almost exactly that. Tough out the parts where anyone at all speaks and you won’t be dissapointed.
** 1/2 (out of ****)
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