Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Thankfully, “Expendables 2″ didn’t make the same mistake.
Instead, boosted at just the right time by the comical, though brief, appearance of Chuck Norris, “Expendables 2″ is a nostalgic joy ride of campy, albeit shockingly violent, action-movie mayhem.
Yes, the acting (outside of a legitimate performance from Jason Statham) is still awful and the dialogue still laughably macho and melodramatic. The story drags at times from a sub-par script. Nobody’s winning an Oscar for this one.
But for “Expendables 2,” Sylvester Stallone surrendered the direction to someone who knew the film would be much better as an homage and spoof, who knew turning Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis loose to make fun of themselves would be much more enjoyable than trying to understand Dolph Lundgren delivering a dramatic line.
Even Lundgren gets in on the jokes (he was a chemical engineer from MIT, “Expendables 2″ explains … huh? … before he cooked up some “chemicals” for himself – haha!) in a movie that, flaws aside, was much more fun and a far better film than the first “Expendables.”
Once again, the story teams up a band of misfit soldiers of fortune – which is really just an excuse to pool together some of the biggest names in action-film history, including all the aforementioned fellows, as well as Jet Li, Terry Crews, Randy Couture and Jean-Claude Van Damme – who must fly into some third-world country, only to have the mission go awry and have to battle their way out.
Once again, “Expendables 2″ goes way over the top with violence, spraying the screen with body parts, decapitations and exploding torsos the way the comedian Gallagher sprays his audience with chunks of flying watermelon.
And there is a certain comic touch to it. Beginning with an action-packed opening reminiscent of “The A-Team” bursting on to the scene, it’s evident the filmmaker’s goal is to make the mostly male audience shout, “Whoa!” when an enemy combatant isn’t just shot, but his body blows up or his head goes flying after being struck by high-caliber rounds. The guys will guffaw when even they cringe after a hole the size of a baseball gets shot in a mercenary’s chest and the audience can actually see clouds right through the man’s torso.
For some audiences, that kind of humor just isn’t going to fly. It’s gruesome and considered immoral. A legitimate argument can be made that this kind of violence is desensitizing, because it focuses on the “fun” of hitting the target or beating up the enemy without lingering long enough to show the horror of a body truly mangled by war. It’s not realistic. It’s not for the impressionable.
For other audiences, however, they see it more like a live-action cartoon, where instead of a coyote getting an anvil dropped on his head, it’s a sadistic thug who gets it.
Is there a moral to this story? No, not really.
A significant worldview issue? Probably not.
As the film’s guest star (and frankly the guy whose appearance steals the show and earns the biggest laughs), Chuck Norris, told WND in an exclusive interview, it’s basically about “legendary heroes defeating the bad guys.”
And that’s about it. In a world where the bad guys really do some of the horrific stuff the movie depicts, it stirs the warrior spirit a bit to watch action heroes pull out insanely big guns (whether that’s their biceps or the weapon in their hands) and blow up evil with a vengeance. Throw in a few funny one-liners, and as long as the violence doesn’t turn your stomach, “Expendables 2″ is a bloody lot of fun, an enjoyable guy flick that affirms honor and camaraderie, while giving audiences another look at the last great action heroes before they – as the movie itself jokes – “belong in a museum.”
“Expendables 2,” rated R, contains roughly 25 obscenities and profanities, which pepper the script, but don’t drown it.
The film’s sexuality is limited to a few wisecracks and one of the guys’ girlfriends doing some flirting in a low-cut dress at a bar.
Violence in the film is frequent and bloody. Gun fights, missiles, explosions and hand-to-hand combat are common and made extra gory for effect.
The film has some minor religious and occult content, including tattooing the bad guys with a symbol of a goat, which is explained as “the pet of Satan.” There’s a funeral in which the lines lament, “Why is it that the one among us who most wants and most deserves to live dies, and the ones who most deserve to die live? What’s the message in that?” There’s a brief song about “mumbo jumbo and hoo-doo” and a fight scene in a church that involves some fake religious chanting and men being killed with religious instruments.