Monday, 27 August 2012 10:36

Movie Review >> The Expendables 2 and Hit & Run

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The Expendables 2 is an action-packed, testosterone-filled sequel to the 2010 Sylvester Stallone-driven (writer, director, star, set caterer—I may be mistaken on that last part) commando adventure. This time out Stallone shares the writing credit with Richard Wenk and relinquishes the directorial reins to Simon West. The result is the rare sequel that is actually an improvement on the original. Whereas the first film was laden with expository, brooding scenes meant to establish the team’s camaraderie and air of fatalism, the sequel is more focused and tighter paced yet with a looser feel, courtesy of some macho, quasi-mocking banter. In addition, the action scenes are consistently exciting and exhilarating without being excessive and exhausting. The plot is pretty negligible…the bad guys led by Jean-Claude Van Damme want to steal a lot of plutonium, enslaving a small town-and killing an expendable Expendable (Liam Hemsworth with death written all over his face—you’ll know the minute he mentions the girl waiting at home) in the process. This galvanizes these altruistic mercenaries (they only kill for a good cause) led by Stallone and Jason Statham into doing what they do best: locking and loading to wipe out these evildoers and possibly the save the world as we know it. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are back, but this time they ‘re not just picking up a check—these action icons are picking up automatic weapons and blowing away the bad guys; in addition, the script abounds with references to their past triumphs that enables everyone to be in on the joke-and enjoy themselves while doing it. At the screening I attended, the biggest audience response was reserved for Chuck Norris, playing a renowned lone wolf of a mercenary. Perhaps the big screen wants him back…

Dax Shepard wrote and co-directed (with David Palmer) Hit & Run, a hit or miss chase comedy that is noteworthy for not wasting the lovely and talented Kristen Bell, as well as giving Bradley Cooper a chance to shine as a vengeful bad guy with jail issues. Shepard is Charlie Bronson, so named after he entered the witness protection program. His idyllic, anonymous existence in New Mexico (with live-in girlfriend Kristin Bell and skittish agent/caretaker Tom Arnold) is jeopardized when he decides to drive her to L.A.---thus incurring her ex-boyfriend’s wrath, which leads the ex to contact Shepard’s nemesis, a dread-locked Bradley Cooper. Much fleeing, chasing and stunt driving ensue. The car chase scenes themselves are probably the lesser part of the movie; they’re not bad but you’ve seen them before-and better. However, the writing gives the performers plenty of opportunities to show off their wares; Tom Arnold, while initially a little too cartoonish as the would-be protective agent, nevertheless gets to display flashes of likability and warmth; Bradley Cooper is like an actor reborn as the animal-loving, gun-toting robber with more than a few axes to grind. Kristen Bell finally has a lead role that gives her a chance to show many of her formidable skills, including her comic timing, intelligence and ability to project strength and vulnerability (previous films of hers generally focused on one aspect, much to the films’ detriment). Shepard (Bell’s real-life fiancé) and Bell convince and have genuine chemistry as a couple, so that their exchanges between the chases aren’t just filler, but portray the insecurities and suspicions that can befall even a seemingly happy couple. Hit & Run is a hit—whenever the tires aren’t screeching.

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Mike Peros

Mike Peros is an author whose new book, DAN DURYEA - HEEL WITH A HEART, the first biography of classic Hollywood's iconic villain, was recently published by the University Press of Mississippi.  He is  also an educator with a passion for movies ever since he saw John Wayne riding toward the bad guys, reins between his teeth, in TRUE GRIT.  Some of his favorite films include THE BAND WAGON, THE WILD BUNCH, OUT OF THE PAST, THE SILENT PARTNER, IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER ( a great musical--if you're a Gene Kelly fan, what are you waiting for?), and KONGA with the great Michael Gough.

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