Listen up “men at arms”, on the count to three shoot everything on sight I mean “everything” and ACTION!
Universal Pictures, Lionsgate and Nu Image in association with Millennium Films present…
Soldiers one and all! The “heroes for hire” returns to the big screen with more explosions than all three Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise could even muster and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
Directed by Simon West (The General’s Daughter) he turns this ensemble cast into a more dynamic sequel. I did appreciate this one coming from the first installment since it has a decent mission to follow not just being thrown into some predicament with a woman acting as ploy to find her rescuers from tyrannical rule! Come on, this film’s premise and predicament is in worldwide scale (wow)! His earlier works at least gives a deliberate and provocative stories and that is where he should derail from, work with the script and screenplay and not just rely on star power to save the day!
Legendary action icons Sylvester Stallone (Rambo) is head honcho Barney Ross and Transporter franchise alpha male is Jason Statham (Killer Elite) he portrays Lee Christmas (come on man!) as they team up to rescue a businessman held hostage which became more complicated when Trench a rival and comrade played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator) from the hands of Nepalese extremists! While lurking in the dark, the man who will always be a cowboy, Yipee-Ki-Yay (well, not here) Bruce Willis (Die Hard) is the enigmatic CIA Operative named Mr. Church, primarily coming from Covert Black Ops or Government funded projects he still calls the shots, imposing he may be while standing next to Sly still gives me goose bumps he does make a decent anti-hero or a bad guy every once in a while!
A 2nd Degree Black Belt in Kyokushin Karate Dolph Lundgren (Red Scorpion) since missing Yin Yang en route in China from a previous mission had his eyes in another minority! Psychotic Gunner Jensen was a Chemical Engineer (just like in real life) before he went nuts with a Dancer in a Disco he used to have worked as a Bouncer! In the film, he reunites with Sly from Rocky IV’s Ivan Drago and with kickboxing ace Van Damme in their Universal Soldier projects as Andrew Scott the renegade GR13. Nothing came out of Dolph in this film (especially with Randy Couture) he just served as the team’s comedian without any use except to reply a line or two when needed!
They say that you have to take the bad with the good and frankly he does not give a damn! The lone gunman Texas Ranger, a 10th Degree Black Belt Shito Ryu Karate (Tae Kwon Do, Jiu Jitsu etc.) and Chun Kuk Do founder Chuck Norris (Missing in Action) as Booker derived from his previous film “Black Tigers” is giving the guys a lot of back up firepower when all the chips are down! He shoots down everyone from the other side of the fence but he in nowhere to be found and yet he walks in the battlefield cool and calm just like that… (what the?)
The not so serious muscle man Terry Crews (The Longest Yard) should be with all honesty got the role for Roadblock in G.I.JOE: Retaliation! He has the comedic wit, firepower and cooking skills even for a Bunsen burner he could make a meal out of it. Hale Caesar is the team’s heavy artillery guy who could blow you away either with his grenade launcher or with his supplementing one liners!
The hand to hand combat expert was replaced by a chick, enter Nan Yu (Speed Racer) as Maggie Chan sent by Church to extract the device that traces the plutonium secluded in a mine which brings us to Kung-Fu and Wushu sensation Jet Li (Once Upon a Time in China) as the hard kicking Yin Yang! He had his moments just to savour his graceful exit knocking out bad guys left and right with frying pans! (Jackie must have been consulted on this…)
While the real brother of the Thunder God (not with the Deer antlers) Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) is sharp shooting Billy The Kid was given credit for his “rookie” entry in the team seeing that he is the only young soldier on the team it does not mean he can’t knock you out as far as a mile away from nowhere. His entry makes the dialogue more humane though sombre and gratifying as the “soldier boy” of the group his loyalty does give him the respect of his peers!
Finally he’s been called in to join…I mean to be the villain! Jean Claude Van Damme (Bloodsport) the very first film I saw this man throw his famous helicopter kick Kumite style! I’ve watched this guy’s films and it was always an adrenaline rush! “Respect is everything, without it we are just common people, shitty common people” nice one Jean! On the other hand, English Martial Artist Scott Adkins (The Shepherd: Border Patrol) as wing man Hector, he reunites with JCVD for the fourth time! Their tandem makes it edgy and flamboyant not backing down even if push comes to shove!
The 80’s and 90’s is the best era there is in indulging cinema with well rounded performances and breakthroughs in terms of genres like crime thrillers, martial arts, cops and robbers, AWOL soldiers and even through sci-fi! Our fathers will always have their James Coburn, Charlton Heston, Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas, James Dean, Sean Connery Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood on the other hand the generation of today can have their Taylor Lautner and Channing Tatum (yawn!) I grew up with these films and action stars and they’ve become part of culture, heroes one and all whether they came from different fields, they still found their way into this monumental gathering of mercenaries as friends throughout these years!
Before we get killed, let’s move on! It was built in a $100 million budget and Sly wanted to bring in as much as possible actors that have fallen out of movie offers and it’s a generous way to do in order to help out friends in need. For instance Nicolas Cage and John Travolta was offered, while from the Orient martial arts superstar Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen were taken into consideration but most of them declined due to scheduling conflicts or the part was not enticing enough!
What is a testosterone driven story without the elements of combat, some rough housing, guns and oh, just the fate of world that hangs in a balance amidst an impending nuclear war! I guess it would have been better when the story comes into play which is actually evident here than the first film. There is a wider scope on the premise, still mission centric but with elements that covers the entire story let the viewers just follow the blood and bullet riddled bodies all over the place.
But this was definitely better than the first film with this one having at least an inclination to finish off properly in a sense of stand offs (what’s new?) which is actually clichéd given it’s appropriate fan service running after the villains and picking a fight to know who’s better or who will survive coming out from hanging chains or a rotating blade of a helicopter! The dialogue is mediocre as usual and needs a lot of work especially coming from guys like Sly, Arnold and Jet Li who was actually replaced with a lady (just for eye candy) to add insult to injury.
All the banters from the legendary action stars made it cheesy already entertaining but sometimes silly where lines just come out as adlibs just to incite previous films or works that just needs to make the male populace reminisce the days, the old days if you catch my drift! In terms of violence, there were a lot of blood spilled from punctured human beings coming from incoming ballistics as if they were there for target practice shooting only, knives thrown or stabbed wherever you like, burnt corpses from a cannon equipped seaplane which makes sense since they are just “cannon” fodder! (I made a funny).
Well, nobody leaves without a kiss from JVCD’s foot, pun intended! He made sure of that since Sly got his Rocky thing rolling against “The Villain” who is actually the name of his character!!! Maybe they had so much time to have fun shooting people that they forgot they’re making a film which includes decent screen names for starters! There were plenty of time to make the script but seriously Sly should have changed the names Barney, Christmas, Yin Yang, Toll Road, Hale Caesar and lastly, Jean Vilain, it “may” have been codenames but it wouldn’t hurt giving well thought off ones?
Pure adrenaline “mindless” action the way it was not meant to be…unfortunately, all were expendable to each and every last one of them!