The Expendables 2

I’m cramming films in while my Cineworld card is still valid. Despite thinking the first one was a bit poo, I decided that as long as it wasn’t costing me anything I’d check out:

The Expendables 2

“Who next? Rambo?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A recovery mission goes slightly bat-**** so the gang head out on a somewhat over-the-top revenge mission

See it if you like: watching things go “boom”. And “splat”. And “ak-ak-ak-ak-ak-ak”.

I didn’t enjoy the first Expendables film. I don’t know why, but I think it was because – after it got over the ridiculous cast – it became just another action film with a poor story, worse acting and nothing to hold the interest.

This, however… this is different. This is brilliant.

Importantly, it doesn’t take itself seriously. In fact, it goes right to the end of the scale marked as “self-deprecation”, more commonly known as “taking the piss out of oneself”. There are so many bits of bad dialogue that would have been right at home in an Eighties action film that they simply must have been put there for that reason. References are made left, right and centre to well known films and characters. Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis play Musical Catchphrases, using each other’s best known lines with wild abandon.

The opening sequence is bigger, louder and bloodier than most other action films can ever dream of having for a finale.

This really is a film you can’t afford to take seriously. The bad guys can’t shoot for toffee and despite loosing off enough bits of hot lead to sink an island nation, pretty much always fail to hit anything other than blank concrete and glass. Apparently firing a machine gun through a glass window will cause it to shatter but won’t pepper the enemies on the other side with bullets. Firing at soldiers from elevation with ridiculously powerful weapons will not cause the deaths of any innocents stood nearby. Ever.

Importantly, though… who fracking cares?

With a cast this size (and I mean that in all respects – they must have stolen the entire 1980’s Russian Women’s Olympic shot-put team’s steroid supply), it would be easy to expect most of them to be there just to make up the numbers. But with enough in-jokes about the actors themselves, quirks, piss-takes, banter and overblown action scenes that simply doesn’t happen. They even manage to shoe-horn a girl into the group this time out. Avoiding the obvious casting of Michelle Yeoh (surely the most well-known female Asian action star in the West?), they’ve gone for Nan Yu who I honestly haven’t heard of before. She’s good, though, and kicks as much ass as any of the inflated male cast.

This is, quite simply, a must-see. At one point, several members of the (small) audience cheered out loud. And I didn’t care. I was so wrapped up and giggling that it just seemed like a perfectly acceptable thing to do.

If you even remotely like action films, you’ll enjoy this. If you’ve seen the “classics” from days gone by then you will enjoy it all the more for the cast and references. Far, far better than it has any right to be – and the first film in a long time I’ve considered going to see for a second time. That alone makes it highly recommended.

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By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsAfter a day recovering from the Ben Nevis hike and ripping the spare bathroom apart, we decided to head to the cinema for a bit of mental relaxation. Cue some silly fighty action:


“What did you do, kid?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Seen Mercury Rising? It’s that with more violence

See it if you like: Statham fodder

The trailers for this looked OK, although it was immediately apparent it wasn’t an original plot. Mei (Catherine Chan) is a gifted child growing up in China. Her ability to memorise numbers is discovered by the Triad (I’m guessing – they’re never named as such) who decide that she’d be better suited in their working environment. So they kidnap her.

Jump to the US and we are introduced to the Russian Mafia, a host of corrupt cops, more nasty Chinese and our hero Luke Wright (Jason Statham). Statham pisses off the Russians so they make his life rather difficult, he’s been ostracised by the cops and he’s living on the streets. As luck would have it, though, he lands in a plum position at just the right time to get them both back. And the Chinese while he’s at it.

Acting as guardian to a runaway Mei, he kicks ass, shoots people, knifes a few, breaks some arms, jumps out of windows, drives insanely… hell, you know how action films go.

The thing is, this one has a plot. OK, it may be one stolen from an old Bruce Willis film but they’ve dusted it off well. After a brief flash of violence at the start, the film actually takes a while to get going as it works on the story. Once it kicks in, though, it kicks in hard.

The fight scenes are typically brutal, and Statham seems to be working more and more random objects into these sequences. It’s hard not to get the feeling that he’s trying to be a be-stubbled Jackie Chan at times.

Despite the short breaks for breath-catching, it flies along though never reaching the breakneck pace of the utterly mental Shoot ‘Em Up. It’s not a short movie, but it never seems to drag.

If you don’t mind your action films failing to keep count of the number bullets in the clip, this is one to catch.

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Killer Elite

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsManaged to sneak in a quick film this afternoon as gran popped round. We we ran out of the house, giggling like loons while she had her back turned and left her with the kids.

Killer Elite

“Blood doesn’t bother me. It’s ink I’m worried about.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: retired hired assassin is dragged back into the world of shooty death to save the life of a colleague

See it if you like: impressive thrillers dressed up as action films with excellent casts, intriguing “based on real events” storylines and brutal fight scenes

I mentioned the cast up there, and impressive it is indeed. Jason Statham at his very best (actually acting, not just being a tough guy), Robert De Niro in as meaty a role as you’ll ever see him in and Clive Owen crossing the good guy/bad guy part impressively. Yvonne Strahovski (from TV’s Chuck) also appears as the eye candy, getting to use her native Australian accent – though it does sound a little Kiwi. Please don’t tell her I said that.

Unusually for a film that is – or must be – pretty much fiction or at the very least hypothesis, it’s based on events described in a book partially regarded as non-fiction: Sir Ranulph FiennesThe Feather Men. Set around the Oman war, it details or alludes to a large amount of British involvement which to this day is classified under the Official Secrets Act. Read the Wikipedia article (linked previously) for more information on the interesting story behind it.

The film runs for around 2 hours and crams a lot into that time. Statham plays Danny, one of a band of mercenaries who gets out of the game after one job too many. He is dragged in some months later by a rich oil sheikh who wants one last job done – the killing of three SAS soldiers, guilty of killing three of his sons. As an extra incentive for doing the job, Danny’s friend and ex-partner Hunter (De Niro) is held hostage.

Danny drafts a couple of old friends and they set out on their mission, eventually coming up against the novel’s titular “Feather Men” and their rogue member Spike (Owen).

There shouldn’t really be any clear good or bad guys in the film, but of course Hollywood won’t allow that so there’s an element of non-ruthlessness in places where you’d expect more from the characters. Aside from that, it’s a fairly brutal and unforgiving film very well filmed and with some excellent fight scenes and set pieces. Best of all, though, is that they’re wrapped in an excellent plot.

With such a strong cast, it’s almost a relief to have s decent story to go along with it. Nothing is too over-the-top, even the gore. It keeps the interest right the way until the end credits.

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Pirates of the Caribbean 4 / Blitz

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsIf I see films on different nights I usually give them different posts, but I wanted to ensure these two were compared. We saw Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides on the Friday after the Tigertailz gig (see separate post), and fortunately found ourselves available to see a film the night after. This allowed us to wash away the lingering scent of cine-**** with a far superior film.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

“Did everyone see that? Because I will *not* be doing it again.” (I wish this were the case, but I gather there’s at least one more film being made)

See if if you like: watching franchises take not one, but two steps too far and disappear up their own arseholes. Also if you really think that Johnny Depp deserves a new wing on his house in exchange for buggering about on a movie screen without even bothering to make it look like he’s trying.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Not sure. Fell asleep. Something to do with mermaids.

Good grief, this was awful. Really awful. “Watched two different couple leave before the halfway mark and considered following them” awful. “Fell asleep shortly afterwards and woke to the end credits” awful.

I was looking forward to the film, especially as there was a 2D version so at least I wasn’t forced to pay extra for the privilege of wearing sunglasses and squinting for over two hours. However, I’d happily have worn a pair of Joo-Janta 500 Peril Sensitive sunglasses for this monstrosity.

I’ve read reviews that claim the relationship between Depp and co-start Penelope Cruz “sizzles” on screen, and I’d love to know what version of the film those people saw. It wasn’t a patch on the “will they / won’t they” scenes with Kiera Knightley in the first film. Mind you, this sums up the whole film. Damp squibiness abounds.

I gather Johnny Depp is a nice guy – popping into a local school in full pirate dress for a surprise, and blowing $65,000 on raincoats for the crew. However, it doesn’t excuse a completely lacklustre display of a character well-known for his flamboyance. It just doesn’t look like he’s trying.

The story is apparently based on a book from 1988 with the same title, a book which also influenced LucasArt’s excellent The Secret of Monkey Island game. For your money, I’d say get hold of a copy of that and play it instead. It’s far more entertaining.


“Do I look like I carry a pencil?”

See if if you like: really, gritty, violent thrillers chock full of violence.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: a psycho nutter starts going around London killing police officers. A copper with a dodgy reputation for having slightly violent tendencies is out to get him.

The entire budget for this film would probably just about cover Depp’s laundry bill for POTC4. In exchange you get a movie that’s countless times better, with a taught story, good acting, at least as many amusing quips and far more blood and gore. Plus, there’s no sodding 3D version.

Blitz is also based on a book, also filmed in London – but gifted with a good story, although I did think it ran just a little too long. It kicks of very swiftly, brings you up to speed with the characters and gets quite violent very early on.

The characters are a little “off the shelf” (the good, but violent cop (Jason Statham); the high-ranker nobody else likes (Paddy Considine); the vulnerable female (Zawe Ashton)…) but they fit together well to make a drama that could have been spread over a few weeks by BBC1 in hour-long episodes. Well – it could if the Beeb were OK with the word “****” being used less then two minutes into the first act.

What makes this film a little different from most is that the “whodunnit” aspect is done away with very early on. “Blitz” (Aidan Gillen) is unmasked fairly early on so that we can witness his increasingly brutal murders. And they are brutal. Not Saw or Hostel brutal, but personal, close-up and bloody. The woman next to me was visibly shaken by one in particular.

The film then follows the chase and the attempt to build a case up against someone the police are already sure of, while a reporter gets involved and Blitz is still out there.

It’s not often Gillian and I agree on a film so much. Less so that we agree about two on the trot. Be both thought POTC4 was a yawn-fest and we both thoroughly enjoyed Blitz.

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The Mechanic

Original poster
Poster from original 1972 version!

Gill couldn’t join me at the cinema this week as we couldn’t get a baby sitter. As such, I skipped the arty stuff and went to see something nice and Neanderthal. Ladies and gentlemen:

The Mechanic


Plot-in-a-nutshell: Hired killer gets stuck in a plot involving other people being killed. People die. Things explode. More people die. Come on, it’s a Jason Statham film – what do you expect?

With the exception of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Statham’s output has been fairly formulaic. Big explosions, car chases and ass-kicking has made up everything else he’s been in. The quality, however, has varied. For every Transporter 1 there’s a Crank. The Mechanic fortunately falls into the “good films” camp and is actually fairly low-key with the action sequences.

That’s not to say that there’s not a lot of action.

The film is set in the world of contract killers. Statham plays “Arthur” (probably not his real name), who is coerced into doing a job he doesn’t really want to, and then has to deal with the consequences. The nature of his chosen profession dictates that he has to be sneaky rather than all-out spectacular and this is reflected in the action scenes. They’re fairly short, tight and well-choreographed – no time wasted.

There’s also a lovely touch of gore to them with some nice blood spatter from the gunshots and plenty of bits to make you go “ow, bet that hurt”. Nothing up there with Saw, but gruesome all the same.

It’s not a bad story, either, although once the details have been set down it’s fairly obvious who the real bad guy is and what’s going to happen by the end. Regardless, it’s great entertainment and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Possibly Statham’s best all round film to date.

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