Can Sylvester Stallone pull off another late-summer hit on the same scale that he did in 2010 with The Expendables? The sequel hits theaters August 17 and the early footage looks promising. 
Stallone recently won the lawsuit brought against him after an so-called “screenwriter” accused him of stealing the story for the first one. That had to be welcome news, considering that the production of Expendables 2 was marked by difficulty. Tragedy struck back in October of 2011 when a stuntman was killed during principal photography. Then in January, 2012 it was revealed that the noisy, explosion-laden production had inadvertently used one of Europe’s biggest bat refuges as a shooting location. The Bulgarian cave is home to tens of thousands of hibernating bats, many of which were left dead after their hibernation cycle had been disturbed. 
I get pretty bummed out when I think about those losses incurred all for the sake of an action movie. Well, it wouldn’t be any more acceptable if it was a high brow art movie. Hearing of the loss of a crew member, combined with a wildlife catastrophe, really put a damper on my enthusiasm for the movie. Yes, as a Stallone fan I still want to see the movie. But it’s kind of depressing knowing about those unfortunate events. 
Then there’s the whole “will it be R-rated or not” controversy, which Stallone finally put to bed a few months ago. Initially reports back in January were that co-star (and newcomer to the franchise) Chuck Norris had only agreed to appear if it was a PG-13 film. I guess it may have been a rather unconventional way to hype up the movie, as fan sites and message boards lit up with outrage. Stallone ended up revising his PG-13 confirmation with a March announcement that the film will be R after all. But how hard of an R will it be? Keep this in mind: when Stallone re-cut Rambo(2008) and The Expendables for director’s cuts, he TONED DOWN the violence in both cases. 
So will the new movie be good? The first one was a solid hit with audiences, giving Stallone his first $100 million domestic grosser since Rocky IV way back in 1985. But it didn’t connect critically, for the most part. Scoff all you want about critics – the truth is, most of them are actually not snooty elites who only want thought-provoking, artistic statements when the see a movie. While I don’t think it would be too difficult to establish a general anti-Stallone slant among critics in general, most seemed to understand pretty well that The Expendables was just supposed to be a good time. Truth be told, many reviews of the film echoed the sentiments of many moviegoers (i.e. a jumbled and uninteresting plot, underused cast members – particularly Jet Li). 
The first film was directed by Stallone and co-written by David Callaham and Stallone. For The Expendables 2, Stallone has handed over the directorial reigns to Simon West. West started off his directorial career with a hot streak of hits that included Con Air (1997), The General’s Daughter (1999), and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001). But those were a long time ago, and more recently West has helmed more middling fare such as the 2011 Jason Statham thriller, The Mechanic. A host of screenwriters are credited on The Expendables 2, but hopefully the film won’t have that “written by committee” feel.
With more Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis promised this time and new additions Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris adding to the mayhem, there is much to anticipate with The Expendables 2. But more than anything, I’m hoping for clear, interesting, suspenseful storytelling. All the action stars in the world won’t make a classic action movie. We saw that with the first one, which was fun and entertaining enough, but not one for the ages, by any means. Its flaw was a dull story that wasn’t especially well-told. Here’s to hoping The Expendables 2 retains all the retro-fun, while improving upon the first one’s weaknesses. 
The Expendables 2 opens in the U.S. August  17, 2012. Word has it Stallone is already hard at work planning part three, so hopefully this one really rocks theaters and leaves fans wanting more.
Chaz Lipp

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