Friday 12 December 2014

Double Bill Mini Musings: Big Guns and Grotesque Bets...

The Expendables 3:
What's it about?
Barney Ross and his gang of Expendables take on an old enemy from their past, but to do so they need to add some new blood to their line up.
Who would I recognise in it?
Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Kelsey Grammer, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Davi.
Even in its "extended/uncut" form the violence is conspicuously bloodless, and yet the body count is sky high. This second sequel isn't lacking in action - and certainly not in the half hour climax - but you can't help but shake the feeling that it's somewhat compromised. In chasing a younger demographic in the frustrating PG-13 rating (the UK rating system is much more varied and forgiving), the violence has had the sharp edges smoothed off. People still get blitzed in every which way you could possibly think of, but that extra punch seen in the first movie is missing. Even with the new (and young) additions - of which Ronda Rousey reigns supreme - to the cast, was it truly worth annoying your core target audience by chasing the tween dollar? However, that sticking issue aside, if you enjoyed the other movies you'll enjoy this one too - it's a no-brainer...

Click "READ MORE" below to continue this review and see some brutal bets...

The plot has been expanded (two hours without credits) and delves deeper into the inevitable deadliness of being an "Expendable". Thematically things have taken a darker and intriguing turn, but the wise-cracking and winks to the audience are still there (albeit somewhat muted compared to the second flick). The new additions to the cast mostly work out too; Wesley Snipes has a blast, more so with Antonio Banderas who steals every scene he's in, and the young blood don't embarrass themselves. I had no idea who Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, or Victor Ortiz were, but was familiar with Ronda Rousey - and she brings a copious amount of arse-kicking joy to the otherwise all-male lineup - more from her please!

Action wise there's plenty to enjoy with - to quote Hot Fuzz's Danny Butterman - "gun fights, car chases, proper action and shit" from start to finish. The recruitment segment goes on too long, and some of the scene extensions don't quite land, but the minor quibbles are far outweighed by runaway trains blowing up fortresses and the like. The friendly, familiar, fist-bumping vibe returns and for the most part it works. The softened bite is occasionally irksome, but the spectacle and humour (references to Bruce Willis' absence and Snipes' real-life prison stint) keep you on-side. It may lack the blood of the first, and the series-best opening sequence of the second, but The Expendables 3 still delivers. Good.

Cheap Thrills:
What's it about?
Two old school friends, both down on their financial luck, meet a couple of well-heeled party fiends who have a twisted evening of escalating bets lined up for them. It starts off as fifty bucks for whoever drinks the first shot, but things quickly take a stranger and darker turn.
Who would I recognise in it?
Pat Healy, Sara Paxton, David Koechner, Ethan Embry.
Tapped into the money-worry zeitgeist of the post-banking crisis era, Cheap Thrills combines dire financial straits with reality show style humiliation. What would you do for fifty bucks, or five hundred, or what about two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand? Clocking in at an efficient 84 minutes the movie wastes no time in cleanly setting up its main characters and central premise before deftly raising the stakes with each and every bet. Avoiding predictability, Cheap Thrills ducks and weaves, blending outrageous acts with themes that will keep you thinking long after the movie is over. Inspiring sympathy, shock, disgust, and thought in equal measure, it may have sneaked in under the mainstream radar, but it's a must-watch. Good.

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