With the recent reports that Sylvester Stallone does not intend to direct The Expendables 2 and will in fact be shopping for directors to helm the sequel to the 2010 hit film, I simply cannot help but share my opinion. First off, I want to express that I really enjoyed The Expendables for what it was. Seeing that collection of action heroes, both young and old, really got my testosterone all worked up. I totally did like two sit-ups. While it certainly has its detractors, there are many that defend the film, claiming that it delivered no less than people, specifically action fans, should have expected. That may be true as far as the actors, the characters, the dialogue and the ridiculousness of film goes, but the core element of any action film is the action, and that for me is where The Expendables failed.
To be fair, some of the big action set pieces were pretty great, for instance, Sly releasing gasoline from The Expendables plane onto a boat dock of baddies below, only to have Jason Statham, from the nose of that plane, shoot the boat dock with a flair gun, thus causing a massive explosion. That was pretty epic, but with that said, my issues were specifically with (many of) the fight scenes and some of the gun battles. For whatever reason, the almost always awful shaky-cam action style was utilized for The Expendables, and it fails miserably, as it often does. These scenes are grotesquely edited, with no real sense of direction, let alone a sense of fluidity. People like Jason Statham and (especially) Jet Li are very easy to make look great doing what they do, yet their talents were wasted due to incompetent filmmaking.
One scene that specifically comes to mind is the fight between Dolph Lundgren and Jet Li. Jet Li is not known for his height, while Dolph is quite the imposing figure as far as his stature goes. So here you have this great opportunity to use these contrasting physiques for what could have been a visually impressive fight scene. Nevertheless, the scene is so poorly put together that you almost cannot even discern the height difference between the two, let alone there being more than a few seconds allowed to actually see them fight one another. The worst part is, just before they fight, Lundgren's character makes a reference to Li's height telling him to, "bring it, happy feet!" hinting at what could have made for a visually great fight scene, yet, there's nothing but top down shots, poor angles and action that's too frenetic to be able to see, let alone enjoy.
Some folks point to the shitty action and say that this is what we should have expected from a throwback action film, but those people are way off base in my opinion. The action films from the '80s were very well represented in many ways (in The Expendables), but to claim that the action from the films of that era were inherently crappy, is an incorrect notion. Now, with Stallone being the person that was basically the backbone of The Expendables, I have to shovel some of the blame on him (as well as the praise, to be fair), therefore, having him step away from the directors chair, to me, sounds like the best decision for the sequel. However, who exactly should be the one to step in and helm a sequel to a successful throwback to the '80s action film? Well, there is only one name that I feel would do it best, and that name belongs to Isaac Florentine.
While many were championing The Expendables as an homage, a love letter, a true return to the '80s action film, there was another movie that made its way straight to DVD in 2010, and that movie kicked the shit out of The Expendables in every possible way. That film was Undisputed III: Redemption. With Undisputed III: Redemption (which I admit to having a wicked boner for), Florentine put out a film that is, without trying to be, an '80s action film. Everything is in place, from hokey dialogue and a thin plot, to a budding bromance and a great antihero in Yuri Boyka. Most importantly, Undisputed III has some of the best fight scenes I have seen from a none traditional martial arts film in years. It's an '80s action movie brought to modern times with the use of style, ability and technique, all while being as hard hitting and tough as any film can be. The comparison between both Undisputed III: Redemption and The Expendables is nonexistent, because there are no comparisons as far as what was delivered.
Both films came out in the same year, therefore my comparison of the two, but Florentine has been making a name for himself for quite some time, and I believe he is the guy that could really push The Expendables to the level that it needs to go. Now, I cannot say that the issues with The Expendables is solely attributed to Stallone, as the problems were specifically with the cinematography and, even more so, the editing. In fact, the editing was so horrendous that it carried over into the non-action scenes more than once. If Florentine were to be chosen (not that I actually think he would), it would be great if both cinematographer Ross Clarkson and editor Irit Raz could come along with him as both have worked with Florentine quite a bit and both have a lot of great experience.
There has been a ton of (AWESOME) casting rumors floating around for The Expendables 2; such as, Bolo Yeung, Cynthia Rothrock, Michelle Yeouh, Arnold Schwarzenegger (in a bigger role) and Jean-Claude Van Damme (who's already worked with Florentine), just to name but a few. Now, another rumored actor that stands out in a big way - and would totally make the Florentine pick all the more perfect - is Scott Adkins. Adkins and Florentine have made a number of awesome action films together and, quite frankly, Adkins is a specimen whose skills and presence are matched by very few action "actors" out there. The thought of having Adkins be in The Expendables 2, with Florentine at the helm, is a dream come true.
My intentions of this post was never to roll in the hate wagon for The Expendables (or Stallone, for that matter), because I really did enjoy the film, but its flaws are glaring, and to simply dismiss them by saying "what did you expect" is way off base for those specific problems. What I expected was, at the least, competent action scenes, and if the right director stepped in, The Expendables 2 could be an action masterpiece. Florentine is perfect because he has the experience , the skill and he is not a huge name outside of the world of DTV action market, but the people that know his films, know his skill and that skill is what is necessary to put The Expendables 2 over the top. If you don't believe me, watch this and you'll become a believer soon enough.