Alistair Harkness reviews the week’s DVD releases...
The Expendables 2, Lionsgate, £19.99
New Year’s Eve, Warner Home Video, £19.99
DVD is probably the best way to watch a movie like The Expendables 2. Though it did OK in cinemas, the fact the home video boom of the 1980s gave many of its cast of now-geriatric action heroes a career means there’s something almost poetic about watching it in the comfort of your living room. With straight-to-video veterans Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme joining the likes of Dolph Lundgren and Jet Li in Sylvester Stallone’s creaky franchise about the titular band of old-time mercenaries, this sequel is a veritable Who’s Who of small-screen action has-beens (only Steven Seagal is missing). If watched in a very indulgent frame of mind, this outing is a lot more fun than its awful Stallone-directed predecessor. It’s still wilfully rubbish, and full of groaning insider jokes involving Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis trading catchphrases and plot holes you could drive several fleets of tanks through. Nevertheless Con Air director Simon West has a sure grasp of how to deliver outlandishly over-the-top action that’s actually entertaining – even with a plot that sends the team on a mission to prevent tonnes of plutonium falling into the hands of Van Damme’s naff villain. West has also given Jason Statham equal screen time to Stallone, which seems only fair: Statham is the one member of the cast who doesn’t need his fight scenes to be shot in the shadows to hide the stunt doubles. And with Statham’s character going by the name of Lee Christmas, there’s even a tenuous seasonal connection.
Speaking of tenuous seasonal connections, New Year’s Eve has plenty of them as Valentine’s Day director Garry Marshall continues his quest to make movies about lonely hearts whose lives seem to crisscross on days of the year in which insufferable declarations of love are apparently permissible. This one is set in New York in the run-up to the city’s annual televised Times Square street party. Alas, the only vague source of entertainment in nearly two spirit-crushing hours is sniggering every time A-listers like Robert De Niro rhapsodise about balls dropping. Figuratively speaking, dropping the ball is exactly what Marshall and his cast do every time they attempt to convey even the faintest flicker of genuine emotion. Quite horrible.
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