Lionsgate // 2010 // 103 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 22nd, 2010
The boys are back in town.
The greatest menagerie of action star relics gather together for an Apocalyptic throwback to old school bombastic moviemaking. If you're into hard-R, roid-raging, cigar-chomping, head-caving mayhem, I have a difficult time seeing how you'd be disappointed with this.
The Expendables are a team of battle-hardened mercenaries, at the tail end of their careers, but savvy, tough, and stocked up on Cialis. They're led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone, Rambo) and knife-flinging ne'er-do-well Lee Christmas (Jason Statham, Crank).
When a job opportunity lands them in a corrupt, though fictional Banana Republic, the team discovers a chance to make a difference in the lives of the oppressed natives. And that difference is they're going to blow the hell out of everything and leave everyone homeless.
I didn't say it would be a good difference.
I fear The Expendables may have shuddered a bit under the immense weight of its own hype. It felt like we were hearing about this thing since the Precambrian Era. Stallone! Statham! Li! Lundgren! Schwarzenegger! Willis! Couture! Austin! Crews! Rourke! All joining forces to create the Greatest Action Movie ever!
The Expendables is not the greatest action movie ever made, and anyone going in expecting such will likely come away ambivalent. It is, however, supremely entertaining and macho beyond its peers. There are gigantic explosions, gruesome head shots, brutal hand-to-hand fights, and knives thrown into necks with ferocious velocity. There's a greasy bad guy, a beautiful woman in danger, and a waterboarding session. But mostly, there are dudes I grew up watching blow stuff up, blowing stuff up.
I actually enjoyed the film a lot more the second time around. I caught it in the theater and went in with stratospheric expectations. While I got a massive kick out of the pyrotechnics, it didn't completely knock me sideways. Settling in with the Blu-ray for Round 2 turned out to be a much more rewarding experience. Free of unfair expectations and taken as a simple call-back to red meat actioners of yesteryear, The Expendables proved to be even more fun.
Though some of the big scenes still didn't fit (the basketball fight) or hit (the Lundgren/Li and Austin/Stallone bouts were too hastily edited), the balance swung firmly in favor of awesomeness, thanks to a positively insane final 30 minutes, populated by an onslaught of fantastic moments: the Crews gun scene, Jet Li's neck break, Statham's knife-powered slaughter, the Couture/Austin dust-up, and one humongous explosion after another. And virtually all of it is down and dirty, real and practical.
Say what you want about plotlines that go nowhere (Charisma Carpenter?), what makes The Expendables a winner is the commitment to putting forward a product that feels very much like "what you see is what you get." Those explosions really were lit off. Stallone really did end up in the hospital because of that Steve Austin fight. The cast and crew actually came down with bronchial infections because they shot in a moldy New Orleans basement. Jason Statham actually sat in the nose of a dilapidated, nose-diving airplane.
This brotherhood of badasses came together to issue one of the all-time greatest cinematic love letters to fans of giant dudes beating each other to a pulp and setting off more ordnance than was used during the last two Gulf Wars combined -- and I thank them for it.
I am also thankful to Lionsgate for another top-shelf Blu-ray. This studio rarely lets me down with their high-def releases and this treatment of The Expendables continues the trend of excellence. The 2.40:1, 1080p transfer is fantastic, highly detailed, and well-performing even during the copious dark scenes, where much of the action transpires. Explosions look terrific and, when joined with the pulsing surround sound, will absolutely light up your living room. That audio mix (DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio) is one of the most aggressive I've heard, the subwoofers getting used liberally to transmit the depth of chaos and the discrete channels well-mapped to bring the pain from all corners when the ammo flies. Both visually and aurally, this disc will create an engulfing, spleen-rocking viewing experience.
Extras are headlined by the "Ultimate Recon Mode," an in-movie BonusView that pulls back from the action to deliver interviews and on-set footage. In addition, you get: a great commentary track from Stallone, two hefty HD featurettes -- "Inferno: The Making of The Expendables "and "From the Ashes," a postproduction documentary -- the entire Comic Con panel (in HD), one so-so deleted scene, a gag reel, and a selection of promotional spots.
The Expendables really is a fat slice of old-school awesome and this Blu-ray is a high-end performer. A must-own.
Not Guilty. Now let's just get Van Damme and Gymkata's Kurt Thomas for
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Ultimate Recon Mode
* Deleted Scene
* Gag Reel
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy