A kind of K-Tel Records greatest hits package for 1980s muscle-bound action stars, Simon West’s The Expendables 2 brings together everyone’s favorite action heroes in a guts and glory shoot-‘em-up that follows all the predictable paths with no surprises and no holds barred. For what it is, a non-stop action picture with the barest of plots that puts a dozen action stars from the past and present in a location and lets them shoot and pound at will, the movie is exactly what its public would want and expect. But don’t watch it looking for anything new or different from the famous names who are part of the project.
The Expendables 2 (Blu-ray)
Directed by Simon West
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 102 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Review Date: November 21, 2012
After a successful mission in Nepal rescuing a kidnapped Chinese diplomat, Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) tasks Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his crew with retrieving the location of five tons of plutonium from a bomb-encrusted safe. Waiting to take their prize is the evil mercenary Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his Sangs who also kill one of the beloved members of the Expendables crew in the process. Now eager to get the plutonium and avenge his comrade’s death, Ross and the rest head to Albania to have a face off with the evil Sangs.
Sylvester Stallone both wrote and directed the last outing (as well as starring, of course), but he’s turned the directorial reins over to Simon West here who has plenty of practice with large scale action films like Con-Air and The Mechanic. He’s staged a dilly of a pre-credit sequence as the crew invades Nepal and rescues Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in the process (all the better to allow him to pop back up later in the film to lend a helping hand along with Chuck Norris’ loner agent Booker and Bruce Willis, all of whom help take up the slack by the loss of Jet Li who leaves to carry on other business after the initial mission). There’s plenty of firepower on display with hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition fired which makes lots of things blow up and mows down lots of nameless, faceless people. But Stallone and co-writer Richard Wenk take the easy way out dropping countless references to the stars’ many famous action film catchphrases instead of writing some new ones of their own that the stars can reference in future outings (with the success of this sequel, there will obviously be a part three). The sheer amount of weaponry in use doesn’t give most of the Expendables team (Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture) much time to establish any other skills to deepen the characters they play. Stallone and Jason Statham do get fight scenes at the climax which extend their leadership roles on the team and offer another dimension to their badass reputations (the Stallone-Van Damme face-off is what viewers have waited the entire movie to see; it’s very good but goes similarly to other fights Stallone has performed in the movies).
There is a joshingly antagonistic camaraderie between Stallone and Statham that the movie should play up much more in future installments as this brotherly give-and-take banter between the two offers about the only lightness in the entire movie. Liam Hemsworth as the fresh-faced young sniper who longs for a life away from death-defying scenarios could have been a charismatic focus of future films in the franchise had the writers wished to go a different way with his character. He’s still the most appealing person in the movie. Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, and Randy Couture are bodies with names but very little in the way of real characters. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems a trifle stiff and tired in his few scenes, but Bruce Willis does his best to make something out of the nothing role he’s been given. As a young Chinese fighter with safe-cracking and computer expertise, Yu Nan does well with the limited amount of screen time she’s given; thankfully, no move was made to make her the romantic interest for Barney Ross, at least not yet.
The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio has been faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Perhaps to lessen the obvious age differences between actors in the film, the presentation is somewhat softly focused throughout (if you’re an NCIS fan, you’ll find the look quite similar) and features an unappealing bluish-green color timing tint to the image which makes everything appear somewhat unrealistic. Color is well saturated but isn’t very appealing. Black levels are fine as is shadow detail. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix is exactly what one expects from a big action picture with split surround effects being funneled to the fronts and rears almost constantly. The background music score and numerous pop hits are likewise given a thorough spread through the soundfield, and the LFE channel will remain active throughout with the many explosions and massive amounts of gunfire on display. Dialogue which features a great deal of ADR work due to the enormous gunplay has been smoothly integrated with direct recording and has been placed in the center channel.
The audio commentary is by director Simon West. It’s a thorough discussion of the film’s production with only a few breaks along the way (they become more prevalent as the film runs).
All of the bonus video material is presented in 1080p.
“Gods of War” features the producers and stars of the movie talking about making the second feature in the franchise. Stallone also discusses turning over the directing reins to Simon West who talks about his approach to the movie. It runs 21 ¼ minutes.
“Big Guns, Bigger Heroes” is a 25-minute piece on the rise of the action film in the 1980s mirroring the political activism of Ronald Reagan with the birth of action films with First Blood and going through discussions of 48 HRS., The Terminator, Commando, and Die Hard.
“On the Assault” is narrated by Randy Couture as he visits The Gun Shop in Las Vegas and discusses and fires a series of weapons used in the movie. This runs 13 ½ minutes.
“Guns for Hire” takes a look at real-life Expendables with employees from Trojan Securities and Ronin Services among others discussing their business philosophy, the training they give their soldiers, and sharing some stories of their work in the field. It runs 24 ¼ minutes.
There are five deleted scenes which together run 4 ¾ minutes.
The gag reel for the movie runs 5 ¼ minutes.
There are promo trailers for The Last Stand, Dredd 3D, and the Tarantino Collection.
3.5/5 (not an average)
The Expendables 2 is an action picture with the stars and the guns that fans of the genre expect. There’s nothing new here, but those wanting to see lots of ammunition expended and some decent hand-to-hand combat won’t need any prompting for a rental of purchase of this title.