The Expendables 2 Blu-ray Review
Cue Thin Lizzy. The boys are back in town. The box office success of THE EXPENDABLES brought about an inevitable sequel. THE EXPENDABLES 2 reunites most of the cast from the original. We have the leader of the motley crew, Barney Ross (Stallone). There is his right hand man with the silly name in Lee Christmas (Statham). The rest of the returning group includes Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) and Toll Road (Randy Couture). Sadly Mickey Rourke did not grace the screen and bring his wackiness to the proceedings. The newest member of the group is fresh faced Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), an ex-sniper in the military. The movie starts in rollicking fashion as the hellraisers rescue a Chinese national in typical noisy fashion. You got to love the custom made vehicles they were driving. The cheeky humor is in full display from the beginning with these vehicles barring slogans like “Knock Knock”, “Bad Attitude” and “Coming Soon”.
After this successful mission, the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis in an expanded role) pays a visit to Ross. He is not happy that they stole millions of dollars and made a mess of things in the first film. So he basically blackmails him to do another job or else. They are sent out to a downed plane in Albania to seek out the contents of a safe. Maggie Chan (Yu Nan) tags along as a guide and a person looking out for Church’s best interests. This is supposed to be an easy job. Get in and get out and go celebrate at the bar. But something bad always happens in these situations or else you wouldn’t have a movie right?!
Van Damme plays the treacherous Vilain (you got to love these character names). He and his henchman Hector (Scott Adkins in a deliciously evil role) have other ideas for that mysterious cargo. They snatch it away and mercilessly kill one of the Expendables. You know your goose is cooked when your character spouts that they want to quit this game and do something else. The film shifts gears from a standard action film to a revenge driven vehicle. There is also a side plot about rescuing the local townsfolk from the dangerous mine.
The plot is definitely secondary here. It really doesn’t matter too much. You just have to turn off your brain and get taken in by the sights and sounds. The sequel ups the humor factor quite a bit. It works for the most part. The one-liners are appreciated and mostly hit the mark. One of the best lines comes from legendary action star Chuck Norris. You would have to live under a rock to not get what he was referring to when he was describing a near death experience. It only gets tiresome when screenwriters Richard Wenk and Stallone get too cute. We all know the past work of these action stars. We don’t need the exact lines from these movies to get the joke. It is overkill when Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who returns as Trench, trade lines from Die Hard and The Terminator. The two screenwriters also throw in some quieter moments. There is a nice scene when Billy tells the others why he quit the military. It works because it gives you more insight into the character and what his motivations are. The movie could have been deeper with more material like this, but that isn’t what they were going for. I can’t fault them too much.
Director Simon West shows a steady hand with this production. He doesn’t show off with the action scenes. There is no shaky camera work or hand held nonsense that has been the rave in recent years. It really is much appreciated when you can actually see what is going on. However it does get repetitious after a while seeing the good guys be such great shots and the bad guys missing everything. The highlight is the hand to hand combats that occur. This is where it is not entirely predictable. It is especially fun seeing two legends like Stallone and Van Damme square off. That fight scene alone is worth the price of admission.
The Expendables 2 is good brainless fun. You get the sense that these actors are having a blast, so you in turn have a good time as well. Isn’t that basically what you want from a movie?
Video (2.40:1 Widescreen (16:9)): Flawless transfer to video. The explosions pop. There is a real nice shot near the end that has gleaming light shining down on Van Damme and Stallone. This is what Blu-ray is for.
Audio (English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio): You hear clearly the blood splatter and the bones crunch. Pristine audio.
Commentary with Director Simon West: West goes through the ins and outs of making the film. There are some nice tidbits about locations, props and how he shot certain scenes. He actually wanted to make the opening sequence even bigger, but it was getting to cost too much!
Gods of War: Assembling Earth’s Mightiest Antiheroes (21:19): The actors and filmmakers talk about making the film. Fascinating dialogue on how it was so imperative that West take over the directing reins from Stallone. Stallone apparently put himself through the ringer physically and mentally on the first film.
Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: The 80’s and Rise of the Action Film (24:59): Politics and the fitness craze greatly influence the action films of this decade. It details the gradual shift from the bigger than life characters like Rambo to an everyman character like John McClane.
On the Assault: The Real-Life Weaponry of The Expendables 2 (13:36): My favorite feature. Randy Couture goes to The Gun Store in Las Vegas to talk about the various weapons in the film. You get a history lesson with each gun. Couture also fires the weapons with some nifty slo-mo thrown in. This is the one you should view first.
Guns for Hire: The Real Expendables (24:19): Self explanatory. This is a feature on the various security companies and what they all do.
Deleted Scenes (4:39): 5 scenes in all. No commentary. Nothing earth shattering that was left out.
Gag Reel (5:09): Wacky hijinks that mostly entail missed lines, malfunctioning guns or faulty props.