The Expendables (2010)
By: Devon B. on September 20, 2012 | Comments
Lionsgate | Region B | 2.40:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 7.1 | 103 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts
Screenplay: Sylvester Stallone
Country: USA
External Links
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Back in 2010 I went to see a movie I wasn't sure if I would like, but it turned out to be a great action film that drew inspiration from the 80s. It was hilariously over the top, and immediately made me want to revisit the material that had inspired it. So I bought The A-Team box set. When I left the A-Team screening, I said, "Wow, that was exactly what I've been hoping The Expendables will be like." A few months later, I got to see The Expendables. I'd been looking forward to it for ages, so I was eager for a viewing experience as awesome as The A-Team. I didn't get that.

The Expendables had been building my anticipation because it was a new movie that starred Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Gary Daniels and Dolph Lundgren. Plus there were going to be appearances by Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolph Lundgren. It was my first time seeing a Dolph Lundgren movie in the cinema, so I was pretty hyped up.

The film revolves around an elite team, highly skilled but struggling. Lundgren's strung out, Statham's partner has left him, Li's too short (or so he says), Couture has cauliflower ear and Stallone has Marlene Dietrich eyebrows. In fact, it's really only Crews whose keeping his shit together. The team's latest assignment is to overthrow a dictator of a small island nation. The odds are against the team, but Stallone decides to defy said odds when he falls for a young woman in peril. I hoped it was some sort of paternal protection feeling he was having, but some dialogue implies it's another case of a love interest that could be the granddaughter of the star.

I was a bit disappointed with The Expendables the first time I saw it, but it did improve on my second viewing. I liked that it was meant to be a new movie with 80s sensibilities, but it seemed more like it had 90s sensibilities. It also seemed like Stallone forgot to write a script. I know a lot of action movies have dumb scripts, but trying to be deliberately dumb requires a degree of cleverness.like in The A-Team.

The Expendables' story takes a long detour with Stallone and Stratham's characters, which turns the middle into more of a buddy picture than anything else. This leaves a lot of the other characters coming and going, and some parts, like the Willis and Schwarzenegger cameos, feel very forced. After Stallone and Statham go off on their adventure, the others in the team have to make up for lost screen time with some very strained characterisation. Statham's character is also saddled with a frustratingly simplistic romantic subplot, which results in Statham getting some of the biggest cringe worthy moments.

While the script needed another draft or three, the action is the main draw here. There are some good set pieces in The Expendables, but much has been made about the film being too frenzied to follow. I really only found this to be the case twice. The first instance is unfortunately the Lundgren vs Li showdown, which is a poorly edited jumble. The second, and far worse, instance comes during the climax. Different characters get involved in concurrent fights, and the rapid editing between the different battles makes this section downright incoherent. Admittedly Stallone seemed to be struggling with effectively filming the hand-to-hand combat in other scenes, but it is really just these two portions that are too frantic for the film's own good. I think Stallone was trying to keep energy levels up with quick, disorienting edits, but the film careened out of control in a few places because of them.

Those sequences aside, there is some great stuff on display. The film has some clichéd elements and some super corny dialogue, but oddly some of these things fit in perfectly and make the movie more enjoyable. Practical effects are utilised wherever possible, and the film is brimming with gunfire, explosions and fisticuffs. Lundgren makes a strong impression right away with a great gag, and despite only being on screen a few minutes Willis shows that he'd make a great main villain in this sort of film. Mickey Rourke and David Zayas are also on hand to give a bit more acting cred, but Eric Roberts is present too so he takes that cred away.

I've spent the last few hundred words griping about how the film wasn't as good as it could've been, and it's not, but that doesn't mean it's bad. I don't know that anything could've lived up to The Expendables expectation, and on my revisit I liked it a lot more. It's still dumb, but at least it's dumb fun.
Video
The movie has quite a few dark scenes, and they're all handled impeccably. There's a little trailing and a touch of edge enhancement here and there, but detail remains strong and the film often pops.
Audio
The audio is a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, and it is reference quality. The movie is loud, with deep rumbles, bullets spraying past, knives slicing the air, engulfing explosions and circling planes.
Extra Features
This three disc set has a lot of extras, but sadly is missing a pretty important one. On the Blu-ray, the trailer for Drive Angry plays on start up. The viewer has the option to watch the film in Recon mode, which is mostly an audio commentary with some video commentary added and occasional snippets of extra footage. This is mostly Stallone talking, so it overlaps with his normal commentary, but swapping between the two will reveal there are some differences. Stallone "loves" a lot of the film, and defends the writing and dialogue. Sometimes he points out the obvious, but he knows a lot about movie making, so he's worth listening to. Lundgren makes a brief appearance, which is always a plus, and Stallone says he thinks Lundgren's character is a new sort of role for Dolph, but I disagree because the character reminded me a lot of Lundgren's character from Universal Soldier. He gets a chance to come into his own in the sequel, though. Stallone also mentions that he went to great effort to do things in the film that could be accomplished in the real world, even if accomplishing all of them would be pretty implausible. There's also a post production diary that focuses on the editing and the music. This diary shows footage from the comic con panel that a lot of the cast attended, which leads me to my one complaint about this release…where's that panel? It's on the US Blu-ray, but it's M.I.A. here. Fortunately not missing are the gag reel, which features a lot of Willis given his small amount of screen time; the trailer; TV spots; a small poster gallery and a deleted scene. The scene is only about 45 seconds, but it's 45 Lundgren related seconds so it's good to see. The Blu also has LG Live, D-box and BD Touch extras, but I don't have any of that shit enabled.

This set also comes with a DVD of the film, but the DVD version is censored (the Blu is uncut) which makes its inclusion completely superfluous. It has a 15 minute making of, which is essentially Inferno lite.

Speaking of which, the third disc is another DVD that has Inferno, the feature length making of that was left off the first Australian Blu-ray release. Inferno is not the usual behind the scenes fluff piece, and doesn't portray Stallone as a bastion of sunshine and light. He's shown to be fair and thoughtful, but he has a drive to achieve, and he pushes himself very hard to reach his goals and wants others to work hard with him. Stallone copped a few serious injuries on set and kept going, hypothesising at one point that him drawing blood helps his movies. The documentary also shows Stallone willing to improvise and run with ideas, and has a few touches of humour like Stallone's reaction to some choreography he's meant to learn quickly. There is behind the scenes footage of the Big Three's scene, and Stallone says they probably won't appear like that again. Thankfully he was very wrong there.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
The Expendables felt a bit like a missed opportunity, but it laid the groundwork for its fantastic sequel, and is still entertaining in its own right. There're a lot of different versions of The Expendables out there, and I got this one because it's Region B, a steelbook, has the 7.1 mix and includes Inferno. However, there are releases where Inferno is in HD, and the additional extras found on the US release for both the theatrical and extended cuts of The Expendables mean that people should import the Region A releases if they're able to play them. The transfer of the film is top notch, but this release, and it would seem all Region B releases, are not as good as the Region A counterpart, so I'm docking points off the score.

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