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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

Studio Name: Lionsgate (Millenium Films/Nu Image)
MPAA Rating: R
Disc/Transfer Information: Widescreen 2.40:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (tested in 5.1 configuration)
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Starring Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis


One burning, unyielding question before we begin: What is going on with Sly Stallone’s eyebrows?

Regardless of the shame in lassoing together a group of well-known stars competing for screen time and dialogue attention (normally always a recipe for disaster), Stallone’s The Expendables is clearly the action film of the whole year – and what a way to bring 2010 to a close. The fight sequences in this – notably the last one in which all these guys are battling it out with corrupt South American soldier warriors – and the gunfire choreography are downright stunning…the issue is Stallone’s insistence since signing a filmmaking contract with Lionsgate in making every piece of cinema feel like his latest rendition of Rambo while simultaneously appearing in every character like his boxing legend portrayal in Rocky Balboa (read: Those eyebrows and ragged, weathered facial skin).

This was a bold move for Mr. ”Yo! Adrian!” in that his decision to bring together so many actors in one film could have been majorly disastrous – interesting was his novelty nod of sorts in working once again with Dolph “Ivan Drago” Lundgren, and when these two are onscreen together, you can’t help but make Rocky IV comparisons when they were in that ring in Russia standing toe to toe at the end of that film. The first thing that strikes you right over the head after getting introduced to all the characters of The Expendables is just how old all these guys are getting…Stallone’s leather-like weathered face, drawn mouth lines and disgustingly bulging veins in his arms are making him just…well…age badly visually, beyond the embarrassingly cheesy sequences in Rocky Balboa which depicted him lifting weights despite arthritic limbs and joints. Then we have the problem of Mickey Rourke, who is really only in this for window dressing purposes – his ex-operative-turned-tattoo-parlor-owner character looks exactly as he did in Iron Man 2 as the villain Ivan Vanko, right down to his streaked, greasy looking hair, goatee and glasses. Was this guy filming these in unison? Also getting old and a bit long in the tooth is Jet Li – I respect Stallone’s decision in using him here, as he can kick booty with the best of them, but Li just doesn’t entertain like he used to. Remember Lethal Weapon 4? Or what about Cradle 2 The Grave? Was Li the ultimate fearsome villain in Lethal Weapon 4 or what? Here, he’s good, but he’s just showing his age.

Actually, the one that steals the show here and does the most hind kicking is Jason Statham’s character – boy, does this guy take care of business, mopping the floor with bad guy after bad guy, using his special combat training to beat the living whoha out of all moos this side of a Seagal film. A particular sequence involving an ex girlfriend and a new guy that slapped her around was beyond engaging, as Statham’s character finds this guy on a basketball court and leaves him and his buddies nearly for dead. I’ll get to that. We even have “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, a former wrestling superstar back when the WWE/WWF had some life left to it with guys like him and The Rock, who portrays indeed a stone cold bodyguard/assassin for Eric Roberts’ villain character. Want some more star studded hoopla? Arnold “The Terminator” makes a brief appearance to exchange in some funny banter with Stallone’s character, plus Bruce Willis is mixed in for good measure, portraying the CIA operative who hires Stallone’s rogue band of mercenaries to do a job for him in South America.

The plot of this film gets convoluted and loses focus in so many areas, particularly around the storyline involving Roberts and some South American general’s daughter, and the connection they all have to Willis’ CIA position – to be honest, it seemed like we were going around in circles for awhile watching this. But that’s not really what you’re going to plug this into your Blu-ray player for…you’re in it for the action, and Stallone gives it to you in spades. Stallone’s character is the tattooed leader of a bunch of muscle-headed ex-special operatives (well, aside from Jet Li who more than once pokes fun at his own size, as does Lundgren in a comical fight sequence between them) that meet at Mickey Rourke’s tattoo parlor; apparently, Rourke is now retired from this dangerous game, and spends his time inking up local tough guys and dating gorgeous blondes. Additionally, Rourke’s character doesn’t seem to be any more than an emotionally supportive element for Stallone’s screenplay in that he doesn’t go on missions with the guys any longer, but instead offers heartfelt advice about women and life to Stallone. The opening sequence of the film depicts the group arriving on the scene of a hostage situation, in which the boys take out a bunch of what appears to be Jamaican kingpins holding people to gunpoint. Stallone develops the characters wisely here, depicting their hardcore awesome style while interjecting humorous dialogue between them. From here, the action shifts to South America after Stallone’s character is propositioned by Willis’ character in a church to do a job down there involving taking out a dictator and his ruthless army.

Initially, Stallone and Statham go down to survey the situation and think about whether they want to do the job, but they end up getting involved in trouble right away after this dictator’s daughter makes contact with them and before they know it, has them locked in firefights and wild chases.

Basically, in a nutshell, from here on in, Stallone and his boys come back to South America to finish this job that ends up not being about the money, but about saving this girl from the clutches of the evil regimes and such down there; the idea is clichéd and corny and Stallone doesn’t quite execute it right, but the action set pieces more than make up for this weak script – Roberts plays a convincing villain, as he did in The Dark Knight, and Steve Austin is simply over the top as Roberts’ bodyguard, not speaking much but greatly feared as an awesome fighter with seemingly unlimited strength. The hand to hand combat and fight sequences between Austin and Stallone were some of the wildest ever put to celluloid, the two of these muscle headed freaks pummeling each other until they’re bloody pulp. In the meanwhile, the acrobatics and martial arts exhibited by the other guys in Stallone’s gang, specifically Jet Li and Jason Statham, are absolutely jaw dropping as these guys take out the dictator/general’s legion of soldiers and Roberts’ guys one by one in breathtaking action shots.

In the midst of all this chaos is a subplot involving Lundgren’s character and the possibility of his being a traitor to Stallone and his own men plus the aforementioned exciting sequence in which Statham’s character visits his gorgeous girlfriend only to find her with another man – when he later finds out she’s been smacked around by this guy, he tracks him down on a nearby basketball court and beats him and his buddies nearly to death in a great nail-biting scene guaranteed to get you on the edge of the seat.

On the surface, The Expendables seems like it just wouldn’t work – I mean, Stallone, Lundgren, Austin, Statham and Jet Li working together as some tough guy circus? Most of these guys should be drinking Metamucil and looking at Depends…but surprisingly, the end result was loaded with exciting action and didn’t disappoint on that front. There were a ton of plot holes you couldn’t even stuff up with Jennifer Lopez’s derriere, plus disappointing, empty “performances” by Willis, “The Governator” and Rourke, but the film as a whole wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected.

If nothing else, it was cool to see Lundgren and Stallone on the screen together again, albeit as two aging prunes.


Shot in a 2.40:1 frame, Stallone’s The Expendables comes from Lionsgate as a mostly solid effort – of course, the usual brightly lit, outdoor sequences exploded with detail and color, and the close-ups of characters’ faces were astounding in how the 1080p encode brought out the blemishes of these aging action stars. Unfortunately, this was also the downfall of the transfer in many ways, in that we don’t really need to see every bump, mole, nick and crevice on the faces of old war horses like Stallone and Rourke – and this transfer exposed them in all their nauseating glory. There was one sequence in particular that oozed with eye popping detail and clarity – well, actually, it was more like a moment, when Stallone’s character is in South America talking with the dictator’s daughter, and he looks towards the sky. This brief clip really showed the scope of the 2.40:1 frame, displaying the striking contrast in the blue and cloud mixed sky beyond, the dazzling greens of the fields behind the characters and an overall depth and immersion that’s difficult to explain.

Black levels exhibited minor moments of crush, but other sequences displayed solid shadow detail. There were moments during the transfer in which a foggy, wispy softness crept into the image, rendering the overall effect a bit…well…soft, and un-high-def-like, but I am chalking this up to photography issues/choices, and not necessarily a fault of Lionsgate’s transfer.


With all the hoopla swirling around the surround enthusiast camps with regard to which A/V receiver or processor manufacturer is going to launch the unit with the most available amp channels – compounded by the explosion of the “height” and “width” channel algorithms and support – one would think the latest media would be coming out in 11.1 channels on the soundtrack side. Amazingly, the staple 5.1 arrangement soldiers on, accounting for nearly every new release with regard to their accompanying soundtrack mix – here, Lionsgate has included a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track in English, which was collapsed In my system for 5.1. No matter, the sonic mayhem that you’d expect to parallel the visual mayhem on the disc was here in spades, albeit with that “restrained” quality Lionsgate seems to release their titles with.

It’s not something I can readily explain in words, and it’s very tempting to of course jump to blame my setup and gear – but there’s just something “off” about most of the Lionsgate tracks I review. Now, this could possibly be due to the “dumbing down” effect of going from a 7.1 channel encode to a 5.1 variant, but I don’t put a lot of stock in something like this accounting for what I actually experience. The effect is akin to as if there’s a sonic blanket on the audio, not really allowing it to open up and breathe – don’t get me wrong, The Expendables’ audio track wasn’t lacking. There was just something that could have given it a bit more kick.

At any rate, all the variables are here for a memorable action experience – the gunfire, score, explosions, plane flyovers…all these elements are thrown into the appropriate channels by this Master Audio mix, making good use of the rear soundstage to fortify the onscreen action. Dialogue wasn’t a problem – but I did find this to be an issue on the other disc I demoed before this, Warner Bros.’ Inception, which I am reviewing next. Getting back to The Expendables, the Master Audio track was pretty much explosive from beginning to end, really opening up and strutting its stuff during the final action sequences involving the renegade mercenaries and Roberts’ bad guys. Here, audible lunacy ran wild, what with shattering glass, zinging bullets and pounding machine gun fire and percussive explosions wrapping around the soundstage in quite the coherent manner.


Ultimate Recon Mode; Audio Commentary; Inferno: The Making of The Expendables; From The Ashes: Postproduction and Release Documentary; Comic-Con 2010 Panel; Deleted Scene; Gag Reel; Marketing Archive


Good, solid, braindead action – and I vote it action film of the year. As for a buy – well, the verdict is still out on that one in my household. Discussing it with my wife, we just don’t know if this was worthy of a purchase, regardless of the mind numbing action sets; it was good, just not that memorable…that may be a bit harsh, and I don’t mean to make it seem that way, but give it a rental and tell me what you think.

2,264 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Has anyone seen this yet?
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