HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Expendables 2
HTS Overall Score:84
I was slightly surprised when last years 4K edition of "The Expendables 3" wasn't accompanied by the release of the first 2. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for the previous two to make their way to 4K UHD as well, or maybe even a trilogy set, but for some reason Lionsgate decided to wait on these two and instead put them out over a year later. "The Expendables III" suffered from a very nasty looking 4K UHD encode as well as being the worst of the series so I was DEFINITELY hoping that there would be some more TLC given to these two, and I was right. They seem to be a bit better looking AND have an upgrade to Dolby Atmos as well.
It is no secret that Sylvester Stallone’s “Expendables” (the first feature) did not live up to the hype that surrounded it. It was fraught with excessive shaky cam fight scenes, punctuated by some wildly unrealistic CGI blood, and cursed with a main plot to which even an Arnie fan would roll his eyes. While it wasn’t a bad movie by any means, it just wasn’t the great throwback to the 80’s as was the original intent. Now, a few years later, Stallone has handed off directorial reigns to Simon West, albeit he still has some heavy input into the film. What we have here still carries the heart and soul of the original movie, but with some heavy changes that drastically alter the feel and enjoyment level from the first film.
Church (Bruce Willis), our resident creep of a CIA agent from the first movie, is back in town and leverages Barney Ross (Stallone) to undertake a top secret mission to retrieve a mysterious black box from a crashed plane. Seems like a walk in the park, right? However, as with all “easy” sounding missions things go haywire. Someone else is after the black box - Jean Vilain, a resident psychopath, intercepts them and ends up killing the youngest of their crew, Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) as an object lesson. It seems that Church was hiding a few things from Barney. It turns out that the black box is a map to a secret stash of plutonium that Vilain plans on excavating and selling to the highest bidder. Filled with rage, Barney and the rest of the Expendables embark on a mission of revenge to get the plutonium and kill Vilain, figuring out the rest as they go. Along the way, they engage copious amounts of Vilain’s minions and pick up some unexpected allies in the form of Booker “the Lone Wolf” (Norris) and Trench (Arnie), as well as the enigmatic Church, to help them stop Vilain’s evil machinations.
I enjoyed the first “Expendables” movie; it wasn’t the greatest of action films, but it had its moments. “Expendables 2,” on the other hand, I absolutely LOVED. I ended up watching it 3 times in theaters plus having to review it on my projector. After watching it the first time, I noticed some extra chest hair growing, but now, after so many viewings, my chest looks like Kelsey Grammar's, and I have the insatiable urge to go out and eat a raw 5-pound steak while working out to the “Rocky” theme song. Yes, this movie is a PROPER throwback to the good old days of action movies where men didn’t need stunt doubles to do every single fight scene and had the muscles to ACTUALLY pick up throw a grown man through a window. Basically, a classic action movie filled with guns, knives, explosions, more guns, and about enough steroid use to condemn an entire football team. Back are the towering hulks with big guns, big chests and even bigger one liners. Gone are the shaky cam and “10 million cuts per second” that plagued the first movie, which result in some truly impressive fight scenes. Jasan Statham and an underutilized Scott Adkins go at each other in one of the movie's most impressive martial arts scenes. Jet Li’s character only makes a cameo at the beginning of the movie as a favor to Stallone, but still manages to muster up an impressive fight scene between himself and 3 other minions.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9849[/img]“The Expendables 2” doesn’t take itself nearly as serious as the first outing tried to. I mean, the main villain’s name is VILAIN, for crying out loud. Actors make fun of each other’s trade mark one liners like it’s going out of style, and Chuck Norris himself actually cracks a Chuck Norris joke. The tongue is so firmly planted in cheek that I don’t think it will ever be extracted. With all the cheese and humor in the film, it still manages to keep the explosions and violence ramped up to an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. The actors really went through the ringer to bring their aging bodies to peak physical performance in all possible ways. Dolph is the biggest I’ve seen him in years since his bout with cancer, and Stallone is even more jacked, if that’s possible, than he was in the first “Expendables.” Jean Claude Van-Damme stole the show, however. Stallone asked Van-Damme to really get into shape for this movie, and Van-Damme went all out. He’s always been extremely muscular, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen him THIS big. Even his triceps had triceps! Gone is the gritty, worn down hero/anti-hero that Van-Damme has been playing for the last 7 or 8 years. Instead, he brings back that trademark panache and charisma that I’ve felt has been sorely missing from his recent outings. Vilain is an over-the-top villain, and Van-Damme hams it up, cracking one liners, laughing manically, and pretty much doing everything but twirling his imaginary mustache. Lundgren has been in the same boat as Van-Damme in that he’s been relegated to cheap direct to video movies, but he’s always had a magnetic charisma that allows him to rise above the other actors in his films. Crews and Randy Couture are the weakest of the bunch due to not being very well fleshed out, but they do a solid job as the hulking beefcakes who can unleash incredible amounts of damage. Last, but not least, Arnie and Willis are back with more than the just the bit parts they played in the first movie. Arnold almost seems to be a parody of himself, while Willis channels John McClane in an absolutely epic final battle scene. Even Chuck Norris makes a cameo appearance that had me rolling on the floor (and he even had the best kill in the whole movie), which was unexpected from how little he actually filmed. Overall, this movie was a BLAST from beginning to end. It’s not Citizen Kane, it’s not Lawrence of Arabia, but had me grinning from ear to ear and wishing that I could just see it one more time. It does what it sets out to do, and that was entertain those of us who long for a day where action stars aren’t Matt Damon and Jeremy Renner, where guns don’t run out of bullets, and our testosterone level increases just by watching the film.
Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9845[/img]Just like I said in my review of the Blu-ray, “The Expendables 2” had a lot of post processing done to the film to smooth out all the wrinkles and age marks that they could from our beloved, but ancient, action stars. As a result, they add in some unnatural film grain to balance out the smoothness, and that resulted in a very uneven picture with some scenes being great and crisp with natural film grain, and others looking wildly over grained and kind of waxy on close-ups. It was like this in the theater, and the 4K UHD was taken from that same 2K DI that the Blu-ray enjoyed and has upconverted it to 4K. As a result the uptick in quality is not THAT noticeable. There is some definite increases to the depth of the colors as the HDR makes them pop and shine a bit more, but the dingy underground sequences and the textural qualities that we notice in 4K vs 2K comparisons just wasn't very noticeable. Compression looks a little better, and shadow detail is nicer, so it's not as if the 4K isn't and upgrade. It most certainly is, it's just that the leap isn't as substantial as the leap in other catalog titles (although it does look a LOT better than the very crummy 4K UHD encode of "The Expendables 3".
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9846[/img]Oh yeah, THIS is where the goodies are. The DTS-HD MA track on the Blu-ray was an awesome, punch you in your face audio track that was just a treat to listen to, and the Atmos upgrade makes it all the more sweet. The rip roaring intensity of the track makes for the perfect object oriented type of audio mix as bullets wiz by over your head and the explosions rock the directionality of the mix with some incredibly immersive moments. The use of the overheads is fantastic, with discrete noises that you pinpoint as well as a few atmospheric effects that are softer and more subtle the ear. The level of immersion and feeling of being in the CENTER of the action is second to none and put this big sloppy smile on my face the whole time. LFE is still incredibly powerful, rocking you back in your seat with deep explosions and the dull thud of heavy caliber bullets. As I mentioned with my Blu-ray review, the dynamic range isn't going to be very wide. They cranked up the loudness on the track to level 11 and just lets it sit that way the whole movie. It's aggressive, powerful and just punishing in it's brutality, but the Atmos track is the pinnacle of the entire package and a wonderful listen for those who love big, dumb action tracks.
• Audio Commentary with Director Simon West
• Gods of War: Assembling Earth's Mightiest Anti-Heroes
• Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: The 1980's and the Rise of the Action Film
• On the Assault: The Real Life Weaponry of "The Expendables 2"
• Guns for Hire: the Real Life Expendables
• Deleted Scenes
• Gag Reel
“The Expendables 2” does what few sequels actually can do, and that is surpassing its predecessor in every way. We have more 80’s cheese, more guns, more girls, and even more actors. Gone are the over-dramatic and over-emotional themes of the first film, replaced with not being more than what it is: a wild nostalgic romp for some aging actors and aging viewers to enjoy. It doesn’t pander to the PG-13 crowd to try and bring in as many viewers as possible, but revels in the over-the-top, excessive action violence of the 80’s. It may not be 100% perfect, but “The Expendables 2” accomplished what it set out to do, entertain us, and for that I’m completely satisfied in my viewing experience. Now the question you're all going to be asking is "Should I upgrade my Blu-ray to this version"? Well, that's a tougher question than some other catalog titles. The 4K UHD video encode IS a slight improvement to the Blu-ray, that's for sure, but it's not a demo quality image by any stretch of the imagination. The REAL upgrade is going to be the audio track. The DTS-HD MA track was a kicker back when the Blu-ray came out but the increase to Atmos is actually quite noticeable, even when I put it on my 7.1 setup to compare it against the Blu-ray track I felt it warranted the upgrade. So if you aren't too worried about getting reference video but DO want the upgraded audio, then by all means, upgrade away. Otherwise it might be a little dicier if you're basing the upgrade-ability on the video side of the equation.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham
Directed by: Simon West
Written by: Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 HEVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), Spanish DD 5.1, English 2.0 DD (optimized for night listening)
Runtime: 102 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 2nd, 2017
Buy The Expendables 2 On 4k Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Great Watch
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