HTS Moderator , Reviewer
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9847[/img]Title: The Expendables 2
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jean Claude Van-Damme, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Terry Crews
Directed by: Simon West
Written by: Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone
Studio: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Runtime: 102 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 20th, 2012
HTS Overall Score:84.5
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]I have to mention this first and foremost: “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 was perfectly replicated on disc, but it doesn’t look the prettiest for those of you who want a demo disc. The colors are bright and replicated perfectly; the film has a bit of an orange/yellow hue to it, which tends to lend a gritty, sandy look to the film. Facial detail is excellent, as long as we’re not focusing on our aging heroes; long shots are really where this movie shines. Detail is exceptional on vehicles, clothing, and wide sweeping action shots where the artificial smoothing wasn’t employed. Blacks are excellent - no black crushing, and nice detailed shadows are replicated for our viewing pleasure. It's a mixed bag due to some directorial decisions, but a very serviceable transfer from Lionsgate, devoid of artifacts.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9846[/img]The audio track for “Expendables 2” is the A-1 sauce of the audio world: big, bold and spicy! Saying that it is an aggressive track is an understatement. On a scale of 1 to 10, it scores at about a 12. It starts out with an immersive battle scene and doesn’t let up the whole movie. Sucking you into the battle scenes and kicking you around the whole time, the track is a delight to listen to. Bullets wiz by your ears every 3 seconds, and the explosions are all encompassing; mix that with excellent use of the surrounds, and this track feels like a whirlwind with the viewer in the middle. Dialogue is crisp and clean as it should be and centered right in the middle. LFE is amazing; I was expecting a more “bloated” track being how aggressive it is, but the bass is clean, tight and low. The only complaint with the bass is that I felt there could have been a TAD more output in the opening scene. Other than that, it takes off like a rocket and doesn’t let up the whole movie. My only real complaint with the track is more of a technical one, rather than an enjoyment factor. The dynamic range is pretty much nonexistent. The track stays at 11 the whole movie so even the dialogue is maxed out volume wise. However, for a movie that specializes in big guns, big guys, and lots of explosions, it’s just what the doctor ordered. On a side note, this is the first track that is 7.1 encoded, but optimized for 11.1 playback. I'm pretty sure only one or two people out there have the equipment to play it back at full 11.1, but it's always nice when the studios push the envelope.
• 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. Add in the solid video and absolutely wild, in-your-face, audio, and it’s every guys dream come true. Highly recommended.
Buy The Expendables 2 on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It!