Expendables 2 Blu-ray|
Ladies beware! There is so much testosterone present in Expendables 2 that spontaneous pregnancy may occur while watching. Not in the history of cinema have so many action stars come together to make a single motion picture. Following in the footsteps of The Dirty Dozen and the first Expendables, Sylvester Stallone brings together every action hero from the 80’s and 90’s in an over-the-top, explosive action extravaganza that will have guys cheering, drinking beer, and chest or head bumping. This is violence for the sake of violence, as is clearly evident by the opening pre-credit sequence that has more action packed into it than you saw in the entire first movie.
Somehow, between the non-stop gunfire and celebrity cameos Sly managed to work in a fairly decent story into his script – at least something more relevant and with more character arcs than the first film. Expendables 2 has a much more thought-out approach thanks in part to Stallone turning over the director's chair to Simon West; notorious for his epic action movies and his obsession with storyboarding every last detail. If nothing else, it freed Stallone to immerse himself in his Barney Ross character, leader of a band of mercenaries for hire that include; Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, and newcomer, Liam Hemsworth as Billy the Kid, sniper extraordinaire. Returning from the first film in much larger roles (but still too short in my opinion) are Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jean-Claude Van Damme also joins the cast at the quintessential villain who is actually named Vilain. And last but not least, Nan Yu joins this all-male revue as Maggie; the high-tech safe cracker who manages to save Barney’s ass a few times and possibly steal, or at least soften, his heart.
It’s a testament to the writing and the directing that all of these actors were able to fit into a single film; although sacrifices had to be made. Many actors were only available for a few days of filming and others, like Jet Li, were written out of the script early on. Arnold bookends the film with his cameos and Chuck Norris pops up in various scenes like a bearded Where’s Waldo. But in the end, the film is a huge success, both in story, characters, and classic good versus evil that culminates in an epic no-guns battle of titans.
Church (Willis) hires Barney (Stallone) to secure the contents of the safe inside a crashed aircraft, but after Maggie hacks the lock and gets the secret plans, their group is ambushed by Vilain and his crew who steals the map to five tons of weapons grade plutonium stashed deep in an abandoned Russian mine. Stallone must stop Vilain from selling the nuclear material, and along the way, free the menfolk from a nearby farming village who have been enslaved to dig in the mines. There is plenty of action, loads of amusing one-liners, many of which reference the actors’ earlier works, and plenty of heart. While nothing ever manages to top the opening action sequence, the explosive finale is worth the trip to the end and we can only hope a sequel is in the works while these guys are still able to do these kinds of movies.
Expendables 2 looks fantastic, and we get to visit many more locations than the first film, although none of them particularly warm or sunny. The overall theme of the color pallet is cold, gun metal gray with a tint of bluish-green. Nearly every outdoor scene is overcast and depressing and usually includes some sort of fog or mist. This gives the film a softer edge, but you can still appreciate the details in the close-ups. Expect plenty of Rambo style CG blood splatter and gory decaps.
If you’ve been considering an upgrade to your subwoofer then you may want to do it before watching this film. And while you’re upgrading your sound system you may want to look into the new Neo X 11.1 DTS format, as Expendables 2 is the first Blu-ray disc to support this new 12-channel mix. I was only able to enjoy my lowly DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix which still rocked my world and I suspect that of my neighbors. When the LFE wasn’t shaking the foundation you could hear every bullet whiz past and every impact in every channel, all blended with a great score filled with classic licensed tunes and an expertly mixed dialogue track that ensured I never missed a single witty word.
The bonus features are where this DVD package really shines, starting with an entertaining and informative commentary by Director, Simon West. Next up is the 21-minute casting feature, Gods of War: Assembling Earth’s Mightiest Anti-Heroes. Big Guns, Bigger Heroes is a more in-depth look at the cast as well as the origins of action heroes and their movies dating back to Ronald Reagan. On the Assault: The Real Life Weaponry of The Expendables 2 takes us to the Las Vegas Gun Store where we get to watch Randy Couture fire several of the weapons used in this movie. Guns for Hire: the Real Life Expendables is a 24-minute look at real-life mercenaries and private security firms – why didn’t my high school guidance counselor mention this? Last up are 4 minutes of Deleted Scenes and a 5-minute Gag Reel plus a Digital Copy that looks great on an iPad or iPhone – just have some good earbuds standing by.
Sure it’s mindless fun and total popcorn fare but Expendables 2 is the reason we watch action movies, and this film singlehandedly brings together nearly every significant action hero from the past 30 years and puts them on the screen, at least for a few minutes, so they can do what they do best - kill bad guys and deliver groan-worthy one-liners before the bodies hit the floor. As far as a sequel, this is a far superior film in every way to the original with a better cast, better action, and a much better story, and you won’t find a better looking or better sounding version than this stunning Blu-ray transfer – a must own title for anyone with a Y chromosome.