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December 15, 2010
The Expendables Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
12/8/201016/12/2010Village RoadshowSylvester Stallone
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1MA15+Sylvester Stallone

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Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone and Randy Couture in The Expendables.

There's no doubt that Sylvester Stallone's career has undergone a major resurgence in recent years. First was the fantastic conclusion to the Rocky franchise with Rocky, and then the action gore-fest simply titled Rambo. With The Expendables Stallone is not only surrounding himself with action stars, but also an entirely new franchise. We we excited to see the movie? Hell yes. Did it meet our expectations? You better believe it...

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) is a man with nothing to lose. Fearless and void of emotion, he is the leader of a tight-knit band of men who live on the fringe. His only attachment is to his pickup truck, his seaplane and his team of loyal modern-day warriors. The team behind him is made up of Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), former SAS and a savant with anything that has a blade; Yin Yang (Jet Li), a master at close-quarter combat; Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), who has known Barney for ten years and is a long-barrel weapons specialist; Toll Road (Randy Couture), a skilled demolitions expert and considered the intellect of the group; and Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), a combat veteran and an expert in precision sniping who struggles with his own demons.

When the mysterious Church offers Barney a job no one else would take, Barney and his team embark on what appears to be a routine mission: overthrow General Gaza (David Zayas), the murderous dictator of the small island country of Vilena and end the years of death and destruction inflicted on its people. On a reconnaissance mission to Vilena, Barney and Christmas meet their contact Sandra (Giselle Itie), a local freedom- fighter with a dark secret. They also come to learn who their true enemy is: rogue ex-CIA operative James Monroe (Eric Roberts) and his henchman Paine (Steve Austin). When things go terribly wrong, Barney and Christmas are forced to leave Sandra behind, essentially giving her a death sentence. Haunted by this failure, Barney convinces the team to return to Vilena to rescue the hostage and finish the job he started.

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Targeted with some laser sights.
One can't discuss The Expendables without first talking about the ensemble cast, and Sylvester Stallone has done a brilliant job of bringing together some of the biggest action stars of the last couple of decades. Jason Statham, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren are joined by Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts and Steve Austin. Combined these guys put more testosterone into the film then pretty much anything ever put to celluloid, and no one lets the team down. There's also a great cameo scene set in a church which I'm sure almost everyone has heard about. If you haven't I won't spoil it but needless to say it was a great couple of minutes, bringing in a couple more triple-A action heroes, and contains a one liner at the end which is just perfect if you know a little about the actors involved.

Admittedly The Expendablesthis movie doesn't have the most emotional scenes, nor some of the best acting you would have ever seen, but let's face it, you're not here for some mushy heartfelt storyline. You want action, and that's what you'll get. From the opening scene with the very first gunshot and the enemy torn in half you'll know what to expect - unrelenting, over the top, violence and gore. Admittedly the bulk of the film isn't overly gory, but when the action heats up I can only say that Stallone is one of the best action directors in the world today. He doesn't hold back, and the movie is all the better for it.

If there is one minor complaint it's that Stallone promised this would be an action movie in the same fashion as those old-school action movies from the 1980's when CG in films was still an extreme rarity. Sadly there is some CG in this film, but more disappointingly Stallone has moved to some of the quick-cutting and shaky cam in man of the action sequences which seems to be a "requirement" these days - and I wish he hadn't made the change. Sure, it makes the scenes more frantic but it's a technique which sucks and disorientates the audience rather then showing off their real skills. I mean we all know Jet Li is a great martial artist, and Steve Austin could wrestle anyone to death, why not show it?

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Jet Li is really only half a man!
If you're like action movies, and I'm talking to both guys and girls here, then The Expendables must be on your shopping list. It's got plenty of action sequences and a list of movie starts that puts every other ensemble cast to shame. I've seen this movie several times now, and my enjoyment isn't diminishing. This is a fantastic action movie.

The Expendables is presented on Blu-Ray in the films original 2.40:1 aspect ratio using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and the transfer does the film justice. As expected the films is free of any major blemishes such as dirt or scratches, however we did find the grain levels a little inconsistent and some of the black levels don't allow for some of the fine details. Still, with the video often reaching well over 30Mbps this film, with a vast majority of scenes taking place at night or in poorly lit (deliberately) locations, this Blu-Ray holds up very well indeed. It's not quite reference quality, but it's not far off.

While the movie itself and video quality manages to impress, the audio steps it up to another level and is set to blow you away. The films audio has been recorded using a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (24-bit/48Khz) track and as expected it's a cracker with plenty of aggressive use of surround sound channels and enough LFE to rattle the foundations of your neighbours house! This really is a reference quality movie when it comes to the audio experience.

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The Expendables is out now on Blu-Ray.
The only other audio tracks are an English Descriptive or straight English Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks both encoded at 192kbps. Unless you're only running on headphones or a limited setup we'd suggest you stick to the lossless audio track. Also pretty barren is the subtitle offering which is limited to an English Descriptive Subtitle for the Hearing Impaired which is coloured and placed on the screen according to the person talking in the movie. We sampled the subtitles and didn't note any issues or shortening from on-screen dialogue.

This is where we have some major disappointments with the Australian release. The American version of this Blu-Ray (which is region locked we must point out) includes a 90 minute documentary called "Inferno: The Making of The Expendables" which is apparently one of the best "Making of" documentaries ever seen on DVD or Blu-Ray. Also we believe some of these extras were presented in HD in America, but not on our version. Still there's quite a few extras on this disc which would stand up well against many other releases.

Ultimate Recon Mode: An Interactive BonusView Viewing Experience (HD): This is essentially a Picture-in-Picture mode which doesn't provide a continuous commentary but does at various points in the film have pop-ups showing some behind the scenes moments, or may even see the film paused to point out some interesting moments (the runtime increases by around 18 minutes to 121 minutes due to these pauses). It's quite interesting overall and worth a look on the second or third run-through of the film.

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Going through waterboarding torture!
Audio Commentary with Sylvester Stallone: There's no denying that Sly loves making movies be it in front or behind the cameras and this commentary is well and truly worth a listen as he has plenty of information to impart about the creation of this film.

"From the Ashes: Postproduction and Release" Documentary (26:36): Thankfully our Blu-Ray release includes this brilliant documentary which looks at the films post production including the editing process, creating the musical score, sound editing and promoting the movie for release. It really is a great look at the amount of work that goes into a production with Stallone providing a great insight into his process. Sadly it's only presented in Standard Definition which disappoints somewhat but otherwise this is essential viewing.

Comic-Con 2010 Panel (45:33): Hosted by Harry Knowles (he from AICN) this Comic-Con panel shot just prior to the films release is an entertaining interview with Terry Crewes, Steve Austin, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture in which they provide some insight into the film and working together. Sadly this is only presented in Standard Definition (although admittedly the bump to HD won't add too much as there is no on-set footage) and there is a brief audio glitch in the first few seconds.

Deleted Scene (0:44): One short deleted scene with Dolph Lundgren from the opening of the movie. Probably for the best it was taken out actually.

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The outside scenes look superb.
Gag Reel (5:02/HD): Some Gag Reels are pretty crappy, but this one is fairly good with plenty of mistakes and errors on set rather than goofing around.

Marketing Archive: This section includes the films promotional materials such as TV Spots (3:11), Teaser Trailer (0:47/HD), Theatrical Trailer (2:27/HD) which even has DTS-HD audio and three posters.

The Expendables is a testosterone filled action fest which brings together some of todays, and yesterdays, best action stars. It's often violent, occasionally amusing, and provides a couple of hours of thrills. The transfer to Blu-Ray is superb, and the extras also impressive, although the omission of the Inferno documentary is bitterly disappointing. Still, this action movie is an essential purchase.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.