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.
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?
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.
"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.
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.
Review By: Dave Warner