First things first. Yes, we have already reviewed The Expendables on Blu-Ray. Our biggest complaint through was that we didn't get the Inferno documentary on the disc. This release is interesting in that Village Roadshow have added in the Inferno documentary, but dropped out all the other extras as well as changing the sound format leaving positives and negatives to each release so far. Anyway here's our review of the Inferno Edition...
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.
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 (or hard drive in this digital era), 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.
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 many 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 the actors 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?
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.
"Inferno: The Making of The Expendables" (1:31:56): Finally Australian's can see exactly why American's have been raving about this documentary. Indeed it's probably one of the rawest, most interesting, behind the scenes looks at the making of a movie that we have ever seen. Stallone provides comments throughout the 91 minute runtime, but there is extensive on-set footage showing setups, interactions with actors and much of the filmmaking process. Stallone has some interesting stories related to his other movies too, including a fascinating one about his complete disliking of First Blood before some major changes were made to the film.
The Expendables Inferno Edition is such a hard release to recommend. If you bought the first release you really have the best transfer of the film, especially audio wise with the 7.1 mix, however you miss out on one of the best behind-the-scenes docos ever put to disc. If you buy this Inferno Edition you get that doco, but miss out on the others. This really is a case of needing to own both releases to see everything. The original release has better sound and some nice extras in itself, but this second release has a great behind the scenes doco. Why Village Roadshow couldn't bundle it all together as they did in America (and as the first release) is baffling. It's your choice...
Review By: Dave Warner