The Expendables 2 Blu-Ray Review
|30/8/2012||27/12/2012||Village Roadshow||Simon West|
|AVC MPEG-4||DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
DTS Neo: X 11.1
|Schwarzenegger, Willis and Stallone together.|
Growing up as a teenager in the 80's and 90's I was very much in love with action movies, with Arnold Schwarzenegger being my childhood (and now adulthood) hero. But my movie viewing experience were also filled with Stallone, Willis, Norris and Van Damme movies so having all these actors together in a single film is pretty much a childhood dream of mine. The Expendables was a film I very much enjoyed a couple of years ago, but with the promise of more Arnie and Bruce this time around I was more than keen to see this film when it cinemas. The result; I loved the film. It was everything hoped for and then some.
The Expendables are reunited when Mr. Church enlists them to take on a seemingly simple job. When things go wrong, the Expendables are compelled to seek revenge in hostile territory, where the odds are stacked against them. Hell-bent on payback, the crew cuts a swath of destruction through opposing forces, wreaking havoc and shutting down an unexpected threat in the nick of time - five tons of weapons-grade plutonium, more than enough to change the balance of power in the world.
So this is the best action movie ever made right? Well no, it's not. The stars are aging, we've seen better action set pieces in other films, and the plot isn't anything out of the ordinary. But this film is FUN. The actors seem to be having a good time together, there are plenty of nods to their earlier action films, and yar, it's still an solid action film overall.
|Of course there's brilliant explosions.|
The newcomers have variable roles and performances. Liam Hemsworth, in one of his first major roles, shows he's a pretty fine actor with a great performance retelling his past while travelling in the plane. Chuck Norris though was a bit disappointing - besides a rather plastic looking face (and we're sure it's not due to DNR) - he has very limited screen time, although his entrance to the film is pretty epic. It's Jean-Claude Van Damme that stole the show for us - in fact he steals the whole film - with a brilliant performance as the main villain which is something the first film lacked.
As you may have heard both Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger were only on-set for 4 days each for this film, but I was genuinely surprised, and impressed with how much screen time each of them received - especially during the action sequences. Perhaps more disappointing though was Jet Li who, after some brutal opening scenes, exits the film never to be seen again. His character, Yin Yang, was one of our favourites from the original film so only having him here for little more than a cameo was disappointing. Hopefully he'll return for The Expendables 3 (and speaking of which there are strong rumours that Mickey Rourke will return and newcomers may include Jackie Chan, Nic Cage, Harrison Ford, Steven Segal and/or Wesley Snipes).
If I was to pick a couple of small gripes with the film, and these are very minor, I think the director (and writers in Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone) tried to push too many one-liners into the film with reference back to the stars earlier action films. Sure, they're funny, but perhaps a little too frequent. Also disappointing is that the opening sequence was probably more exciting than the film’s final action set piece in the airport with the climactic fight also a little too brief.
|Expendables share some good times at a bar.|
If you liked the first film, then this sequel offers much more in almost all areas and while the writers and director push too many one liners at times, all the actors seem to be having plenty of fun here. Definitely one for action fans to check out.
The video transfer in this release is also very impressive, although we did notice some minor issues which we'll get to soon. Encoded at the films original 2.40:1 aspect ratio using the AVC MPEG-4 codec the opening action sequence sees a massive amount of detail an clarity, albeit with some variable levels of grain (the scenes with close-ups of Gunner in the truck demonstrate a little more grain then some other close-ups but it just demonstrates this film hasn't been smothered with DNR to reduce grain, and thereby detail.
During this sequence, and indeed through much of the film our PS3 showed a bitrate almost constantly around 35- 39Mbps which gives the video plenty of room to breathe. Colour reproduction is impressive - while much of the film takes place in darker areas (inside bars or buildings) or in a snowy almost colourless landscape, when the film has close-ups of faces there is a natural skin tone, while explosions really pop off the screen.
|Liam Hemsworth is a great addition to the cast.|
In terms of those issues - and these are extremely minor, there was some inconsistency with grain levels and image sharpness. We're guessing this is from the source material rather than the transfer, or could be from zooming in on actors in post-production. Still, overall this remains a very impressive release overall.
As with an action-heavy film, and that includes The Expendables 2 of course, you expect a cracking audio experience, and there's absolutely no disappointment with this DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track (which actually remixes to DTS Neo: X providing 11.1 audio if you have the correct equipment, and number of speakers - we don't so can't attest to the quality of the 11.1 mix, but we doubt you could be disappointed).
In terms of the actual audio in the film, this is about as loud, bombastic, brash and room shattering as you would expect if you were in the midst of a massive battle with gunfire and explosions all around you. Also impressive is is the musical score from composer Brian Tyler who has returned for this sequel. It's not up there with absolute classics, but is pretty memorable.
The only other audio track (besides the commentary as detailed below) is a Audio Descriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired which is provided in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192kbps. It will get the job done, but the lack of surround sound must disappoint in a film such as this. There is only a single English Descriptive Subtitle for the Hearing Impaired track which is coloured according to who is talking on the screen, is accurate to the on-screen dialogue and gets the job done nicely if you need subtitles
|How not to land to plane, unless intentional!|
While not loaded with extras there are still a few things here worth your time. The disc stats with trailers for Looper (1:41), End of Watch (2:21), Lawless (2:26) and The Courier (1:51), each of which is skippable. After that, you can check out the following extras through the disc menu.
Commentary with Director Simon West: While disappointing that no cast are involved with this commentary - particularly Stallone given his involvement in creating the series - Simon West provides a non-stop, very interesting commentary about the film including many production details such as difficulties with Jean-Claude never performing scenes the same way which creates editing issues, various shooting locations, building props, limited time to film scenes with Arnold, Bruce and Jet Li and much more. Definitely worth a listen if commentaries are of interest to you.
Gods of War: Assembling Earth's Mightiest Anti-Heroes (21:18/HD): This featurette looks at the creation of The Expendables including filming the first film, and then moving into this sequel with casting, writing, storyboarding, filming, organising the actors limited availability, and coordinating fight sequences.
|This opening action sequence is epically cool.|
Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: The 1980's And The Rise Of The Action Hero (24:58/HD): This is a great look at the rise of the action heroes which was led by Ronald Reagan before moving into 1980's stars and their films including Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis and how the video market introduced Asian films to America and actors such as Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee.
On The Assault: The Real Life Weaponry of Expendables 2 (13:36/HD): This is a pretty cool little feature with Randy Couture looking at and firing many of the weapons featured in the film with comments from Randy and the staff at The Gun Store in Las Vegas.
Guns for Hire: The Real Expendables (24:18/HD): This was probably the highlight of the extras on this disc with interviews with real-life mercenaries and "Expendables" type teams offering security to VIP's around the world. Definitely worth a watch.
|Schwarzennger is back in The Expendables 2.|
As a fan of 80 and 90's action films having many classic actors come together in this franchise is just such a joy. While I enjoyed the original film, this sequel is probably better in many regards - perhaps due to a much better villain. With an exceptional audio visual presentation and some decent extras this is a disc well worth picking up. What a blast!
Review By: Dave Warner
Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.