Many of the questions surrounding the follow-up to Sylvester Stallone’s wildly popular, star-studded geriatric action piece The Expendables, which turned out to be a more-than-worthy $274 million launch of a new franchise, have been answered. The promise of a more significant Willis, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger appearance would indeed be given better attention this time around, and in an oversaturated world of lycra-tighted superheroes, the hard-boiled brand of All-American practical justice seekers can reign supreme once again. And yes, it's very deserving of its R rating against the objections of Chuck Norris, though mostly for its over-the-top violence rather than obscene language. And finally, we now know whose ass would get kicked in a no-holds-barred Jean-Claude Van Damme vs. Stallone dustup. Hint: a danger-filled, darkly lit warehouse provides any number of sadistic weapons that can kill, maim, or otherwise inflict serious damage to human tissue.
Stallone steps aside this time handing the reigns of The Expendables 2 to director Simon West who certainly knows his way around an action piece having previously helmed Con Air, Lara Croft and The Mechanic. And the sequel certainly benefits from his undivided attention even though he mostly just stands back and lets his heroes do what they do best. His action sequences are near-perfectly choreographed and clearly presented save for one that features a plane crash scene which gets the shaky-cam and blurred post-processing treatment. Cut that scene by half and all is good.
Stallone’s script (co-written by Richard Wenk) benefits this time around by him not having to spend so much time introducing the characters. In fact, the action gets underway right from the top as our band of old-school mercenaries are called upon by the mysterious CIA operative Mr. Church (Willis) who enlists them for a seemingly simple job. But what initially seems like an in-and-out mission to find the location of a downed plane, and to retrieve something hidden onboard, turns bad when one of their own is viciously killed. The Expendables team, led by Barney Ross (Stallone) turns the mission, that was initially to stop the bad guys from getting their hands on six tons of weapons-grad plutonium, into one of revenge as they head out into hostile territory where the odds are stacked against them.
Accompanying Barney for the ride are Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture), and Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), but they encounter help along the way from some old friends played by Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger. There’s a better villain this around too played by Jean-Claude Van Damme who is even named Vilain. And the testosterone is countered by a whole different style from Chinese actress Yu Nan as the first female Expendable who, despite the 100+ some-odd years of collective acting experience amongst them all, seems the most comfortable in front of the camera. Her role as a Chinese agent slowly unfolds to become an important cog in the story as well as a welcome provocation to Barney’s softer side.
The Expendables 2 is definitely at its best when fists are flying and stuff is blowing up. And it’s actually quite refreshing knowing that what we are seeing is real. No CGI explosions, no phony muscle suits or body enhancements needed - just good old-fashioned, straight-up action that goes back to the days when everything was done in front of the camera. But Stallone’s script also offers the perfect amount of slower paced parts to give us a breather from the near incessant seizure-inducing movement.
But the most welcomed part of The Expendables 2 is the viewer-friendly self-awareness and wink-wink nods to an audience appreciative of being rewarded for our knowledge of the actors and their past works. It’s one of the few films in which the corniest of lines come off as also the funniest. We’re not expecting Oscar-caliber greatness or Shakespeare-inspired dialogue (and we don't receive anything near greatness here), but it is nice to see a sequel actually build upon the momentum of its predecessor, and in this case create a fresh take on vintage American badass action as it was in the days before CGi pushed live-action fight choreography into the past.
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence throughout.
Runtime: 102 mins
Director: Simon West
Writer: Sylvester Stallone and Richard Wenk
Cast: Sylvester Stallone; Jason Statham; Jet Li; Dolph Lundgren; Chuck Norris; Jean-Claude Van Damme; Bruce Willis; Arnold Schwarzenegger; Terry Crews; Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth
Tagline: Back for War.
Memorable Movie Quote: "My shoe is bigger than this car!"
Official Site: www.theexpendables2film.com/index.html
Release Date: August 17, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: November 20, 2012.
Synopsis: The Expendables are back and this time it’s personal...
Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren),Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) -- with newest members Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and Maggie (Yu Nan) aboard -- are reunited when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enlists the Expendables to take on a seemingly simple job. The task looks like an easy paycheck for Barney and his band of old-school mercenaries. But when things go wrong and one of their own is viciously killed, 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 — six tons of weapons-grade plutonium; enough to change the balance of power in the world. But that's nothing compared to the justice they serve against the villainous adversary who savagely murdered their brother.
That is done the Expendables way.....
Available on Blu-ray - November 20, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Neo:X; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); UV digital copy
Region Encoding: A
Presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer, The Expendables 2 explodes with scenic delights. Darker and more exotic than the original, the locales of the shoot are peppered with destruction and a lot of gray tones. Gone is the jungle. This is more of an urban warfare; lots of steely blues, sheering grays, and solid blacks throughout. Black levels are high and strong and retain their features even under heavy shadows. Fine detail is strong and only slightly downgraded due to the “look” of the film. Of note to audiophiles is the sound featured on the blu-ray. If equipped for it, DTS' new "optimized" Neo X 11.1 surround audio will simply blow you away. Everything feels live and bloody and seriously explosive. If you aren’t ready for the sonic upgrade, don’t worry. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio is equally booming.
- Supplied by director Simon West, the commentary is an engaged affair. West doesn’t present the film as something more than a fun project that he obviously had fun doing. Full of a lot of anecdotes concerning the filming of the movie, fans should enjoy West’s recorded track.
Let’s face it, fans of action films should probably eat this up. The movie isn’t trying to be anything it’s not. The supplemental items aren’t pretending either. Surprisingly though, there’s a bit of depth to them. Look at their lengths. Most are clocking in at 20 minutes or so. Nice. Included on this release are a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes, one gag reel, and a few deleted scenes. It’s enough to please the fans. In "Gods of War," Stallone suggests to us that he envisioned the first film as a franchise starter right off the bat. The actor, and you can disagree with him, claims the sequel offers a more consistent tone than the original and doesn’t have to develop the characters so there’s more ass-kicking to be had. The best featurette, especially if you lived through the 1980’s, is "Big Guns: Bigger Heroes," where cultural theorists put the era’s action movies in a Reaganized historical context. It's a fun segment; a must for anyone who lived through the era. With a look at some real mercenaries and their weapons in the final two featurettes, this release feels surprisingly complete.
- Gods of War: Assembling Earth's Mightiest Anti-Heroes (22 min)
- Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: The 1980's and the Rise of the Action Film (25 min)
- On the Assault: The Real Life Weaponry of The Expendables 2 (14 min)
- Guns for Hire: the Real Life Expendables (24 min)
- Deleted Scenes (5 min)
- Gag Reel (5 min)