Featured DVD / Blu-ray Review: The Expendables 2
The Expendables cost $82 million, which is not an insignificant amount of money, especially for a mini-major like Lionsgate. However, the risk paid off when it became the distributor's biggest hit of all time. (That record has since been broken by The Hunger Games.) It was obvious that they would make a sequel, but is it any good? Granted, in my review, I called the original, "a pretty mindless action film that takes itself a little too seriously at times." So I'm not expecting a lot here. If the movie can provide mindless action like before, then I will assume it is worth checking out for fans. Can it deliver? Can it surpass expectations?
This time the film starts in Sindhupalchowk District, Nepal where Barney Ross and the rest of The Expendables are on a rescue mission. They are there to rescue a Chinese billionaire, but also end up rescuing Trench, Ross's rival. Things go great, until Ross is shot twice and he and Lee Christmas are surrounded. Fortunately, the new guy, Billy the Kid, is an expert sniper and is able to take out the bad guys.
Once they are back home, Billy tells Ross that he has to quit. While he thought he could handle the job, being a mercenary isn't the life for him. He'll continue till the end of the month, presumably to give Ross time to find a replacement, then he's going to retire. Ross understands, but is still disappointed. When he returns to the garage / home base, he's in for more disappointment. Mr. Church is there and he has a mission for Ross. It's a mission he can't refuse, because Ross owes Mr. Church for how the last mission went. He has to go into Albania and retrieve the contents of a very important safe, and he will have to work with someone new, a woman, Maggie Chan. This time the mission ends tragically and one of the group is killed and the package is stolen by Jean Vilain. Now The Expendables have two reasons to go after the bad guy: to retrieve the package and to get revenge.
(I'm not going to say who is killed or what the package is, because both of those are spoilers.)
The Expendables 2 is very much a sequel. It doesn't stray very far from the formula the original used, which is good news and bad news, depending on your point of view. If you loved the first movie, this one has all of the same elements that made The Expendables fun. There's plenty of over-the-top action and thanks to the large cast, there is a wide variety of fighting styles employed. This is the film's biggest selling point, although like last time, there's a little problem with balance between the characters. There's even more one-liners and cheesy dialogue, some of them funny, some of them not. (There are also a lot of inside jokes, so long time fans of the genre will have some fun.) The cameos we saw the first time are expanded this time, which is an improvement over the first film. There are even more 1980s action stars this time around, including my personal favorite, Jean Claude Van Damme. It is a better movie in some regards, but is still suffers from many of the same problems. Anytime they try to get emotional, the film falls flat. When the member of The Expendables is killed, we are supposed to have the heartfelt moment, but the movie hasn't done enough to justify that. We don't know enough about practically any of these characters to truly care if one of them died, and in this instance, the setup is really ham-fisted. You can probably guess who is killed by the plot summary above. Fortunately, the filmmakers knew that the film's strengths were in the action scenes and not the emotional aspects of the movie, so they were able to concentrate more on the former this time around.
Enough works that if you are a fan of films of this genre, particularly those made in the 1980s, then it is worth checking out. If you hated The Expendables, then I wouldn't recommend The Expendables 2. If you thought the predecessor was merely okay, but wasn't as fun as it should be, then you will likely enjoy this one more.
On a side note, how can you spend $100 million on a movie and still have CGI blood spatter that looks so fake so often? It was distracting at times. I understand the appeal of using CGI blood; the time between takes is dramatically reduced if you don't have to clean up fake blood between takes. But it is a risk if you don't have the time and resources to make it look good. Plus, it is a tempting area to try and save money.
The extras begin with an audio commentary track with the director, Simon West. Next up are a quartet of featurettes, but they are evenly split between those that focus on the movie and those that focus on real life. Gods of War: Assembling Earth's Mightiest Anti-Heroes is a 21-minute look at the film from the beginning of The Expendables to the new cast for The Expendables 2. On the Assault is a 14-minute look at some of the weapons featured in the movie. The two real-world featurettes are Big Guns, Bigger Heroes and Guns for Hire. The former is a 25-minute look at the action film of the 1980s and how it fitted into the culture of the day. This is not a fluff piece and even if you are not a fan of the genre, it is interesting to watch. The latter is a 24-minute look at real-life mercenaries. Finally, there are 5 minutes of deleted scenes and 5 minutes of outtakes.
I don't have the Blu-ray to compare, but it costs $5 or 38% more on Amazon.com. That's a little on the high end of the acceptable range for a film that lacks any exclusive extras. I suspect the technical presentation will be worth the upgrade, but I can't say for sure.
The Expendables 2 is worth picking up for fan of the genre in general of and for fans of The Expendables in particular. However, without being able to see and hear the film in high definition, I can't say for sure if the DVD or the Blu-ray Combo Pack is the better deal.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2012-11-18