The Expendables should've been a hell of a lot of fun, and instead it's...well, not. For a movie with so many huge names on the bill -- Sly Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, and Gary Daniels -- most of them are shoved to the sidelines for pretty much the entire length of the flick. The Expendables basically stars Stallone and Statham, I guess Li scores enough screentime to qualify as a supporting player, and everyone else is relegated to cameos or bit parts. The Expendables has a tough time figuring out how to juggle all of these characters, coasting way too much on the charisma of the names on the marquee. I'm not asking for sterling characterization or anything, but...I mean, look at a movie like Predator. Dutch's crew has a hell of a lot of personality without a bunch of flashbacks, long, rambling backstories, or people standing around and yakking about themselves. I don't get much of anything like that outta The Expendables. You're supposed to give a shit about these guys because you've seen a bunch of other
I don't know why the hell the runtime's approaching two hours. The plot is so simplistic that it's not even worth getting into: good-guy mercenaries, some speck of an island in Central America, a dictator general, the sleazy gringo cocaine kingpin pulling his strings, a foxy freedom fighter chick...however you're connecting those dots in your head right now is probably exactly what happens. For whatever reason, it takes forever for the first of The Expendables to make their way to the island of Vilena. The movie funnels so much of its budget into a few gigantic action setpieces that there's not much left for anything to happen in between. Seriously, something like a half hour passes between the first two action sequences with a whole lot of nothing in the middle. Hardly any of these characters are even a little bit interesting, so the top-heavy getting-to-know-them schtick is really, really tedious. Okay, okay, you have a fast-forward button and you want me to gush about how badass the action sequences are once they finally roll around. Um, sporadically badass, I guess. The Expendables does have a few really incredible moments, like the incendiary "fly and die" aerial assault on the General's flunkies and a particularly brutal car chase. The common factor there is that they're set in the bright of day and have effects that demand the camera to be pulled way back. Can't say that for just about every other action setpiece in the flick. The other assaults keep the camera closed in obnoxiously tightly, the lighting dialed way the fuck down, and cutting from shot to shot every quarter -second. The action is completely incoherent a lot of the time...I mean, I literally can't see what's going on. Why bother to hire an immense talent like Corey Yuen to choreograph some of the fights and then obscure every last bit of it? Even worse, The Expendables heaps on one cut-rate CG effect after another, most punishingly those geysers of distractingly digital blood. One of the biggest assaults in the flick is sped up too, looking so ridiculous and cartoonish that I
The Expendables wants to be bigger, louder, and dumber in the most gloriously trashy '80s action flick tradition. It's big, loud, and dumb alright, but not in a good way. The Expendables is a sloppy first draft of a direct-to-video action movie that somehow wound up with an $80 million budget and a bunch of recognizable names on the marquee. I like most of these guys, and I definitely like watching shit blow up, but...uh, it takes more than that to make a movie, and The Expendables doesn't feel like aiming any higher than that. Not recommended, but who knows? Maybe the sequel can pull it off. Here's hoping, I guess.
This extended cut of The Expendables, which has been available on-demand for months now, is finally making its way to Blu-ray. Rather than slop on a couple of lengthy deleted scenes and clocking out, this revised edit features a couple hundred very small additions and revisions. If you think I'm exaggerating by saying "a couple hundred", then...well, think again. There's a startlingly comprehensive list of the changes at Movie- Censorship.com, but the short version is that the rest of the team is better established, certain rambling moments from the theatrical cut are trimmed down, and the most cringeworthy visual effects from the original release have been heavily snipped. Is the extended cut a better movie? Yeah. Is it a good movie? Well, no.
The Expendables doesn't look nearly as slick in high-def as I was expecting. The scope image is kind of on the soft side, especially for a glossy, biggish-budget, summer action flick. Don't get me wrong; there's never any doubt that I'm watching a shiny, new Blu-ray disc or anything, but crispness and clarity both still fall a couple notches below average. The photography is excessively dark for far too much of The Expendables' runtime. Perhaps some shots were dark to the point of being completely unwatchable, and boosted brightning in post-production might explain the flat contrast that often rears its head. I'm sure color saturation is accurate, although Stallone seems content to drench everything in blue and call it a day. On the upside, I couldn't spot any traces of edge enhancement, excessive noise reduction, or hiccups in the AVC encode. A sizeable step up over anything DVD could hope to deliver, sure, but not quite what I've come to expect from a movie like this on Blu-ray.
This extended cut of The Expendables showcases a 24-bit, 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, and...well, I have to admit to feeling kind of letdown by the way this Blu-ray disc sounds as well. It has the Motörhead mindset of mixing everything louder than everything else, to the point where it's kind of exhausting, and there's no room for the distinctness and clarity I've come to expect out of the best Blu-ray soundtracks. There's a mild buzz to the dialogue in several early sequences, although this clears up before too long, and a fair number of lines throughout the film wind up feeling overwhelmed in the mix. Outside of firefights where bullets are chaotically whizzing around from every possible direction, the sound design is mostly content to keep itself tethered to the front channels, reserving the surrounds for reinforcing the score. It's almost baffling at times, especially how underutilized the rears are in the opening onslaught. The staggering amount of gunplay in the third act more than makes up for it, I guess. The barrages of gunfire, megaton explosions, and thunderous body blows do keep the subwoofer rattling throughout, so there's that. The lossless audio here is okay but hardly the world-class sound design I was anticipating.
There aren't any dubs or alternate soundtracks this time around. Subtitles are limited to English (traditional and SDH) and Spanish. The snippets of subtitled dialogue throughout The Expendables are displayed in the body of the image rather than spilling over onto the letterboxing bars, so the experience won't be compromised for owners of constant image height projection rigs.
This extended director's cut loses out on a lot of the extras from the initial Blu-ray release, so don't throw that other disc on eBay quite yet.
The Final Word
What a missed opportunity. While this extended cut of The Expendables is an improvement over what was making the rounds in theaters, its most glaring flaws are unfortunately still present and accounted for: incoherent action sequences, creaky one-liners, too much time between the hyperkinetic setpieces, excessive focus on just a couple of characters while everyone else slinks into the background, and wildly uneven acting. Maybe the sequel that's underway now will get it right. It's kind of a drag that this extended director's cut isn't the definitive Blu-ray release; the original BD set has a lot more in the way of extras. Worth it if you really dug the theatrical cut or if you're a frothing-at-the-mouth fan at any of the eight thousand action hero types on the bill, but otherwise...? Rent It.