Sun, 20 Jun 2021

The Expendables

Director: Sylvester Stallone
Screenplay: Dave Callaham and Sylvester Stallone (story by Dave Callaham)
Stars: Sylvester Stallone (Barney Ross), Jason Statham (Lee Christmas), Jet Li (Ying Yang), Dolph Lundgren (Gunner Jensen), Eric Roberts (James Munroe), Randy Couture (Toll Road), Steve Austin (Paine), David Zayas (General Garza), Giselle Iti (Sandra), Charisma Carpenter (Lacy), Gary Daniels (The Brit), Terry Crews (Hale Caesar), Mickey Rourke (Tool), Hank Amos (Paul), Amin Joseph (Pirate Leader), Bruce Willis (Mr. Church)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 2010
Country: U.S.
The Expendables Blu-ray

The Expendables

The Expendables, a grandiose B-movie about violent men with big guns and simple politics, is built around a motley crew of aging Reagan- and Clinton-era red-meat action stars-a cinematic meeting of the muscles. Sylvester Stallone, who at the time was in his mid-60s, co-wrote, directed, and headlined the movie, a guilty-pleasure rewind to an earlier era of bulging biceps, obvious villains, and minimal dialogue. Because Stallone is more ambitious than most critics want to give him credit for, it is also a sometimes remarkable, but also frequently disappointing, stab at an even older school of action cinema-honed throughout the '60s and '70s with calloused intensity by the likes of Sam Peckinpah and Robert Aldrich-that focuses on desperate men bonding in desperate circumstances because they have nothing else (this is what differentiates The Expendables from The Losers and The A-Team, which are superficially similar, but refuse to introduce any sense of real danger or pathos into their comic book pulp). It is not hard to see why Stallone would feel drawn to such stories, as his then-recent films, Rocky Balboa (2006) and Rambo (2008), resurrected long-dormant franchises with a surprisingly robust sensitivity and attention to issues of loss and aging. The Expendables does something similar, but with less tact and more self-consciously macho posturing.

The expendables of the title comprise a group of soldiers-for-hire led by Stallone's grizzled, cigar-chomping Barney Ross and Ross's second-in-command Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), whose specialties are knife throwing and beating up cowardly men who abuse his sometimes girlfriend. The only other consistent member of the group is Ying Tang (Jet Li), a martial artist who says very little due to his limited command of the English language except when asking for more money because, as he argues, he has to work harder due to the fact that he is short. When the movie opens, the expendables have been hired to rescue some hostages from a band of Somalian pirates, which they do with an expected excess of fire power. The sequence also leads to the ejection of one of the expendables, Dolph Lundgren's Gunner Jensen, who may have become too unhinged and violent (like westerns, the men of violence in The Expendables are considered "good" because they remain in control of their violent impulses, something Gunner fails to do).

The meat of the story, however, is in their next mission, which is to assassinate General Garza (David Zayas), the military dictator of a fictional island off the coast of South America. Garza is really just the puppet of a rogue CIA agent (Eric Roberts) who uses him and his private army to run a massive narcotics operation. The expendables are aided in their endeavor by Sandra (Giselle Iti), the dictator's daughter who is disgusted by her father's actions, but refuses to leave the island for her own safety (her selfless dedication to her island home adds a moral imperative to the otherwise dirty black-ops mission). The assignment comes from a covert government agent played by Bruce Willis, who also offers it to another soldier-for-hire played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, which allows Stallone to pull off what many thought would never happen: the first on-screen appearance of all three Planet Hollywood tycoons together. The fact that the scene doesn't have any real relevance to the plot is incidental; like most of The Expendables, the Stallone-Willis-Schwarzenegger meeting is designed to draw your attention to how action movies used to be, rather than how they are now.

Unfortunately, The Expendables misses many opportunities to truly exploit its old-school ethos, instead falling into the trap of hyper-edited incoherence as pioneered by Michael Bay, rather than the less stylized, straightforward bloodshed of, say, John McTiernan. This is particularly true of the protracted climax in which Stallone and company lay siege to Garza's island fortress at night, leading to a massive battle in which it is all but impossible to tell who is shooting whom and where anyone is in relation to anyone else. The violence is loud and at times impenetrable, quite the opposite of Stallone's work in Rambo, which escalated the intensity and graphicness of the bloodshed, but with a sharp moral clarity. Stallone is not after such depths in The Expendables, which is perhaps why he plays the action so fast and loose. However, he still makes room for ruminations about loss and regret, particularly in a sequence in which a former expendable-turned-tattoo artist played by Mickey Rourke talks about the toll his life of violence has taken. Stallone holds Rourke's gnarled face in close-up as he confesses the loss of his own soul, and the naked, emotional power of the moment suggests that The Expendables might have been something very different had Stallone put more focus on the underlying issues and less emphasis on blowing stuff up.

The Expendables 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD
Aspect Ratio2.40:1

  • English Dolby Atmos (4K Ultra HD)
  • Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital (4K Ultra HD)
  • English 2.0 Dolby Digital Optimized for Late-Night Listening (4K Ultra HD)
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (Blu-ray)

  • French 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio (Blu-ray)
  • SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish

  • Audio commentary by actor/co-writer/director Sylvester Stallone
  • Comic-Con 2010 Panel
  • Inferno: The Making of The Expendables documentary
  • "From the Ashes: Postproduction" featurette
  • Gag reel
  • Deleted scene
  • Marketing Archive
  • DistributorLionsgate
    Release DateMay 2, 2017

    The Expendables and The Expendables 2 have been released on 4K Ultra HD, both of which are packaged with the same Blu-rays that were released in 2010 and 2012 respectively. Both films were shot in Super 35mm and finished digitally in a 2K workflow, so the 4K presentations are actually up-conversions. The image and sound on both discs are fantastic, playing nicely into the films' bombastic visual and aural aesthetics. The Expendables is the more colorful of the two films, with the cinematography leaning toward a mix of blues and oranges, while The Expendables 2 has a more ashen, steely gray aesthetic that is significantly more monochromatic. Both films look amazing with the added resolution, which brings out all the gritty details and contrast (and also, unfortunately, makes some of the less impressive CGI effects look more digitally). The Dolby Atmos and the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks are thunderous, with an impressive low end that makes all the explosions rattle the room while the surround channels fill with whizzing bullets and flying debris. The supplements on The Expendables have all been recycled from the 2010 Blu-ray, but they're so good and thorough that there isn't much room for improvement: We have an engaging solo audio commentary by star/co-writer/director Sylvester Stallone; the exhaustive 92-minute documentary Inferno: The Making of The Expendables, which focuses primarily on Stallone's work as director; a 26-minute featurette about postproduction, which includes sound design, editing, and test screenings; 46 minutes of footage from the 2010 Comic Con panel hosted by Harry Knowles; a 1-minute bit deleted from the opening pirate scene; a 5-minute gag reel; and a "marketing archive" consisting of a theatrical trailer, TV spots, and a poster gallery.

    Copyright © 2017 James Kendrick

    Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick

    All images copyright © Lionsgate

    Overall Rating: (2.5)


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