Sylvester Stallone is arguably one of the biggest box office stars of all time, but in every star's career there are low points. Stallone starred in some box office hits in the 90s, with Demolition Man and Cliffhanger being some of his best films, but also starring in some big duds such as Judge Dredd, The Specialist, Stop or My Mom Will Shoot!, and many more. I'm glad he got some great notices from James Mangold's Cop Land, but then he kept choosing box office poison, swigging down the likes of Driven, D-Tox, and Spy Kids 3D.
Luckily he saw he was down, but not out and drummed up Rocky Balboa and followed it up with Rambo, earning critical and commercial success. He then dreamed up a great idea, gather up the old and discarded action heroes from the 1980s (and some modern stars as well) and team up for a blow 'em up extravaganza and in all of its R-rated glory.
Apparently it worked, with 2 sequels (With a 3rd on the way)a female-oriented spin-off and huge sales of the DVD and BluRay discs, but is it all for nostalgia or is it truly awesome?
Stallone stars as Barney Ross (Stallone), head of The Expendables, a team of tough-as-nails mercenaries hired to do suicide missions that most wouldn't survive outside this group. The group consists of Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Hale Ceasar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (MMA star Randy Couture) and Gunner (Dolph Lundgren) and team support at home with Todd (Mickey Rourke), offering tattoos, tune-ups and wise philosophy.
After several disagreements with Gunner, Ross returns home, only for his much-needed break to be interrupted by a mysterious man named Mr. Church (Bruce WIllis, in cameo form). They are hired by Church (In a much-publicized scene between Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger as Trench) to fly to a Caribbean island, Vilena, to stop a drug trade ran by Munroe (Eric Roberts) and his puppet leader.
Forcing to team up with his crew and facing a familiar face and similarly beefed-up bros (Headed up by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin) to stop the drug trade, save Ross' love interest and rescue a nation ruled by a dictatorship. Think Commando + Red Heat and a helping of Cobra and you're on the right track.
I was hoping for so much with this film, promised with brainless, balls-to-the-wall action filled with all the bone, blood and sinew your eyes can take in, but I was left fairly disappointed. When I read about the cast, I was expecting more legendary action stars in the film (No Van Damme, Norris, Chan, Schwarzenegger in a bigger role, Snipes or Russell?) and I'm glad they had Lundgren and Stallone, but they filled it with more contemporary stars and athletes than anything.
Stallone and Statham are positively awesome in this movie, with a type of "bromestry" only a few films can capture. Terry Crews is always a welcome sight, not afraid to be a lovable goofball, but also not afraid to kick some butt. Rourke makes the most of his role, and Schwarzenegger and Willis manage to have fun in their cameos as well.
Roberts, a good actor when given good material, manages to have some fun, acting over-the-top as the main villain but isn't exactly a great villain. Austin, Li and Couture are, either given nothing to do or are uninteresting (Li in this case) or are acting very poorly (As in this case, Austin and Couture).
The direction, provided by Stallone is overall pretty decent, with Sly capably directing action scenes and exciting set pieces, manages to get some decent performances and balances it all rather well. The screenplay is very poor, but given this is a love-letter to the 80s action stars/films, its to be expected. The films cinematography, when not indulging in "shaky cam", looks pretty good, with the image lending a dark and grainy film, giving The Expendables a grindhouse feel, making all your nostalgia come crashing in. The score is decent, the sound mix is incredible, the CGI is okay, and is everything a big-budget film should have.
Moving on to the DVD, we start with the PQ. The film (Shot on Super 35, giving us that grainy look) was shot in the 2.35 aspect ratio, and is preserved well on the DVD and is anamorphically enhanced to fit HDTV's. The PQ is very well done for a modern DVD, with the details being sharp, colors and contrast balanced, accurate skin tones and upscaling on a BluRay player with a 1080p TV boosts up image quality considerably. The audio quality is also excellent (for DVD) with the 5.1 Dolby Digital EX track being an extremely active track, with the audio depicting explosions, gunshots, music, and one-liners with accurate and bass-y use.
Moving on to the extras, the film contains a commentary track with writer/director/producer/star Sylvester Stallone, giving us a smart and detailed track, keeping it lively with plenty of BTS info and terrific insight. Next up is a terrific making-of documentary titled "Before the Battle", lasting around 20 minutes, with plenty of interviews, BTS footage and also showing the injuries Stallone had incurred during filming (He broke his neck during a fight scene with Steve Austin!), severely slowing the shoot to a crawl. A very good documentary, but for the full length version, buy the BluRay/DVD combo pack.
Next up is a single deleted scene, which lasts less than a minute, is a terrible joke, told terribly by Lundgren and understandably deleted. Next. Last, but not least, is a fun gag reel and some trailers round out this decently packed release.
All in all, this is a fun movie, but it does take itself a bit to seriously in a few scenes which dampens the fun, but before you can say automatic shotgun, the film becomes a blast, and with stellar specs (for a DVD) and decent extras, it is worthy to add on your shelf. Still consider the BluRay though, with terrific HD picture and demo worthy sound with a ton more extras to plow through, its a no brainer!