BLU-RAY REVIEW: Expedables 2
Stallone, Van Damme, Willis, Lundgren, Li, Statham, Schwarzenegger And Lots Of Ammo...
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There's nothing like the sound of a belt-fed weapon and the smell of plastic explosives. I know, I used to be a machine gunner in the US Marines (no joke!). Of course, for those of us who can't fire away on a M60 or blow stuff up with C4, there the opportunity to watch the latest explosion-filled, bullet-riddled action movie - The Expendables 2 - featuring all of our favorite old action stars including Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as a few new favorites like Terry Crews, Randy Couture and Liam Hemsworth.
While the plot of The Expendables 2 is as see-through as a window pane, what makes the movie fun is the previously mentioned larger-than-life action heroes who have been lighting up the big screen for decades with their explosive, ammo-laden abilities to tackle and any all obstacles, defeat any and all villains, and disarm any and all booby trap and bomb. This time, when one of their own is killed in action, it's up to the rest of the crew to seek vengeance and save countless lives in the process.
Again, the plot of The Expendables 2 is pretty predictable and clear from the get-go. The original mercenary crew from the first film - Barney Ross (Stallone), Les Christmas (Statham), Yin Yang (Li), Gunnar Jensen (Lundgren), Hale Caesar (Crews), Toll Road (Couture) add to their ranks Billy the Kid (Hemsworth) - continue to make a name for themselves. However, when CIA man Church (Willis) shows up to call in his marker, the crew gets sent overseas to collect some very important info that, in the wrong hands, would mean bad bad news. Of course, when the crew gets caught, loses the info, and one of their own gets killed, the rest of the team, after regrouping and re-arming, goes back to find Vilain (yup, that's his name; played villainously by Van Damme) and see justice done.
Like in the first film, cameos in The Expendables 2 help make the movie. Chuck Norris appears and makes a very brief yet very memorable appearance that'll of course have fans cheering. Likewise, women play a much larger role this time around as Nan Yu plays Maggie, a female addition to the team (against Barney's better judgement). The two's budding relationship of course makes for a few great scenes and some solid comic relief.
The video presentation in gorgeous 1080p in the film's original 2.40:1 aspect ratio impresses. The colors all come through clear and bold with dark and muted tones. The darks and shadows play throughout the film and ensure the gritty feeling of the movie is present not only in the action, but also in the look of the film as well. Likewise, the audio is impressive and dynamic. I'm was only able to enjoy the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio, but the blu-ray disc does feature the new Neo X 11.1 surround audio which is beyond anything I own at this point. Thankfully, the DTS-HD 7.1 is dynamic, filling the sound stage with directional goodness the likes of which will have you looking over your shoulder for sniper fire, ducking the incoming ricochets, and seeking cover from the explosive ambiance which fills the audio track.
As for special features, the set features the film on both blu-ray hi-def and digital as well as a number of worth-while behind-the-scenes bonuses, including an audio commentary with director Simon West, who no doubt loved making the film from what he has to share here; the 20-minute "Gods of War: Assembling Earth's Mightiest Anti-Heroes (nice play on words there, huh?) provides a look at the film's casting and characters; "Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: The 1980's and the Rise of the Action Film" is a 25 minute look at the star-filled cast's history; the 13-minute "On the Assault: The Real Life Weaponry of The Expendables 2" features an impressive look at the various weapons used throughout the film; and the 24-minute "Guns for Hire: the Real Life Expendables" reveals a bit about the real world mercs and private security who do this type of thing for real. Lastly, deleted scenes and a 5-minute gag reel (worth a few laughs) are also included.
Exciting, fun and entertaining to the max for the gun-nut or adrenaline junkie looking for a great action flick, it doesn't get any better than The Expendables 2. With an awesome cast filled with men who some would consider "has beens," The Expendables 2 proves these guys - no matter how long they've been around - can still pull a trigger, blow up a car, and shoot a rocket propelled grenade with the best of them.
The Expendables 2 is available on blu-ray hi-def home video wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley