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The Expendables 2(2012)
Mr. Church reunites the Expendables for what should be an easy paycheck, but when one of their men is murdered on the job, their quest for revenge puts them deep in enemy territory and up against an unexpected threat.
For more about The Expendables 2 and the The Expendables 2 Blu-ray release, see the The Expendables 2 Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 14, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Terry Crews, Jet Li
Director: Simon West
» See full cast & crew
The Expendables 2 Blu-ray Review
2 for t(estosterone).
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 14, 2012
Let's face it: boys (of all ages) like their toys and are especially thrilled when those toys can cause massive destruction. Look at virtually every popular videogame out there, where melées of epic proportions are de rigeur and "success" is measured in body counts. Or Monster Truck Rallies which often have a demolition derby component. Or the popularity of some automatic weaponry whose ability to slice and dice through a five foot tree trunk in mere seconds perhaps puts the lie to the assertion that it's "just a hunting rifle". And so the nonstop mayhem that was The Expendables (in either of its versions) and, now, The Expendables 2 shouldn't really come as any big surprise. Even aging action stars need a paycheck now and then, and in a certain way, it's to Sylvester Stallone's credit that he figured out a fairly entertaining way to make that happen not just for himself but for a coterie of his one time competitors in the action genre from the seventies and eighties. And if it's a given that the sole raison d'être of films like The Expendables is to watch bulky beefy guys smash and crash their way through both objects and just as frequently people, then this film hits the bullseye from virtually the first second and never lets up. The Expendables tried to have it both ways, not very successfully, by giving us some supposed "meaningful" character beats for various tough guys while at the same time providing a number of well staged action set pieces. The Expendables 2 isn't half as pretentious, jettisoning most if not all of any attempt to divine motivation beyond a simple desire to blow stuff up, and believe it or not, it's a much more rousing entertainment than the first film for that very reason. Stallone probably wisely handed over the directorial reigns to Simon West, who stages this second outing with appropriate flash and aplomb, opening the film with a rock 'em, sock 'em mash up that basically destroys a Nepalese village (I always wonder about the collateral damage in these things, something that never seems to occur to the heroes decimating entire regions in their attempt to vanquish bad guys). And with a frequent wink and nod thereafter, West continues to mine a number of hoary action tropes without ever descending into self parody. The Expendables 2 therefore knows exactly what it is, what it wants to deliver, and makes no bones about being good, basic (mostly) mindless entertainment.
For films like The Expendables 2 to work, they really need to play like live action cartoons, and that's exactly the ambience that West adopts in the opening set piece, which sees the return of Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li) and (perhaps surprisingly) Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and they pilot a manic assemblage of mega Monster Trucks, many of them equipped with Tex Avery-esque punch lines inscribed right on their various accoutrements which can bash and smash their way through various structures. The boys are also aided by newcomer Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), who acts as back up but who has a rather amazingly accurate sharpshooting skill. The guys maraud their way literally right through a wall where some hooded fool is having the you know what beaten out of him. It turns out that fool is none other than Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Ross' old nemesis and competitor, who has failed spectacularly to rescue a Chinese hostage. Ross has come to the rescue, getting both Trench and the hostage out with a relative pittance of a body count, meaning in the low hundreds.
In a kind of replay of one of the subplots of the first Expendables, we get one of the team, this time Billy, wanting to leave the group to settle down with his girlfriend. It probably doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that that's not going to happen, especially once Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enters the fray yet again and basically blackmails Ross into "one last mission" (yeah, I bet) in Albania of all places. At least Church has the good graces to offer up a comely cohort named Maggie (Yu Nan), who tags along to provide some special help. Things get positively cartoon like (not a bad thing, mind you), when Ross and his team are ambushed by the main villain of the piece who is quite felicitously named Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme). That in turns leads to a tragedy which turns the third act of The Expendables 2 into a more or less standard (which is not to say unexciting) revenge drama.
While this is an unabashed testosterone-fest, it's kind of interesting that women are much more front and center in terms of the action in this outing than in the first film. But what really elevates this second film is its self knowing sense of humor, one which readily trades on the "past their prime" dishevelment of several of the leading players. There's relatively little time spent in hand wringing or emotional explication, which is all to the good. The film catapults from one very well staged set piece to the next with nary a character beat in between. It's as if Simon West took a good look at the first Expendables, cut away all the dead meat (no pun intended), and delivered an unambitious but hugely entertaining free for all.
The Expendables 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Expendables 2 is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1. This is another pretty scenic piece a la the first film, albeit the travelogue in this case is littered with the detritus of The Expendables' "take no prisoners" activity. West and cinematographer Shelly Johnson cloak the film in a kind of gritty, often quite dark, ambience, but the transfer boasts exceptional shadow detail and features a very filmic presentation which boasts a very natural look. Colors are very nicely saturated and often quite robust, especially in the many outdoor location sequences. The film has been color graded at times to either a slate gray or kind of sienna brown side of things, but fine detail is only minimally compromised at times, and then usually only in midrange shots. Some of the film is rather gauzily soft, but that seems to be an intentional directorial decision.
The Expendables 2 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Expendables 2 is generating some heat among audiophiles for being the first Blu-ray encoded with DTS' new "optimized" Neo X 11.1 surround audio. I haven't yet upgraded to this system, but I can report that the "regular" DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio is an amazingly visceral experience. The first Expendables offered reference quality audio, but if anything, the bar has been raised significantly in this second outing. This film's sound design is a nonstop carnival of pans, discrete channelization and aggressive bursts of LFE that completely envelop the listener. This is one of the most superbly forceful mixes in recent memory, one that exploits the over the top action with some fantastic sound effects, including everything from a huge water tower cascading down around on top of hapless bad guys to several different roaring types of transportation. There's really not a whole lot of dynamic range here, since the film tends to be turned "up to 11" most of the time, but dialogue is clear and fidelity is exceptional.
The Expendables 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Expendables 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There's only so much Blu-ray.com's star rating system can convey, and so some may look at the 3.5 stars that this film received and conclude that it's more or less at the same level as the first Expendables, which received the same score. And while in a certain way that's true, in others this second Expendables is a much more entertaining affair. We don't have the kind of useless "interior" questioning that hobbled the first film, and this second film also doesn't wallow in the sort of melancholic aspect that also colored the first film. The Expendables 2 is far from a perfect film, but it at least has the benefit of knowing what it wants to be, aiming absolutely no higher than being a good old boy romp through various places with all sorts of nifty, mayhem wreaking toys. This Blu-ray looks and sound great and comes with some good supplements. Recommended.
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