Plot: What’s it about?
You know, as I get older I realize one thing – time is relative. Yes, I know that’s not revolutionary, but it’s also true. Remembering things from just a few years ago might as well be yesterday. And as I look back to the 80’s – well it doesn’t seem that long ago either. There were a lot of things that decade was known for an overindulgence was at the top of the list. If you’re thinking about films from that era, and more particularly action movies, I’m willing to bet that titles like The Terminator, Rambo, Die Hard and, yes, even Rocky would be among them. As is so happens, Sylvester Stallone has assembled a crew of these actors that helped make the “me” decade so hard to forget (or remember, depending on your point of view). It’s inspired three sequels of its own, has a great cast (or a used to be great cast) and has more testosterone than any film in history. Yes, I can finally scratch this off my “need to see” list. Here we go…The Expendables (and its sequels).
We meet a mercenary team of Barney (Sylvester Stallone), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Lee (Jason Statham) and Hale (Terry Crews) as they rescue some hostages from Somali pirates. They’re hired to go to a small South American country where a rogue CIA agent, James Munroe (Eric Roberts) has taken over a major drug cartel. Barney assembles his team and he and his merry group of men set out to accomplish their mission. Of course while there Barney has an epiphany in that he needs to “stand for something” and thus tries to help Sandra (Giselle Itie, one of the few females in the film), a local freedom fighter with ties to the dictator. Don’t feel too sorry for her, though, she’s got her own guns in the form of Paine (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin). And, well, yeah…that’s it. Lots of guns, killing and blood ensue. The end.
The Expendables 2
The Expendables are back in a sequel that J. Rentilly of Menshealth.com calls “a high-octane adventure with non-stop action!” The team signs on a mission that looks like an easy paycheck for Barney and his band of old-school mercenaries. But things quickly go wrong, and one of their own is killed by a psychotic terrorist-for-hire. Hell-bent on payback, they cut a swath of destruction through enemy territory and wreak havoc upon their opponents. In the midst of the mayhem, they must also shut down an unexpected threat in the nick of time – preventing five tons of weapons-grade plutonium from falling into the wrong hands.
The Expendables 3
Gibson plays Stonebanks, he’s an arms dealer who has a personal vendetta against Barney (Stallone) and his team. This time, there really aren’t many expendables left, and a lot of time is devoted to a younger crew. There’s an early scene where Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) is extracted from prison. There’s a not-so-subtle joke about him being in trouble with the IRS (which actually happened to Snipes). But his character also feels rather wasted. A few of the familiar faces also show up and Antonio Banderas tries hard in a supporting role, but again, his character makes such a little impression that it doesn’t matter. The moment that Stonebanks decides to start working with a younger, newer crew is when the film really takes a wrong turn. What exactly was the objective there? We aren’t watching these films for unknown actors. Part of the fun is having stars like Stallone and Gibson doing their thing. The bloodless action sequences don’t help matters much, and the plot is boring more than anything else.
A new generation of stars is added to the adrenaline-fueled adventure of The Expendables as action legends Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, and Randy Couture are joined for the first time by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Megan Fox, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, and Andy Garcia. As the highly skilled mercenaries take on an arms dealer and his private army with every weapon they can get their hands on, the new recruits bring daring styles and tactics that give “new blood” a whole new meaning.
Fans of the series know who you are. You’ll either relish every moment of every scene or roll your eyes after the first few minutes. But with this group, you know what you’re getting into. These films are all about fun, glorifying violence and seeing how many past/present action stars they can squeeze on a movie poster (as it turns out, quite a few). I’m not exactly sure the reason for the nine year hiatus between the third and fourth installment, but ultimately it’s irrelevant. Make no doubt about it, though – this is Stallone’s show. Yes, you might have names like Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and Jason Statham in the credits, but the one leading the charge is Rambo himself. If you’ve been looking for a testoserone-fueled quartet of movies to bring you back to the “me” decade, look no further.
Video: How’s it look?
Given the theme of the films, none of them really differ too much when it comes to the way they appear. These have been available on 4K, albeit separately, and now we’ve got them in one nice neat little package. The 2.39:1 HEVC 4K images are among the best I’ve seen in a live action film. Everything about this transfer resonates with everything we’ve come to associate with a flawless image. It’ll look amazing on your screen. Colors are bold and brash, detail is second to none and there’s hardly anything I can find to nitpick here. It’s really that good-looking. Now the bad…um…how do I say this…these guys are old! As good as the transfer looks, it also showcases every scar, wrinkle and everything else. Yeah, in their prime they were nice to look at, but seriously – Stallone looks more like a waxy version of his former self. The bottom line being that while these do look good, aging is something we all do and, well, most of these guys are past their prime when it comes to looks. That’s either a positive or a negative depending on your particular point of view.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The good news is that if you’re equipped with a Dolby Atmos setup, then this is going to be a very enjoyable way to watch these films. These are “guy” movies in every sense of the word, things blow up, bullets whiz by utilizing each and every speaker and the LFE are working overtime. Suffice it to say that if you were looking for something to shake the room – this is it. Vocals are, as expected, crisp and clean with Stallone’s deep voice leading the way. Is it odd that the LFE are activated when some of the actors talk? Just kidding. Car chases, gunfire, bombs blowing up – c’mon, we all know the drill. And we know it all sounds positively divine in full uncompressed, atmospheric sound.
Supplements: What are the extras?
All of the supplements from the previously-released sets are intact. Here’s a breakdown of the features on each.
- Introduction to the Film by Sylvester Stallone – Pretty self-explanatory.
- Spike TV’s Action: The Expendables – The ultimate guy network does its best to promote the ultimate guy film.
- Inferno: The Making of The Expendables – We get a pretty broad look at the history of the film as well as some candid comments by Stallone himself about the project, bringing the other actors on board and so forth.
- Sylvester Stallone: A Director in Action – Some behind the scenes footage that gives us some insight (and plenty of testosterone) into the film.
- Music Video – “Sinner’s Prayer” by Sully Erna
The Expendables 2
- Audio Commentary – Director Simon West is fairly chatty in this track, but he takes it with a grain of salt as well. He’s out to have a good time as are the actors involved. It’s a bit better than Stallone’s track from the first film.
- Gods Of War: Assembling Earth’s Mightiest Antiheroes – It takes nearly 20 minutes to profile the cast, but yeah – they’re all there. Enjoy. I did.
- Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: The 1980s and the Rise of the Action Film – If you were alive in the 80’s, then this is a brief history lesson in the, as the title explains, “rise of action movies” and it’s actually well done.
- On the Assault: The Real-Life Weaponry of The Expendables – As expected, this is simply a look at some of the hardware used in the film.
- Guns for Hire: The Real Expendables – We get to meet some mercenaries who are paid to do this stuff.
- Deleted Scenes – Nearly five minutes’ worth.
- Gag Reel – With this group, you know there’ll be some shenanigans on the set!
The Expendables 3
- Theatrical Version
- Unrated Edition of the Film
- The Expendables 3 Documentary – The most robust supplement clocks in at just under an hour. It’s a good piece with plenty of input from the expansive cast, but they really don’t offer up a lot of input. It’s probably everything we need to know about the film – it’s up to you if that’s a good or bad thing.
- New Blood: Stacked and Jacked – The ever-growing cast of these Expendables movies needs a bit of attention and the “new blood” in this film are given their due attention.
- The Total Action Package – Nothing too intricate here, just a look at some of the set design as well as a few comments from the crew.
- Gag Reel
- Extended Scene – “Christmas Runs The Gauntlet”
- Audio Commentary – Director Scott Waugh does a fine job on this track, though it’s nothing to write home about. If audio commentaries on these films is your thing, then you’re in luck as three of the four films have them.
- Bigger, Bolder, Badder: The Expendables in Action – The obligatory “Making of…” featurette with interviews with the cast and crew as well as some behind the scenes footage. Think of it as a glorified trailer. Actually, with these films it’s probably best not to think.
- More Than a Team: New Blood Meets Old Blood – With only a skeleton crew of the “original” films, they meet up with the new cast in this film. It goes…well?
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
There are two things I like in films – movies that don’t take themselves too seriously and those that are just out to have a good time. Actually, that might be two ways of saying the same thing. Regardless, we’ve got four Expendables films in full 4K with Dolby Atmos tracks and a decent selection of extras to boot. And if steelbooks are your thing, you could do a lot worse. Enjoy – it’s hard not to.