Fans of the original action hero mash-up The Expendables are in for higher stakes, twice the explosions and more grizzled cast members in The Expendables 2, now available on Blu-ray. While the sequel managed to top the experience of the first film, the Blu-ray has plenty of extras to keep fans busy, including a commentary track by director Simon West (Con Air) that provides a lot of behind-the-scenes info. Want to know what weapons the Expendables used? Want to know how much bigger the sequel could have been? Want to see the real life Expendables the movie characters referenced? Well then hit the jump for my review of The Expendables 2 on Blu-ray.
The first Expendables united 80s/90s action stars Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Terry Crews and Randy Couture in an action-packed macho shoot ’em up. The sequel featured the return of that same cast (in varying amounts of screen time) along with new additions Liam Hemsworth, Yu Nan, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins. The cast wasn’t the only thing that was bigger than the original, as The Expendables 2 ups the explosions, gun play and fights while paying a surprising amount of attention to individual character development and relationship dynamics. They even raise the stakes this time around as one of their own is cut down in the line of duty and the surviving members seek their own particular brand of revenge.
The Expendables 2 starts off with the expected bang as Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team storm a compound in Nepal to rescue a hostage. Successful, they return home only to find CIA operative Church (Willis) forcing them into another mission. This time, the team is not so lucky as they lose one of their own members when they are met by international criminal and arms dealer, Vilain (Van Damme). The Expendables track Vilain to Bulgaria in an effort to prevent him from obtaining tons of refined plutonium and to avenge the death of their fallen comrade, helped out by Church, rival mercenary Trench (Schwarzenegger) and lone wolf Booker (Norris) along the way. It’s a great action film and homage to the classics of the 80s and 90s and plays beautifully, but what else does the Blu-ray have to offer?
Before the menu fires up, you’ll be treated to trailers for:
- The Last Stand
- Dredd 3D on DVD/Blu-ray/VOD
- Tarantino XX 8-Film Blu-ray Collection
- The Expendables 2 video game, featuring a first-person POV of you as the player getting your ass kicked by Dolph Lundgren and Terry Crews. Fun!
There is a good selection of extras on the Blu-ray, so let’s go through them to give you an idea of what you can expect:
It’s a fairly well-known fact that Stallone wrote, directed and acted in the first Expendables and suffered physical and mental exhaustion because of it. This time around, Stallone handled the acting, writing and character development, while the action direction fell to Simon West. West’s commentary is a worthwhile listen (moreso than a lot of the commentary tracks, especially on action films) because he reveals little details about the scenes, such as the evolving relationships of the characters on screen, the original intent for a particular scene, where it was actually filmed (meaning on set or on location) and some of the costs associated with the shoot. For example, the .50 caliber gun used blanks that were $6 each and the production went through $25,000 just for ammo on that gun alone. West reveals other interesting behind-the-scenes facts, such as the opening sequence taking three months to plan and originally being twice as big, or the fact that Li, Norris, Willis and Schwarzenegger all had extremely tight schedules and proved an editing and creative challenge to work them into the film as much as they did. The commentary track is worth listening to alone just to hear West talk about Van Damme’s “unpredictable” style of acting.
A behind-the-scenes commentary with cast and crew that addressed the writing process with franchise potential in mind, the transition from The Expendables to the sequel, expanding the cast and creative team*, giving the audience their money’s worth and giving each character sufficient screen time. They also talk briefly about The Expendables 3 and tease that they’re bringing in a new wave of action hero apprentices to train.
*The most interesting part here was learning how Stallone and West divided their workload.
Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: The 1980s and the Rise of the Action Film (~25 minutes):
An incredibly interesting retrospective about the state of America in the late 1970s and how counterculture and pop culture informed upon one another to bring about the rise and evolution of action films and action heroes. Experts from various forms of media lead this historical account of action films that dips into nostalgia for those who lived through it and paints a concise picture for those who haven’t. Referenced films include First Blood, 48 Hrs., The Terminator, Commando, Rocky IV, Lethal Weapon 2 and Die Hard. The discussion on the films is interesting enough, but it becomes more engaging when dissecting the heroic action roles and the men who played the part.
Couture takes viewers on a tour of The Gun Store in Las Vegas where a vast array of weaponry is on display, many available for live firing. Gun nuts will love this extra as it gives a ton of stats on each of the weapons used in the film and shows Couture firing off a few rounds. Some of the weapons include the FN-SCAR-L assault rifle, the M 1911 A1 pistol, the M4 Carbine assault rifle and the Steyr Aug A3 assault rife.
Guns for Hire: The Real Expendables (~25 minutes):
This was an unexpected extra but pretty informative and intense for a movie as fun and tongue-in-cheek as The Expendables 2. This extra introduced a number of private military contractors (don’t call them mercenaries) who talked about their job, the training that goes into it, the misconception that they’re “hired assassins,” and even the effect it has on their friends and families back home. An awesome extra that makes you think twice about how our military works and will be sure to send the corporate conspiracy theorists over the edge.
A selection of five deleted scenes that were mostly just alternate or extended takes on conversational scenes in the movie. One of the deleted scenes was a cool bit of fighting on Yu’s part in which she beats on baddies with a hockey stick; another fight scene featuring Couture and Crews was also unfortunately cut.
Gag Reel (~5 minutes):
About what you’d expect: a collection of gun jams, weapon malfunctions, tongue twisters and other goofs. There’s even a random “fight scene” with Novak Djokovic wielding his tennis racket. The best part might be the zany alternative performances turned in by Van Damme.
- Blu-ray also includes digital download for iTunes and UltraViolet.
- Runtime: 102 minutes
- Rated: R
- 1080P HD in Widescreen
- English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Optimized for 11.1 Neo: X Playback
- Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio with English and Spanish subtitles