The Expendables 2 Blu-Ray Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, December 03, 2012
After the first Expendables film and its gathering of iconic 1980s action stars the comment you heard most from fans was “where is Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme?” Well the omission of those two stars is rectified in Expendables 2. Now the only question we have to ask is where is Steven Seagal? No…I’m only kidding!
Expendables 2 returns all of its original cast members plus Norris and Van Damme and featuring expanded roles for both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis in this roaring, testosterone-fueled sequel that reminds us all while the 80’s ruled. Expendables 2 doesn’t attempt to apologize for its outrageous, over-the-top violence—it revels in it! The days of a hero taking out a battalion of bad guys without getting a scratch is back and amplified. Take Schwarzenegger mowing down dozens of armed villains in “Commando” and multiply it by ten. Sensitive, understanding, PC heroes need not apply!
Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team have returned from Nepal where they’ve rescued a Chinese Billionaire from terrorists. However the team’s respite is short-lived as CIA operative Church (Willis) forces Ross and his group into a new mission. They have to recover an item from a downed airplane in Albania. Church sends computer expert Maggie Chan along on the mission despite Barney’s protests.
While successful, they find themselves outgunned by a rival faction of Mercs led by arms dealer Vilain (Van Damme) who takes the information and kills Billy (Liam Hemsworth). Maggie reveals that the information stolen was the location of a large store of weapons grade plutonium stashed away by the Soviets years earlier. Vowing revenge, Ross and his group set out to track Vilain and his men before they can sell the plutonium to terrorists groups.
The plot of Expendables 2 is stark in its simplicity. No one is trying to split the atom. Ross’s vow to “track ‘em, find ‘em, kill ‘em!” is all the exposition you get and all you need. We’re not watching to see the cast splitting the atom. We’re watching to see big, tough guys shoot big guns and blow stuff up, and boy, the cup runneth over in that department.
One-by-one each member of the team gets to step and have their chances to shine whether it’s Yang (Jet Li) taking out a group of thugs with a pair of frying pans; Christmas (Statham) dressing as a priest to slice and dice a chapel of baddies; or Ross battling Vilain in the climactic fight of the film. In any other film these scenes might come off as staged and pretentious. But in Expendables 2 it’s more like a great team of legendary athletes who get to come out of the game one at a time to get their chance to take a bow before the fans.
It all works. Its Norris providing perhaps the film’s biggest stand up and cheer moment as he single-handedly saves the team when they are pinned down by enemy fire. We then see him walking in slow-motion as the theme to “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” plays in the background. Its Schwarzenegger and Willis each reciting one of the other’s most famous taglines from earlier films, tongues firmly planted in cheeks. And its Van Damme gleefully chewing up scenery and mugging for the camera as the villain named “Vilain”. The fact that the film is predictable never undermines the action and impact.
Dolph Lundgren as Gunner gets more to say and do and provides a lot of the film’s comic relief. Jet Li has only a small role due to other commitments. Maybe the one slight disappointment is that both Terry Crews and Randy Couture had some of their scenes reduced but if that was necessary to make room for Norris, Willis, and Schwarzenegger, then so be it. Expendables 2 takes a good formula and gives us an even healthier does of its high octane medicine.
Audio commentary with Director Simon West
Gods of War: Assembling Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (21:00) – Interviews with cast and director. Mainly with Stallone who planned all along to turn Expendables into a franchise. He discusses how after his experience in the first film, and the physical beating he took, he gave up the directing reins to Simon West. Van Damme had the idea to make the final fight simple yet brutal.
Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: The 1980s and the Rise of the Action Film (25:00) – Outstanding documentary that looks at 80s action films and how they rose out of the tumultuous 60s and 70s, and how after having a soft, ineffective President in Jimmy Carter, the Reagan Era gave rise to these larger than life heroes.
On the Assault: The Real Life Weaponry of the Expendables 2 (13:36) - Randy Couture hosts takes viewers to a gun range in Las Vegas where a weapons expert discusses many of the weapons used in the film.
Guns for Hire: The Real Expendables (24:19) – a look at real life private security companies and operatives including interviews with actual guns for hire.
Deleted Scenes (4:39) – Five short deleted scenes including Barney discussing his lucky ring, Maggie speaking to Billy about how he joined the team, and more of the battle at the airport.
Gag Reel (5:00)
Mania Grade: A-
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Stathem, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Randy Couture, Yu Nan, Liam Hemsworth
Written By: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Wenk
Directed By: Simon West
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Original Year or Release: 2012
Extras: See Below