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.
The first Expendables was a testosterone-fueled joke, but it was fun. Bringing together a who's who of action stars was an inspired move on Stallone's part. Then there were grumblings by fans who wondered where Jean Claude Van Damme was, why Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis didn't actually do anything, and why Chuck Norris was left out in the cold. So, to answer all these questions The Expendables 2 was born. Not so much to be a transcendent action movie, but to instead be a vehicle where the action stars of yesteryear can get together and deliver a boatload of one-liner references to their earlier films (and rake in some cash).
A thin plot has been wrapped around the rippling biceps of the cast. There's something about abandoned Plutonium wasting away in a mine, how a bad guy played by Van Damme wants to get to it, and how Barney (Stallone) and his band of musclemen are trying to stop him. That's about it in the story department. It's hard to believe the story could get any thinner than in the first outing, but they've managed to do it here.
The most interesting, and welcome aspect of the sequel is that Stallone has relinquished directorial duties. While he had a hand in writing the script, the man directing the action is Simon West (Con Air). West goes for a more traditional approach when filming the action scenes. The first movie was fraught with incomprehensible shaky-cam at times. Why do we want to watch the aerial acrobatics of Jet Li if we can't actually see what he's doing? Here West keeps the camera upright and still, capturing many of the hand-to-hand combat scenes in a comprehensible way.
However, that's about the extent of the movie's likability. The problem here is that with so much talent the action scenes themselves seem so mundane. There are rarely any inventive or engaging gun battles. The majority of the gunfights consist of placing all the good guys at one end of a room or street and all the bad guys at the other. The bad guys then commence shooting machine guns horrendously as they get mowed down by the good guys. Splashes of painfully obvious computer-generated blood are the last you see of the innumerable groups of henchmen.
All of these guys have been involved in iconic action films. Films that have indelible action scenes that not only proved to be entertaining, but have remained some of the best scenes in all of action cinema. So why, with all this talent, does Expendables 2 feel so amateurish? Sure there are a lot of whizzing bullets, bucket loads of CGI blood, and heaps of really cool weaponry, yet none of it is used in a way that will make you remember it. It's a straight forward action movie without a hint of imagination. This is a movie that should toy with the clichés, not wholeheartedly embrace them. It's hard not to groan when Stallone and Van Damme throw down their guns for the last battle with one of them opining, like so many action heroes and villains have done movie after movie, "Should we finish this like men?" That's the time where the movie has to be smarter? What's stopping Stallone from pulling an Indiana Jones and just shooting the guy in the head and getting it over with? Instead, they proceed to walk through the clichéd steps of a final fight that we've seen thousands of times before without anything to make it new or exciting.
The Expendables 2 is far more concerned with giving everyone dreadfully obvious one-liners. How many times can the script call on Schwarzenegger to riff on his famous "I'll be back," line? Half a dozen seems about right. Chuck Norris even gets in on the act when he gets to tell his own Chuck Norris joke about himself. It just seems so forced and so unnecessary. The only real clever reference they come up with is using Dolph Lundgren's real-life backstory being a chemical engineering genius (yes, all that stuff they say about Gunnar going to MIT on scholarship is Lundgren's actual life before acting).
If you're billing this as the greatest action movie ever with the greatest action stars ever then please, focus on the action. Make it fun, inventive, and memorable. We've seen far too many clichéd shoot'em up movies. If any actioner should be different it should be this one. Sadly, it isn't.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Expendables 2 comes with a dual-layered UHD66 Disc and a Blu-ray Disc of the film. The Blu-rays are Region A Locked. There is an insert for a Digital HD copy as well. The discs are housed in a hard, black plastic case with a cardboard sleeve too.
The UHD release of The Expendables 2 is presented in 4K Ultra HD with an HEVC H.265 encode in 2160p and a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The Expendables 2 was filmed in Super 35mm and finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate before this release, which was up-converted to 4K UHD with an impressive HDR10 / WCG grading.
If you thought the first film looked good, this sequel looks even better, due to a lot of the film taking place during the daytime with much more color and detail than the darker tone of the first movie. Simply put, this movie looks fantastic. The HDR10 looks incredible and definitely gives a boost of color in every scene. Since a lot of the film takes place in the sun, the skies are perfectly blue and everything looks more realistic with great primary colors popping off screen.
The green in the leafs of trees shine and the different planes and vehicles all show excellent colors. Another aspect where the HDR and detail are better than the first film is that a lot of the stunts and effects were practical, rather than CGI. The fire in the explosions are clearer with many more shades of yellow, red, and orange that look stunning. Blasts from every gun look excellent and bright as well. Every color is more nuanced without the darker tone, which plays great in this 4K presentation.
Detail is sharp and vivid throughout, especially in the new lighting conditions, as well as with less CGI, which gives the movie a filmic quality that the first installment didn't have. Closeups reveal great facial features, wardrobe stitching, and details on every gun and vehicle throughout. Wide shots never go soft and rather has some great depth of the various landscapes and sets. All of the dents, dust, and dirt on guns, coats, and planes can be seen easily as well. Black levels are deep and inky with zero crush and the skin tones are always natural. There were no major issues with any banding, aliasing, or video noise, leaving this video presentation with excellent marks.
This UHD release of The Expendables 2 has an English Dolby Atmos track that is as good and demo-worthy as Part 1. This is a bass-heavy mix, so expect a full royal rumble in your bones and house. There is a lot of heft to it. Sound effects all pack powerful punches, from plane and car engines roaring to tons of guns blasting. Shotguns are deep and hefty and rifles turn it to 11 as well. The explosions capture the full spectrum of sound from all areas that fully immerses you into the chaotic battlefield.
The overhead speakers for the Dolby Atmos track add bullets and debris flying through the air. It's that good. When certain 80's action stars fight with their fists and feet, every punch, kick, and hit is loud, robust, and full of deep bass, giving an extra oomph to every thud. The energetic score always adds to the suspense and flow of the film without drowning out any other sound aspects. The ambient noises of people talking, cars revving their engines, and guns blazing always sound full and dynamic with great directionality.
Every sound aspect is well-balanced and loud, and packed with bass that never crosses into rocky territory. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow along with zero pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills, although it is sometimes difficult to understand Stallone, but that's a given. Your speaker system will certainly be tired after this audio track. Tell your friends about it.
This 4K UHD release does not contain any bonus material. However, the Blu-ray version contains all of the previous extras on the original Blu-ray release.
Audio Commentary – Simon West is the commentator here. Even though I was grateful to be done with Stallone's shaky-cam ways, I missed his presence on the director's commentary. The commentary on the first movie was extremely insightful. Full of Stallone's vision as a director, his methods for doing things, and his true love for making movies. Here West provides a rather anecdotal commentary that is neither as engaging nor perceptive as Stallone's commentary was.
Gods of War: Assembling Earth's Mightiest Anti-Heroes (HD, 21 min.) – An extended look at the movie's illustrious cast and where they came from.
Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: The 1980's and the Rise of the Action Film (HD, 25 min.) – A great little featurette about the memorable movies and action heroes of the 80s. If you're an action movie fan, specifically an 80s action movie fan, then check out this special feature.
On the Assault: The Real Life Weaponry of 'The Expendables 2' (SD, 14 min.) – A look at the real-life weaponry that is used in the movie. Definitely a featurette for the gun enthusiasts out there.
Guns for Hire: The Real Life Expendables (HD, 25 min.) – A look at a few of the world's real-life private security people and mercenaries who are hired to do this kind of clandestine stuff.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 min.) – A few inconsequential scenes are included here.
Gag Reel (HD, 5 min.) – A few minutes of the stars laughing and messing up their lines.
The Expendables 2 is certainly a fun movie and is much sillier than the first outing. Action sequences are top-notch, but the characters all wink and nod to the cameras quite a bit with their famous one-liners, which kind of takes you out of the film from time to time. Still, it's a fun film to watch and goes well in the franchise. The video and audio presentations are both excellent with the Dolby Atmos track being demo worthy. The extras are worth watching too, but there are no new ones. This 4K release comes Recommended!
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.