I reviewed 'The Expendables' when it first came out on Blu-ray. Now we're getting a Director's Cut. There's an introduction from Sylvester Stallone before the menu comes up with him presenting this cut. He says he likes it better, and it has "more heart." After watching it and comparing it to the original cut, there's nothing in here that warrants an entire new review since it's the same movie all the way around. People hoping for more action scenes will be disappointed, because there aren't any. The biggest changes that I noticed were the alternate opening credits, which seem to take forever, alternate music choices, a very strange voiceover by Stallone at the beginning. There are more scenes that involve the women in the lives of the guys like Lee's (Jason Statham) girlfriend problems, Tool's (Mickey Rourke) story of a girl falling off a bridge, and Barney (Stallone) obsessing over Sandra even more than usual. There's nothing here that really merits purchasing it if you have the theatrical version. Sure, Stallone says he likes this cut more, but there's not much more here to like. It's a total of 10 minutes longer and none of that is added action.
I gave the theatrical release a 3.5, and here I'm giving the Director's Cut a 3. For all the reasons stated above I feel like this is actually an inferior cut of the movie. Although, much of the review I wrote still stays the same.
Most males who were alive during the 80s and early 90s rejoiced when they heard Stallone was setting out to film a send-up to the action movies of old. He was going to gather together every action star he could get his hands one (sadly Van Damme wasn't included) and create a movie piled full of manliness and machismo. A movie that relied more on real explosions and real fire than on CG and special effects. He wanted to create an old school action movie that appealed to the fans of 'Rambo' and 'Die Hard.' So, the question is, did he succeed? Yes and no.
The plot is pretty straight forward. Barney Ross (Slyvester Stallone) leads a gang of mercenaries who work for whoever is cutting the biggest check. Don't worry, they aren't ruled by money. They have principles. They're the good guys, but that doesn't negate the fact that they're badasses. The team is comprised of new and old action stars. Jason Statham and Jet Li represent the older generation of action stars who have been doing this for a while now, while guys like Terry Crews and Randy Coture offer some new blood to the mix. Throw in a disheveled and all together unbalanced Dolph Lundgren and you've got quite the mix of hard-punching, muscle-bound soldiers.
Barney Ross has a level head. He never overdoes anything. He thinks about everything in a very logical fashion. He's exactly what a team like this needs, a pragmatic leader. Bruce Willis makes a cameo as a mysterious employer who wants to hire Barney and his team to help out in an island country called Vilena. The country has been taken over by an evil dictator, who is being controlled by a wealthy bad guy who wants to use the country's resources to produce cocaine.
So far so good, this has all the basics for an over-the-top action movie, the likes of which we haven't seen for at least a decade. Today action movies have become a high-gloss version of what they once were, but 'The Expendables' isn't afraid to get down and dirty. Unfortunately, even though Stallone has gathered together all his buddies, and has crafted a story and movie that is full of gun fights, explosions, hand-to-hand combat scenes, and gore, there's still a feeling that some of the modern day gloss has carried over. Many of the combat scenes are filmed with the ever-popular shaky-cam technique that I don't think held much place in action movies of old. Here, while martial arts masters like Statham and Li battle henchmen with perfectly choreographed moves, and deadly accuracy much of it is incoherent as the camera swings and cuts so fast that most times the actors are blurred.
'The Expendables' succeeds when it relies on its huge action pieces. We've gotten so used to seeing special effects and CG takes on explosions, that we've forgotten what it's like to see a real building explode and burn.
While 'The Expendables' doesn't offer us a completely faithful vision of the action movies of yesteryear, it still provides a heaping helping of fun mixed with just the right about of manly sweat and blood. When Stallone and Statham turn that big plane around and start blowing away a line of Vilena army men, followed by a huge explosion, it's hard not to sit back and smile.
'The Expendables' explodes onto Blu-ray with a 1080p picture that shimmers with fiery explosions and glistens with giant oiled man muscles.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The Director's Cut of 'The Expendables' is a Lionsgate release. Comes in a standard keepcase with a Digital Copy. If, by chance you want to combine your theatrical copy with this one I suggest removing the Digital Copy from the theatrical release and putting this disc inside there with the other cut of the film. There is a Digital Copy here, but it doesn't have its own disc. There's one BD-50 in this release. It's noted as a Region A release.
The Director's Cut arrives with 1080p video that's identical to the theatrical cut already out on Blu-ray.
Let's start with the fine detail that looks amazing. Stallone is a terrifying specimen of a man. Looking at his arms in high-definition is something to behold. I'm pretty sure the vein running along the top of his bicep is bigger than both of my biceps put together. The man is humongous, and each ripple of muscle, each exposed vein winding its way down his arm is completely visible. Skintone is always right on the money with whoever is on screen. Dolph Lundgren's subtle facial scars are perfectly perceptible as they creep along his cheek. Colors are rich and vibrant. From the multi-colored tattoos that are draped over Stallone's burly body, to the lush green jungles of Vilena.
The transfer isn't without its issues though. If there was one gripe I have its that there are a few times when blacks come across as flat. For example when Monroe goes to meet Garza in his office around the last third of the movie, Monroe moves to the center of the room through the shadows. His hair takes on a matte black finish for some reason. It's an almost metallic one-dimensional feel that looks really weird. There are a few CG effects, like knives being stabbed through people, that looked fake in the theater and still look fake at home. Besides the few instances with flat blacks, the rest of the movies has great delineation with blacks that add depth and substance to the image. Tool's motorcycle shop/tattoo parlor are great scenes to see some really deep inky blacks.
I didn't notice any aliasing, blocking, or any other type of artifact that may creep up. Also, the transfer is pristine, harboring not one speck of errant source noise.
This release also features the same bombastic audio design as the first cut. What would a big beefy movie be without a bigger and beefier sound mix to go with it. 'The Expendables' sports a bombastic and jarring 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that should come with a warning that says "Please beware. Constant bass may shake your valuables off the shelves."
This is a non-stop, rumbling soundtrack that never ceases to jar you. As was expected it's absolutely filled to the brim with LFE that thunders throughout the movie. The explosion on the docks produces a massive amount of bass, but it doesn't feel unnatural. The automatic shotgun that Terry Crews uses throughout the movie also provides a deep resonant thwump, thwump, thwump that will definitely wake up the kids if they're asleep and possibly your neighbors. Panning effects are done to perfection as grenades sail from one side of the screen to the other, or as Ross' huge airplane slowly gains speed and takes off.
Think this mix is all bass? Think again. Even the more subtle sounds, like guns clicking into place, magazines being shoved home, or the whizzing noise of a tattoo gun come out clear and intelligible. The surrounds are constantly engaged and the mix makes great use of the extra two channels provided in the 7.1 mix. During the battle scenes it's like evil henchmen have surrounded your living room and are trying to blow you to smithereens. Bullets fly past your head and explosions happen all around you. It's an engaging, violent soundtrack that's for sure. My only nitpick is that Mickey Rourke's lines are constantly hard to hear. This is partly because the guy is a mumbler, but after watching the Post Production featurette and hearing Stallone talk extensively about sound design and how he wants every line of dialogue to be heard it seems Rourke's few lines got overlooked.
For those of you that were hoping to maybe sell your theatrical edition after purchasing this one, not so fast. This one doesn't carry over all of the theatrical release's special features, most notably the audio commentary. I feel if it's a new cut they should've done a new commentary, but that's not here either. Also absent is the awesome post production featurette that was on the theatrical version.
For those who were hoping for even more action, you'll be disappointed. Personally, I like the theatrical cut better anyway. It feels more focused, whereas the director's cut seems like the added dramatic sequences about the girls in the lives of the guys simply bogs down a movie that's supposed to be all about the action. Also, the new alternate opening credits are painfully slow. This is the rare instance where even though the score may reflect a recommended or even highly recommended status, I'm going to go ahead and say rent it first. Check out for yourself if you think this new cut warrants you purchasing this movie again.