“Sylvester Stallone stars as Barney Ross, leader of the expendables, a tight-knit team of skilled combat vets turned mercenaries. Hired by a powerful covert operator, the team jets off to a small South American country to overthrow a ruthless dictator. Once there, they find themselves caught in a deadly web of deceit and betrayal. Using every weapon at their disposal, they set out to save the innocent and punish the guilty in this blistering action-packed thriller.”
The Expendables opens as their team is sent to negotiate the release of hostages being held by pirates aboard a ship at sea. After a quick and concise setup of the characters and their personalities in combat, the team heads back home looking for their next job. This comes rather quickly from a mysterious source known simply as Church (Bruce Willis), who offers Barney and his team a job taking out a target in a small South American country. Wanting to learn more about the job, Barney and his right hand man Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) make the trip to discreetly check things out.
Barney and Lee learn things aren’t quite what they seem, and that they may be pawns in an operation by the CIA. As they investigate further, things quickly escalate as they come across Sandra (Giselle Itié), the daughter of the dictator, who deplores her father’s actions. Before they realize it, they are thrust into action and now must escape the military forces of the small nation.
The duo make it back home and decide not to take the job for obvious reasons. When the corrupt CIA official and his henchmen track Barney and his team down at home he makes things personal, and Barney decides to go back not only for his satisfaction, but also to rescue Sandra.
This leads to a non-stop action-packed third act with a team full of action heroes doing what they do best.
The Expendables was definitely an experiment unlike anything we’ve seen: a throwback from those great 80’s and 90’s action films and their stars all together in one place. Being the first of its kind has a few drawbacks, one being finding the right balance when you have such heavy hitting powerhouses in a single film. Unfortunately I believe that they didn’t approach this the way they should have. Instead of feeling like an actual team, it always seemed more of an exhibition of each action star, very formulaic, featuring each one down the line as the film progresses. The film boasts all these incredible action stars but focuses mainly on Stallone and Statham. It isn’t until the end when we see any semblance of teamwork from the entire group. Fortunately, the balance was much more maintained in the sequels, with even more names thrown into the mix to contend with.
Another disappointment of the first film in the franchise is the lack of a clear villain. We have the dictator, the ex-CIA agent and his henchmen, who are really all faceless and interchangeable. There isn’t anything special about them at all, which leaves the viewer not caring about the stakes of the job. At one point Stallone shoots an old man checking passports whose only crime was to give him lip when he came into the country. If we were supposed to feel threatened by him, it certainly went over my head, which will be the case for the majority of the baddies here. We simply just don’t care about them.
Where the film does succeed is in its action sequences. Stallone was born for these types of scenes, and the team he has put together can certainly deliver. One thing that will always be different from the 80’s and 90’s action films that Stallone wants to recapture is the use of CG violence instead of good old fashioned squibs and fake blood. To me, there will always be a little magic missing when using this method, however, it is used better here than some films I’ve seen. Regardless of the CG used, the choreography of the fight scenes, the stunts, are all very well done and cater to each specific action star who is performing.
The Expendables is presented here in 4k 2160p Ultra High Definition Widescreen 2.35:1. This transfer looks good, with the biggest difference you’ll notice being the HDR in terms of color. For the most part, the scenes are relatively dark, but you’ll get some deep blue tones that will look pretty good in contrast with all the explosions you’ll see. There are a few scenes that are noticeably sub-par, with a lack of focus and good color balance. Although the majority of the film looks pretty good, this isn’t the best 4k transfer you may be used to.
The Blu-Ray is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen 2.35:1
The audio on the 4k disc is present in Dolby Atmos and may be one of the best things on the disc. Levels are good throughout, with a good balance between dialogue and gunfire so you won’t miss anything. With the amount of action in this film, the Atmos really works your surrounds to give you an immersive experience.
The audio on the Blu-Ray is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1.
On this set you’ll find special features on both the 4k disc and the Blu-Ray.
On the 4k disc you’ll see:
- Audio Commentary with Director Sylvester Stallone
- Inferno: The Making of The Expendables
- “From the Ashes: Postproduction” Documentary
On the Blu-Ray you’ll see:
- Comic-Con 2010 Panel
- Deleted Scenes
- Gag Reel
- Marketing Archive
The Expendables brings to life a type of film no one would ever think would happen. Bringing these veteran action stars together in one film is an incredible feat, and although the film had its problems, it paves the way for bigger films to be done right.