DVD of the Week – Review of The Expendables (2010)
by HELEN GEIB
I liked the banter.
The Expendables is this week’s DVD of the week. Nir may never forgive me.
Action movies inspire strong feelings among action fans and The Expendables has its passionate partisans and equally passionate detractors. I didn’t love it, but it did give me a good time at the movies.
For the benefit of any non-action fans who might be reading this post and are unfamiliar with the film, the plot is, as usual in an action movie, of little consequence; some serviceable nonsense about the heroes seeking redemption by overthrowing the petty dictator of a fictitious banana republic and taking out the CIA agent-gone-rogue power behind the throne. The real point of the project was that it assembled a fan’s dream lineup of past and present action stars behind principal lead/ director/ co-writer Sylvester Stallone. Namely (in the order listed in the IMDb): Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, and Mickey Rourke, with cameos by Arnold and Bruce Willis.
Although I’m a pretty big action movie fan myself (the detractors would say: because I’m a pretty big action movie fan), I wasn’t really all that crazy about the action in The Expendables. Stallone as director employs the rapid cutting with lots of camera set-ups approach to the fight scenes that’s become common in Hollywood actioners. This means we watch the fights unfold in discontinuous fragments. It actually works pretty well for the several group fights featuring multiple heroes, multiple antagonists, and shifting match-ups; the excited-confusion camerawork suits a melee. It doesn’t hold up so well in the one-on-ones, where it mostly leaves you wishing they’d just point the camera at the actors already, so you could actually watch your favorite hero (or villain as the case may be) show his stuff like you know he can.
So if not the action, or anyway the action only here and there, what did I like so much that I should recommend the movie? Mostly I liked the camaraderie, and the banter. The camaraderie was right up there with the action in importance and it led directly to a lot of good banter. It also didn’t hurt that my personal cast favorite Jet Li had a good part, and took part in the lighthearted banter.
The Expendables is available on DVD and a two-disc Blu-ray edition. The DVD extras are an audio commentary by Stallone, a “making of” short feature, deleted scenes, and a gag reel. The Blu-ray edition adds a second “making of” feature, a recording of a panel at Comic-con, and something called “ultimate recon mode.” There’s also a “director’s cut” version available on Blu-ray that reportedly beefs up the screentime of the other Expendables; features are carried over from the theatrical release Blu-ray with the exception, ironically enough, of the director’s commentary.
Other new releases this week: Eat Pray Love, Flipped, I’m Still Here