The Expendables – Extended Director’s Cut assaults Region A-locked Blu-ray with the same spectacular video presentation that the Theatrical Cut release boasted over a year ago; a 1080p High Definition rendition in the movie’s original aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Detail is excellent throughout, particularly on the fine object front, with everything from skin pores to individual hair strands being visible on this transfer. Even if it does not always show off the ageing actors in the best light, it is certainly an excellent presentation in terms of detail, with no softness, no aberrant DNR tinkering and no noticeable edge enhancement.
The colour scheme varies dramatically from scene to scene – whether it’s the blue-dominated shots with Mickey Rourke reflecting on their past exploits, or the darker tunnel sequences towards the end of the film; in fact most of the film is shot in dark, night conditions and yet, even then, detail remains strong and black levels are deep and rich, never once absorbing objects into the shadows. Overall it’s a fantastic presentation, with the new footage seamlessly blending in with the rest. Easily reference quality, fans should be most pleased with this presentation.
On the aural front things get even better, the film’s accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track remixed not only to take account of the new footage, new edits and new cuts, but also to take in the new tracks that Stallone has (correctly) used in place of some of the earlier, slightly more repetitive score elements. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, largely dominating the frontal array wherever appropriate. Effects are myriad, and extremely well-placed, as bullets whizz by and the louder gunshots (like the automatic shotgun action) get some serious LFE accompaniment, allowing for truly thunderous in-your-face action.
The sound design of the track is excellent, creating a palpable atmosphere during the key action sequences, and making the various locations come to life in your living room. The score is quite variable – I didn’t love it first time around, but this new Director’s Cut improves it considerably – and gets great coverage across the array, further bringing the bass into play, although you’d be hard-pushed to find a lengthy stretch of time where the LFE channel wasn’t being remarkably active. Overall another reference-quality offering that you could easily use as demo material for your sound system – much like the original release of the Theatrical Cut.
Although not quite brimming with all the extras that fans might have wanted – like a Commentary or Picture-in-Picture track, the material on offer here (all presented in HD) is still pretty damn comprehensive, including, not least, the same whopping ninety minute Documentary, Inferno, that graced the original Theatrical Cut release. Aside from in terms of presentation – i.e. they could have spliced together some of the background information for an Enhanced Viewing Mode – this is a superior set of extras.
Introduction to the film by Sylvester Stallone
On the set of the sequel, which was shot just a few months ago, Stallone talks about how he was never all that happy with his first cut of the movie, how there were lots of things about it that bothered him, and how he was glad to have the chance to revisit it and start afresh.
Inferno: The Making of The Expendables
This is the same mammoth Documentary that adorned the first release of the movie, competing with the movie in terms of length (it’s over an hour and a half long) and split into parts, it covers just about every aspect of the production you could have hoped for, with plenty of behind the scenes footage of the film being shot, effects comparisons, rehearsals, off-set chats, anecdotes and cast and crew interview segments. For an Expendables fan, this is well worth your time and the single most important extra.
Spike TV’s “Action: The Expendables”
This 20-minute Featurette offers a further, marginally less complete, overview of the production, presented in a marginally more promotional way, and thus slightly more fluffy. If you’re really still hungry for more after Inferno, then you could give this a look.
“Sylvester Stallone: A Director In Action”
Another 20 minute Featurette, at least this one carries much more interview footage with Stallone himself, focussing more on his directorial approach, his experience from 40 years in movies, and the style of action-filmwork that he went for with this production.
“Sinner’s Prayer” by Sully Erna
Finally the disc is rounded off by the music video to one of the more well-placed songs from the new cut.
It has taken me a while to come around to director/writer/producer/star Sylvester Stallone’s 80s throwback ensemble action vehicle, but, looking beyond its bad CG, sloppy editing and often out-of-place humour – and it’s frankly terrible story – there are still plenty of lovely little action touches to take in, and this Extended Director’s Cut goes some way towards improving the whole: removing some of the unnecessarily shoddy effects work, cleaning up the editing, refining the humour and even improving the soundtrack. Funnily enough, this one might just appeal to those who didn’t wholly enjoy The Expendables first time around as much as those who did; viewers who may just find this second take on the proceedings a more efficient and enjoyable affair.
On Region A-locked US Blu-ray we get stunning video and audio, as well as all of the key extras that cover the production comprehensively – most notably the whopping Inferno documentary from the earlier release – and fans should have no qualms about picking this up and adding it to their collection alongside the original Theatrical Cut (although a 2-disc set with both cuts would have been preferred to completely replace the previous edition, but, as we saw with Rambo, Stallone isn’t all that fond of those). Newcomers who were either put off by The Expendables at the cinema, or who simply haven’t got around to checking it out, would be advised that, in my opinion, this is the better cut to watch. Despite my early disappointment, I’m pleased with the lengths that Stallone has gone to in an attempt to get this dream project right and, whilst it’s far from perfect, this kind of display of utter dedication certainly bodes well for the upcoming sequel, which will hopefully take things to the next level.
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