The Expendables 3 (Blu-ray Review)

Way back when I wrote my theatrical review of The Expendables 3 I talked about how I initially promised myself I would have nothing to do with this movie after I learned about the abysmal PG-13 rating the filmmakers trimmed it down to be to comply with requirements of the much feared MPAA in order to get it out to a wider audience (more about that later).  If it had not been for a trip up to Cleveland, OH to visit all my family and friends I can pretty much guarantee that I would have never partaken in a screening of The Expendables 3.  I subjected myself to the theatrical experience to kill two birds with one stone, visit my most favorite Cleveland marketing team leader (she knows who she is) and also my favorite theater ever, that of Cinemark Valley View.  I have so many memories there and obviously now The Expendables 3 is one of them.  So let’s dispense with all the filter and formalities I’m employing here and talk about Barney (Stallone) and his old and new gang, and what does and does not happen here.

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Although Sylvester Stallone had a hand in penning the script, this outing is directed by Patrick Hughes and sees the return of the old cast members and fresh new ones.  For brevity’s sake I’m not going to segregate who was here first and who’s all new.  Instead I’m just going to lump all the big names together for you to figure out on your own.  I’m even going to be devious and mix them up a bit.  This third film in the ensemble action series features Sly, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Kelsey Grammer, Terry Crews, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson, Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger, Kellan Lutz, Harrison Ford, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz and more.  Wow!  I know!  That’s literally a mouthful to type.

The main gist of the story finds us following mercenary group, The Expendables (duh!), as they come into conflict with arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson).  I’m going to pump the proverbial brakes right there for a minute before venturing into further plot details, but fret not because I’ll eventually get there.  However, for a brief moment, I want to discuss this ridiculous rumor I had heard about Bruce Willis and his lack of involvement in this third go around.  Rumor has it that Wilis’ lack of involvement was cited as a disagreement over money.  Supposedly Willis was “only” offered $3 million dollars for four days of shooting in Bulgaria, but Mr. No Show (see the fifth Die Hard movie for an example of what I mean by this moniker) wanted $4 million.  Now tell me this.  What kind of planet do we live in where someone turns down $3 million dollars for four all expense paid days of filming with friends?  Jesus Jones!  I wish I had those kind of problems in life.  If I never see Willis again in a future feature film, I won’t feel a single bit of regret, sympathy or loss.  Alright, now we can get back to talking about the plot points and everything else.

So I’m going to warn you now.  Contrary to using better judgement and going against the grain of the mainstream critics, I’m choosing to award The Expendables 3 a much higher score than the rest simply because I had F-U-N with it, even after my second viewing on Blu-ray here.  The fun factor is truly all that matters to me here in this franchise.  Besides the punches, one-liners and bullets spraying it’s the only things you have to roll with.  I understand that the script isn’t always cohesive.  I’m well aware of the overly simple and juvenile storyline.  And I did not turn a blind eye to the many edits that were employed to appease the MPAA, sadly even in the Unrated version (more about that later).  However, what it all boils down to is the fact that I can sit back in my seat and truly have a good ole’ time with the boys and girl in this action packed franchise.  Would I have liked more blood?  Hell yeah!  But I heard this little voice in the back of my head saying you enjoyed The Dark Knight immensely even when everyone was getting shot and no blood was spewing so SUCK IT UP for this one!

As far as the story goes here I have no doubt that you’ve seen these same plot points employed over and over before to the point of exhaustion reminding you there’s really nothing new to be seen here.  The only cohesive glue that truly holds this together is the fact that we are out with the biggest action stars of yesterday and even today trading quips, pokes, blows, jokes and measuring who’s you know what is bigger.  The nostalgia and age factor of the stars is what makes this franchise so beloved and ultimately keeps the audiences interested and coming back.  However, that’s what makes this such a gooey hot mess at the same time too.  While we are going for the hard core 80’s nostalgia and action, things gets a bit bloated down trying to sell the emotions and feelings of the characters.  They didn’t do that in the 80’s so why they are trying so hard here?  It’s really beyond me.

Things get a little too deep here for their own good in regards to Stallone’s character (Barney), but worry not, nothing like in the first Expendables flick with Rourke’s over-the-top monologue.  Thank God!  Things are also a little less campy this go around than last time with JCVD, but honestly, I can go either way there.  As long as the action carries the film, I’m okay with the one-liners and real life knocks against each of the stars.  Ooh!  That reminds me, speaking of knocks.  Remember me telling you about Willis up above?  Well rest assured, Ford’s character delivers a stinger as to why he’s in the film and not the character of Church, formerly portrayed by Willis.  I was laughing my a$$ when I initially heard this in the film.  Whether wider audiences will get the inside joke or not is truly none of my concern.  I got it and that’s all that matters.

What it all boils down to is the fact that The Expendables franchise can be something really dynamite and explosive, but for some reason or another, even after three tries here now, they just can’t seem to hone in on completely capitalizing.  I know there’s already a fourth and a fifth installment planned, but how much more can we the audience take?  Hell…how much more can Stallone’s body take?  He’s not 40 anymore, or even 50 or 60.  And I know this is all supposed to be spectacle and you’re supposed to check your non-suspension of disbelief in at the theater’s front door before entering, but will this franchise still be going strong with Stallone rocking a walker?  I sure hope not!  After three tries, all mostly strikes in the eyes of the critics, should we not focus our energy on something I’ll just come on out and say it…better?  I know Stallone and crew were trying to expand their audience with this PG-13 rating, but I truly don’t believe that this move really won them over any new fans.  For starters, it’s still extremely violent, but just employs a lot of cut away shots and a severe blood shortage.  And second, the online DVD quality leak of the film some three weeks before it was released theatrically didn’t do it any favors either at the box office.  I honestly can’t believe this leak happened, but in our crooked and Internet driven world I suppose I should not be surprised at all.  It’s just sad that people partake in downloading such illegal products and get away with it.  Despite being poor and born of common folk, my heart goes out to everyone affected by the loss of revenue in this project as a result.  I hope everyone that downloaded it illegally gets what they have coming.

So getting back to the whole story component we initially pick up with the usual crew, slimmed down by casualties, on a dangerous mission to break out a fallen comrade, who’s been imprisoned for eight years over tax evasion.  I bet you can guess who that is, huh?  Then we are whisked away on another mission before heading home.  There’s not too much background or expose on what’s going on, but that’s alright.  Always remember, this is an Expendables film first and foremost.  So things don’t go as planned with this mission.  One of the crew gets seriously hurt and the group discovers a new threat, Stonebanks, someone they thought was long gone.  Back stateside, Barney tells his faithful old crew that he’s done with them because he doesn’t want to be responsible for their eventual deaths in the field and goes his own way to find new, younger recruits who don’t care about the one-way ticket aspect of the job.  This drags a bit, but eventually we get back into the action antics as they try to apprehend Stonebanks.

In an effort to avoid any spoilers let’s just say things don’t go as planned here either and I don’t think you need a fifth grade education to guess what happens next in the film.  I think it’s safe to say that you can at least expect to find both the young and the old Expendables fighting side by side for a grand Act 3 spectacle finale.  And that’s the thing.  If I had one other complaint besides the predictable story, choppy editing and lack of blood, it would be that of the blurry lines between Act 2 and 3.  The whiff of death was there, but it really wasn’t prevalent and other than the fun and games of finding the new recruits, Act 2 and 3 really blurred together for me.  However, one man saved it all for me.  Antonio Banderas had me in stitches.  And quite honestly, that’s a really good thing here!

Antonio portrays Galgo, a former member of the Spanish Armed Forces, Bosnian war veteran and expert sharpshooter who’s also quite the comedian.  Maybe his character doesn’t mean to be, but save for the fact that he never shuts up and you can see where I’m going here hopefully.  He’s the comedic sidekick all movies that strive to be too serious for their own good truly need.  Besides the old gang there’s also a bunch of nobody youngsters that I’m not overly familiar with.  Their performances at best were rather forgetful.  And even though I’m not the hugest fan of Ford and his attitude problems as of late, I’ll concede and say he was very likable here as was the former Governor.  Probably the biggest laugh comes from the description of the character Yin Yang, portrayed by Jet Li.  He’s billed as a hand-to-hand combat expert, but if you can show me him using his hands as such described, Denny’s is on me tonight!  So okay.  You get the picture.  The Expendables 3 is far from a perfect movie, however it’s also very far from the train wreck it could have been.  However, if you can embrace the cheesiness, the over-the-top stunts and love The Expendables 3 for everything good it does, action, d1ck measuring and the return of Mel Gibson as the film’s villain, then you have a recipe for a “fun” time at the theater.

I’m not going to rally the troops here.  You’ll have to decide for yourself if this warrants a rental or a Blu-ray purchase for the fans of the franchise.  I’m really glad I did get the opportunity to see it and ultimately review it again here.  While even after a second viewing I wish the final showdown between the two super powers (you know who they are) was more memorable, I’ll take what I can get from this installment and quite honestly, from what we have seen these past three go arounds, that’s all you can really ask for from this franchise.  If you choose to partake, enjoy!  And remember, please pay for your movies…DON’T download illegally.  You wouldn’t like it if someone stoled from you, would you?

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While I would love to lie to you and say everything is perfect here and just move on that wouldn’t be too ethical of me would it?  Of course not!  Let’s take a closer “look” at things here.

  • Encoding: AVC MPEG-4/MVC
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Clarity/Detail: Things can get a bit murky here, but not at the expense of fine detail from the rust on metal, cracks in the sidewalks, facial hair and the many wrinkles in the aging action hero faces.
  • Depth: The wooded scenes stood out the most to me here in this presentation as the depth of field was absolutely amazing in these.  The fine detail in the foreground doesn’t hurt things here either.
  • Black Levels: I had no problems here.  The black levels were all plentifully deep and dreamy.
  • Color Reproduction: I mentioned things looked murky up above, but given the subject matter one can chalk that up to artistic intent here.  When the colors want to be, they can be as vivacious as they want, almost like a lion roaring.  One of my favorite scenes, because I’m a sucker for these, is when the bright neon lights contrasted with the dark building in the night.  So for the most part I guess you can say color reproduction is accurate here.
  • Flesh Tones: The skin tones all look natural and healthy throughout this presentation.
  • Noise/Artifacts: There’s no instances of any distracting noise, blemishes or specks, but I did notice some banding in the distant night sky when our “Expendable”  soldiers were jumping from the plane.

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With the immersive Dolby Atmos soundtrack experience, you’re definitely going to feel like you are at the center of the action.

  • Audio Format(s): EnglishDolby TrueHD Atmos Mix and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio
  • Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
  • Dynamics: They say that “Dolby Atmos provides captivating, multidimensional sound to bring consumers deeper into the story by delivering an experience that moves sound throughout the room with amazing clarity and true-to-life detail” and I couldn’t agree more.  Like the subject matter onscreen this audio presentation was bombastic and muscle flexing in every which way.  Boom shakalaka boom!
  • Low Frequency Extension: Haha.  Really?  You want to talk about the LFE channel here?  Sure!  The bass goes boom, boom from all the explosions and of course…THE TANKS!  They blow crap up and cement floors exploding never sounded so full.
  • Surround Sound Presentation:  From the train behind you, the many helicopter blades spinning, the triumphant robust score, the bullets spraying, zinging and zipping by and the explosions rocking, the surrounds are alive, well and kicking here.  Turn it up baby!
  • Dialogue Reproduction:  The dialogue is is mixed intelligible, clear and understandable throughout here.

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So if you like a marketing/studio tagline, try this one on for size: “The Blu-ray Combo Pack will include the never-before-seen unrated edition of the film – featuring more action, more explosions, more fights – and a higher body count – everything fans have come to love in the franchise! “  I’m not quite sure how true that statement is, but I’ll let you make up your mind on that front when you see it.  However, the facts never lie and they are the following.  The Expendables 3 Blu-ray Combo Pack is loaded with bonus material that includes The Expendables 3 documentary, two featurettes that delve deep behind-the-scenes with the incredible cast and crew, an extended scene and a gag reel. We’ll get to all of this in a moment, but for a quick second I want to call your attention to the fact that not only is there two cuts of the film on the Blu-ray, but they also give you both cuts to redeem in the form of a Digital Copy.  How cool is that?  It’s amazing cool in my opinion.  Best of all you can redeem those in iTunes or with UltraViolet.  I love it when the consumer has a choice like this.   Also, there’s a second disc housed in this Blu-ray case which is sadly only a DVD presentation of the film, but I digress because while we don’t have a kick a$$ audio commentary we do have almost two hours of special features to talk about down below so let’s get cracking on these.

  • Unrated Edition Run Time (HD, 131 minutes) – Quite honestly, I did not notice much here despite this being 5 minutes longer than the theatrical edition.  Sure there’s maybe a few more bloody faces, but no extreme digital blood added anywhere and unless I missed it still only one F-word that I could understandably hear if you don’t count the other ones muttered or cut short.
  • Theatrical Version Run Time: (HD, 126 minutes) – Here’s what y’all saw in the theaters.  Yay!
  • The Expendables 3 Documentary (HD, 51:56) – As you can see by the runtime, this one is huge!  This one pretty much has it all from Executive Producer Avi Lerner and Director Patrick Hughes to behind-the-scenes footage with Mel, Harrison, Sylvester, the other 14 actors and everyone else.  The cast and crew chime in about pretty much everything here.  They all really seem to love working with Patrick Hughes.  There’s no mystery about that.  We also take a pretty meaty look inside the mind blowing action!  I mean what would an Expendables film be without the action?  That was a rhetorical question, but of course.  LOL.  They talk about how unbelievable it is to use actual actors here and not stunt doubles.  Preparation, Execution and Recovery is how they do things here, military like. We  also get to see the choreography of scenes as well as some pre-vis.  I can go on and on about everything you’ll see here, but I think you get the point.  Whether you like this film or not, there’s no denying the stunts are where it is here.  If you’re a fan, make sure you enjoy this one!
  • “New Blood: Stacked and Jacked” (HD, 16:11) – This featurette takes a look at the cast as they chat about how much fun the energy and action was in making this film.  It’s also nice to see Mel Gibson smile in this one.  Sylvester Stallone shows how he can see it in the eyes of the actors as to how they really got it.  The new actors talk about how they got involved in the movie and interestingly enough how they sold themselves to Stallone as to why they should be in the movie.  So I guess you kind of know where I’m going with this one.  It’s all about the “Young Guns” here!
  • “The Total Action Package” (HD, 6:40) – Young and old, the actors all seem smitten to be working with each other.  After all, they are all superstars in their own right.  You can literally feel the enthusiasm and joy on the set in this featurette.  This one is kind of a love affair as the actors all take turns confessing who they are smitten by and fortunate to work with here.
  • Extended Scene: “Christmas Runs the Gauntlet” (HD, 2:46) – Since Statham’s character is one of my favorites in this series, I say give me all the Christmas you can give me.  While I can’t say what’s different about this scene, I can say if it involves Christmas, why not keep the extended scene in the film?  That is all.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 5:41) – Haha.  I loved it when the scope fell off Mel Gibson’s gun.  Classic!  It’s also been awhile since I’ve seen Harrison Ford laugh.  Other than that this is your usual run of the mill gag reel you’ve all come to expect on Blu-ray releases.  I’m sure fans of the film will love this!
  • Also From Lionsgate (HD) – Here you will find the following previews: Draft Day, Life of Crime, A Most Wanted Man, Red 2, Divergent and an Epix commercial.

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If The Expendables 3 did nothing more than make me want to play more Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare on the PlayStation 4, then chalk it up as a successful outing on the Blu-ray format!  Whether your a fan of this film or franchise, there’s no denying that like the explosive action in the trilogy, this Blu-ray is pure DYNA-MITE with near perfect video, a reference audio presentation and an alternate cut of the film with over an hour of bonus features to boot.  Now you’re only choice is whether to rent or buy.  Come on!  The Expendables 3 Blu-ray might make a great stocking stuffer for the action hero junkie in your family, don’t you think?  I do!  So pre-order that puppy now so you can wrap it as soon as possible and stick it in their stocking next to the fireplace.


Pre-order Now!

The Expendables 3

Explodes on Blu-ray

November 25th!




Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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