December 26, 2011

When The Expendables dropped last year, many felt that—while Sylvester Stallone’s heart was in the right placed—the film failed to live up to expectations (there’s also a strong, vocal minority that love the film, and we should all just go ahead and assume now that they’re going to take issue with this statement).  Surprisingly enough, one of these people seems to be…Sylvester Stallone, who introduces the new Director’s Cut of The Expendables by saying, “I liked the theatrical version, but I love this (version)”.  Have improvements been made?  Is the film really and truly better?  And how can one tell, if one immediately forgot the first film almost as soon as they’d seen it?  Find out in my review of The Expendables: Director’s Cut, after the jump.

The Expendables movie imageA whole bunch of people thought that The Expendables sucked.  A whole bunch.  Because I’ve written about The Expendables before and suffered the wrath of Stallone fanboys who haunt the internet, waiting to pounce on any fool who’d dare to suggest that anything Stallone does isn’t gospel, I know that there’s going to be—shall we say—disagreement with this sentiment.  But the numbers don’t lie, people:  The Expendables has a 45% on Metacritic and a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, which means that somewhere between 55 and 60% of people were not happy with the way that Stallone’s action-heavy vanity project turned out.

That’s not surprising, really.  What is surprising is that Stallone is amongst that 55-60%.  At least, that’s what we can gather from the introduction to The Expendables: Director’s Cut Blu-ray, where Stallone talks about how test-screenings and second-guessing led him to release a version of The Expendables that he wasn’t exactly in love with.  Stallone doesn’t go so far as to say that his original cut “sucked balls”, but he does say that the film wasn’t in line with his original version of the script, and that while he “likes” the theatrical cut, he “loves” this new one.

“Well,”  I thought, “This should be interesting”.

In the past, I’ve seen director’s cuts that I felt improved upon the original version (Natural Born Killers), director’s cuts that seemed like a step sideways (the Payback: Straight Up cut), and director’s cuts that utterly undermined what I loved about the original in the first place (the god-awful Donnie Darko director’s cut, which seems to confirm all the unfortunate suspicions that we might have after seeing The Box and Southland Tales), so I was curious to see what category the Expendables director’s cut would fall into.  And then, I realized that I could barely remember anything about The Expendables beyond the fact that I didn’t really like it.   And so, I was faced with a choice:  rewatch The Expendables theatrical cut, then watch The Expendables director’s cut, and then compare…or just watch the Expendables director’s cut and review that film without making the obvious comparisons.

The Expendables movie imageBecause watching roughly 3 ½ hours of Stallone-based mayhem was not something I felt up to the task for, I have opted for the latter.  Maybe if the original Expendables had been a film I’d enjoyed (do with this information what you will:  I have going-on-a-thousand films in my collection, films that I know damn well I probably won’t watch more than once, and—until Collider sent me this disc—a version of The Expendables was not among them), I would’ve welcomed the task.  But after upwards of thirty seconds of consideration, it just seemed too exhausting.

Besides, I can plead a fairly strong case for reviewing a film on its own merits (without turning said review into the world’s most tedious compare/contrast essay).  You might argue that the sole reason of a director’s cut is to compare the film to its original incarnation, but I will politely disagree because…well, shit, I’m not watching this movie—with any amount of alterations made—two more times.  Just not happening.  If you feel this invalidates my opinion of Stallone’s new cut, well, you’re free to go elsewhere.  Everyone else can meet me in the next paragraph, where we’ll get to the reason we’re all here today:  a post-mortem of Stallone’s latest attempt to turn The Expendables into a good movie.

Here’s my sneaking suspicion:  Stallone wasn’t thrilled with the critical response to The Expendables, and with a sequel on the horizon, he figured that he might be able to secure a few more asses in a few more seats if he were to somehow rerelease a better version of The Expendables on home video.  A cut here, a cut there, and maybe a few hundred thousand more people show up on opening night when The Expendables 2: Every Guy That’s Ever Hoisted a Gun on Film hits theaters.  Or maybe I’m just being cynical, and Stallone really did have “something” else to “say” with this cut of the film.  I’m certainly no closer to the truth after watching this new version, because—from where I’m standing—this new cut of The Expendables is just as lifeless and tedious as the first one was.

The Expendables movie imageBecause I can barely remember the particulars of my first experience with Stallone’s film, I have very little basis for comparison here.  And so, it seems to me that this is still a movie where big, lumbering, kind-of-ugly dudes stalk around onscreen, dispatching swarthy-looking greaseballs with ridiculously overpowered machine-guns and intimidating-looking knives.  It’s still got this totally ineffective subplot about Jason Statham’s attempts to land a wife.  It’s still awkwardly put-together and the action scenes still feel kind of unoriginal.  I totally get what Stallone was going for here—and it’s true that action fans have been demanding a film like this ever since the heyday of the genre back in the 80’s—but I simply don’t feel like this film lives up to those demands.  It’s just not all that good.

I will say this, though:  I don’t think The Expendables is terrible.  It’s a cut above, say, a Steven Segal flick that you’d catch on Showtime at three in the morning.  But I think that a fair amount of that has to do with the size of the budget that Stallone was working with, not with the quality of the writing or the acting.  The writing’s really obvious, with scenes that are clearly intended to make “tough guys saying tough and sometimes comical things to one another” read as “swaggering, charismatic machismo”…but the writing’s not sharp enough to make all that tough-talk charming.  And the acting’s just, I mean, good God, have you seen Dolph Lundgren try to act lately?  I’ve got shoes that can emote more convincingly.

I’m not going to bother recapping the plot here (it’s the same, as far as I recall), and I’m not gonna bother doing the thing where I force myself to say a few nice things about the film (you know what you’re getting into here, and that’s either “your thing” or it isn’t).  This is a review for a film that’s already gone through the review-wringer twice now, after a theatrical and home video release, so all you really oughtta care about is whether or not The Expendables: Director’s Cut is worth double-dipping for (I’m assuming that you already own a copy of The Expendables;  otherwise, why would you be interested now?).  Here’s my answer:  if you’re an Expendables completist, then yes, you’re going to want to have every version of The Expendables that Stallone releases upon our unsuspecting populace.  But if you’re wondering if this version drastically improves on the original and is thus worth adding to your collection, the answer’s no.

the-expendables-directors-cut-blu-ray-coverOh, wait!  I do have something nice to say!  The Expendables: Director’s Cut looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray, and the sound mix is noticeably good (I don’t normally notice the sound unless it’s really, really well done, so Stallone did something very right here).  Sure, it’s Blu-ray, and yeah, I’m watching this on an LED television, but still:  great-looking.  If only the film this video quality was in service of was worth a damn.  By the way, the film runs 114 minutes (ten minutes longer than the original, if you’re keeping score at home) and features a whole bunch of extras:  an intro to the film (both the menu and the film itself), a featurette about the film from Spike TV, a “making-of” doc (“Inferno”, which is actually kind of fun to watch, oddly enough), a featurette hilariously titled “Sylvester Stallone:  A Director in Action”, and—last and certainly least– a terrible music video for a song called “Sinner’s Prayer” (yeesh).

Look, I really like Sly Stallone.  I love the icon that he is following his journey through the 80’s, and everything I’ve ever read about the dude seems to indicate that he has a true love for film and the film geek community (let’s not forget that he subjected himself to several days’ worth of questioning from the notoriously infantile Ain’t It Cool News crowd).  I think he’s still got it in him to make great movies, and I think that he was on the right track with The Expendables.  I’ll say this, though:  even though the end result just doesn’t do it for me,  I’ll still give Expendables 2 a chance.  Stallone’s got enough juice with me to get me to fall for this trick twice, but I’m really hoping that—with the sequel—he makes the film we’ve been wanting all along.

My grade?  C-

  • Jack Burton

    This is the worst rambling review I have ever read.

    First, I am someone not thrilled with the first
    However, I was curious if a directors cut improved the original

    That said, your review rambles on for
    twenty minutes without even telling me
    what is new or different. Why the hell
    did you even review this if you hated
    the first and were too fat and lazy to
    even compare the two. Is this the only
    jackleg collider has to review movies? Damn
    I could do it for free. The losers this site
    hires who are too lazy to do their research
    are seriously detracting from this site.

    • Evan

      I mostly agree with you. The part I didn’t agree with was that I did like the majority of the movie. It wasn’t anything special but growing up on old 80′s films when I went and saw this I felt like a kid again. Put it up against action or action thrillers like Abduction or In Time I’d rather see some mindless 80′s action like this. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a more intelligent film, it was just a nice change of pace that isn’t done anymore.

      The part I do agree with is I came to see if the directors cut was just fodder to make money or if it really added something (which the majority of directors cuts don’t). Where was it? The most I heard was that Stallone has fans that are mad at his reviews. I’m a Stallone fan as well as old school Lundgren but hell yeah the’ve had some horrible films so I don’t care if there’s some someone else doesn’t like.

      Public reviews are just something you’ve got to deal with. Love it or hate it, express your opinions but you’ve gotta give us the info. Keep people informed so if they actually did like the film they can know what was added as they may want to pick it up.

      The mistake might have been having a person so

      • Evan

        Sorry, got kids waking up at night playing with my computer. :] Last part was not for Collider!

  • Sean

    I don’t know that it’s accurate to say that 55 to 60% of people who say Expendables didn’t like it and cite critics as your evidence. All that really tells us is that 55 to 60% of CRITICS didn’t like it. And since critics have to watch movies they wouldn’t otherwise watch, there will be a disproportionate amount of unsatisfied viewers.

    Based on the people I’ve interacted with, people who would get excited about a Stallone vanity project involving countless b-movie stars shooting each other enjoyed it. On the flip side, people evaluating it purely as a movie were disappointed. In other words, it’s niche market seems to like it and others don’t.


    Well, terrible review of the film! I’m no wiser except I know the film is 10 mins longer.

    But I agree, the Expendables was forgettable. I LOVED Rambo 4. To me that was almost perfection! And Rocky 6 was a great thought out send-off. But after Rambo I did expect huge things from Expendables. The sequel I will watch, because Sly at least knows he made a stinker so he knows he must improve on it. The first film wasnt terrible but it was not Rambo.

    A plus note to collider however, I am glad you are at least reviewing DIRECTORS CUTS. So many come out now but i can never find details of whats extra in them. Or wether its worth the revisit.

    The best Directors cut ever IMO, is KINGDOM of HEAVEN. Which turned an awful film into an epic fantastic movie.

    So, please keep reviewing Directors Cuts, but please get better people to review them. Do they not get payed?

  • Stallone

    I’ll admit, I had no real interest in seeing what this Director’s Cut was all about. I thought the movie was simple shlocky fun, not nearly as mind-blowing as I probably would’ve imagined it as a kid, and nothing I would be interested in buying on DVD. Indeed, the only reason I clicked on this review was because I wanted to see if Collider was still super-spiteful towards the film.

    Everyone at Collider not liking The Expendables is as common as the sun rising in the east tomorrow morning. It turns out the biggest flaw with The Expendables was opening the same week as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Collider was very excited about Scott Pilgrim: lots of interviews posted on the site, general glowing praise with every mention, etc. Then the Expendables beat it at the box office, and every subsequent Collider article about the Expendables was, well… you just read THIS article right? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Collider was on the take or anything and I enjoyed SP more than this movie too, but it’s almost become a joke. Almost.

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  • snapperhead

    Wow. I’ve got to agree with Jack and RAMBO on this one.

    You spent so much time defending your decision to be a lazy douche, that you never got around to actually telling us anything useful. Bad form, sir.

    And by the way, you’re absolutely wrong about Dolph Lundgren. But I’m not surprised. He is, after all, the most underrated actor of all time.

  • Jason

    How many times do you need to mention you didn’t remember the first film? Good grief dude, it’s an all out action movie with a typical plot, it’s only for entertainment not to get some moral code out of or something with deep meaning.
    When you review a directors cut, don’t analyze why the cut is being released, no one cares, the only thing people care about is what extra footage/features it has.

    You should be fired because you have no idea how to review a film, or blu ray.

  • NickHalloway

    I have to agree with all the other commenters here (which is rare): This review is a rambling, pathetic mess. I wasn’t a fan of the movie, but I’d rather watch it than listen to your incessant whining and droning. Sorry, dude, you may be a real nice guy; but, you come across as a giant douche in this piece of writing. Small recommendation, stick to the movie, learn to loosen up a bit and don’t ramble about your personal problems.

    Ps. Donnie Darko: DC & The Box are f*cking brilliant. And, Southland Tales has more ambition in it’s pinky toe than you do in your entire body.

  • hugo

    Amateurish and lame review indeed, totally useless and as “infantile” as anything in AICN.
    Not to bright dude, not to bright.

  • ngchikiu

    Stupid review.

    You didn’t say anything about the new footage at all.

    Get over yourself, do your job , watch the films and write it up. Why wouldn’t you want your job to go really well?

  • Jake

    I was disappointed with the Expendables too, i would only rate it 3/5. However, i love Stallone and 80′s action movies and feel like it’s still worth owning, so i bought the blu-ray.

    This review is lame, you didn’t say anything about the new footage and you talk about critics reviews like they actually matter. Rambo 4 got far worse reviews than The Expendables did, yet Rambo 4 is a GREAT badass action movie and ends the story perfectly, just like Rocky Balboa did.

  • Collider is the diesese, I’m the cure.

    I agree with EVERYONE on here. This review sucked a lot. Way to not do your job at all in reviewing something. Your terrible. Scott Pilgram bombed, get over it. This was the most successful launch of Stallones entire career. The movie did awesome, dispite what you may think.

  • Seed

    The thing about internet rating sites like Rotten Tomatoes is that they’re populated mostly by fanboy types who live in their mom’s basement and sit in front of their computer naked all day. Their ratings don’t mean a whole lot. Certainly not as much as the fact that The Expendables was a HUGE box office success. There’s a vocal minority who hated it, and would have hated it no matter if it had been Oscar-caliber.
    It’s not Oscar-caliber and I think all its defenders would admit that. But it was just fine at being what it was, an old fashioned action movie.
    I wish you had bothered to review the new version, as I would love to see the worst part of the movie changed; all the shaky cam crap. I don’t know what the point is of moving the camera around so much you can’t tell what is going on in the scene.
    Other than that, I have no real complaints about the first version. The guys were all believable in their roles- well AH-nold, OK, but he never could act anyway- and I enjoyed the ongoing drama that nearly every guy had with a woman in one way or another.
    And Dolph Lundgren may not have any great range as an actor, but you’d have to be blind not to see he was absolutely convincing as a burnt-out druggie on the road to self-destruction.