Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"The Expendables: Extended Director's Cut" (2011)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jet Li
Written by David Callaham and Sylvester Stallone
Directed by Sylvester Stallone
Rated R- Language, intense violence, gore
Running Time: 114 Minutes

Sylvester Stallone's action epic "The Expendables" never really felt like it capitalized on its potential, to me.  It wasn't quite as over-the-top as I'd hoped, and most of the much-hyped cast had little more than cameo appearances.  Still, some of the action was wild and cool, and as I'm always interested in checking out director's cuts and alternate versions, I dove into the extended director's cut of "The Expendables" eagerly.

The plot has not changed: Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) leads a team of mercenaries called the Expendables.  They're hired by Church (Bruce Willis) to kill the dictator of a small South American country where a rogue CIA agent has set up a lucrative cocaine business.  Barney, with his teammates Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and mentor Tool (Mickey Rourke), are betrayed by former teammate Gunner Jansen (Dolph Lundgren) and decide they have to take on the mission to save an innocent country and reclaim their honor. 

Though Stallone introduces the film as saying this is his preferred version that he "likes the theatrical version, but loves this," it's not all that different.  Much of the extra footage is little bits of banter sprinkled throughout existing scenes.  The opening assault on a freighter captured by pirates, for example, features more of the team trading one-liners.  There is no extra action in the film, which is good because that means that Stallone didn't skimp out on us the first time around.  Instead, all of the new footage is basically just to build up the characters and create more of a team dynamic for the Expendables.  Throughout the film, other conversations are longer, such as when Christmas fights with his girlfriend (Charisma Carpenter).

There's a longer opening credits sequence set to a new song by Godsmack's Sully Erna that features the gang winding down after their mission, and we learn through context a bit more about their characters, such as that Hale Caesar has three children, or that Toll Road likes to read literature.  The other major difference is during the climax, where before Stallone had simply looped some of Brian Tyler's score over again, there is now a boisterous rock song by hard rock band Shinedown called "Diamond Eyes" that was originally written for the film but never made in.  It works well enough, and gives the big final battle a bit more absurdity that it needs. 

"The Expendables" has plenty of cool action in it, but it's hard for me to say whether this director's cut is any better than the original theatrical version.  It has a bit more banter, and the new rock songs make it slightly more ridiculous, which probably works a little better, but it also drags a little bit more since none of the new footage is action or even adds any new layers to the plot.  If you want to just get down to the nitty gritty and watch Stallone and friends blow away bad guys, the theatrical cut is probably the way to go.  But if you want to have a bit more exposure to the characters that's closer to Stallone's original idea for the film, by all means, check out this director's cut.

See Also
The Expendables (theatrical version)