The Expendables Extended Director's Cut (2010)
If you are expecting more violence, explosions and sundry mayhem in the extended director's cut of The Expendables, then you'll find none. What you will discover is an additional ten minutes of character development and back story, which greatly improves the overall film. The theatrical cut was certainly not lacking in the action department but was a bit thin on narrative and back story. This extended version of the movie with over two hundred changes to the original cut, bolsters the dramatic elements of the plot. We get to know more about the team and as a result care a little more for them. You can find a comprehensive comparison over at moviecensorship.com of both versions of the movie.
A further improvement that has been made in the extended director's cut is that several of the action scenes have been re-edited. Not for any censorship reasons but mainly to improve the flow of the content. The water-boarding sequence now seems more relevant and clinical, rather than just brutal. The infamous knife twisting in the throat scene which was dropped from the UK theatrical print has been shortened in the extended cut. The hand amputation and decapitation that proceeded it, have had a few frames added and the entire sequence now seems to be structured better, allowing the viewer to follow what is happening on screen a lot more easily. I am not a fan of the modern style of lightning editing and felt that some sequences where quite jarring when I first saw The Expendables in the cinema. These revisions and others have addressed this issue. The style is still very fast but what is depicted can be visually assimilated a lot more easily.
Although there is much to enjoy about this film, one of its biggest shortcomings is its reliance on CGI FX over traditional physical effects. A lot of the bullet hits, knife wounds and blood splatter have been added in post-production. I'm sure time constraints and budgetary restrictions where deciding factors as to why the production chose this approach, but the reality is that these FX sequences often don't work. Take for the example the scene where the Somalia pirate gets blown in half by Dolph Lundgren. The sequence does not look at all credible and all the surrounding extras are conspicuously free from blood splatter. A simple physical effect using a prosthetic body would have been infinitely superior. Eric Roberts demise is similarly poorly realised, which is a shame because it diminishes the impact of the scene.
I don't expect to be schooled in military geo-politics by a movie such as The Expendables. Nor do I expect it to afford me any insight into the human condition, the horrors of war or the nature of the soul (although the scene where Mickey Rourke talks about how he failed to stop a suicide attempt was extremely well acted and somewhat out of place). What I do expect is hard edged action, quirky characters, witty banter and genuine love of the genre in question. The Expendables achieves all of these and does so with aplomb. Too often, equivalent movies fail to do this because they’re fundamentally dishonest. The soulless manner in which they’re contrived to retrofit a money-making formula shows nothing but contempt for their target audience. Whatever your view on the merits of The Expendables its heart is clearly in the right place, which is a rare quality these days.