Thursday, July 4, 2013

Toy Review: The Expendables 2 - Barney Ross, Hale Caesar, and Gunner Jensen By Diamond Select Toys

What better way to celebrate Independence Day than with a review of some of the most American (Made In China) toys that have ever been produced?
           I absolutely love The Expendables franchise. After seeing the first movie I wanted figures very badly, but assumed we’d never see them due to the amount of hassle involved with licensing likenesses. Especially when you’re dealing with such a large number of high-profile actors. But then Expendables was a huge hit and when the sequel came around there was a good bit of licensed product.
DST is a competent producer of action figures, but they’re not one of my favorite companies. They make some really weird decisions about scale, paint, and articulation that can prevent some of their figures from being truly awesome. This Black Widow I reviewed is a good example. But when I saw that action figures of Sylvester Stallone, Terry Crews, and Dolph Lundgren were coming out I knew I would end up buying them. Especially if I could find them at retail.
Fortunately, Toys R Us has struck up some kind of deal with Diamond and are carrying most DST releases, from Minimates to movie figures. It didn’t take me long to find these, and I snatched them up as soon as I did.
First Glance: I bought these guys a couple of months ago and have been putting off reviewing them because they’re so similar. At first glance they even look like they might be repaints with different vests and heads, but each one is mostly unique parts. They still look very similar though, so I had a tough time gearing up to write three separate reviews. So I’m just writing one.
Regardless of all of that, they are very nice-looking figures in the package. Almost NECA nice, it would seem.

Articulation: DST seems to be on the same path that NECA is as far as figuring out articulation. They just aren’t quite as far along. These figures do have a nice amount for the most part.
Head – Ball joint
Shoulders – Ball joint
Biceps - Swivel
Elbows –Pivot
Wrists – Swivel
Hips – Pivot
Knees – Pivot
The heads have a very satisfying range of motion – plenty of up and down and side-to-side.
Hale and Gunner have swivels just under the shoulders while Barney’s are located at the bottoms of his sleeves.
The elbows of all three figures bend almost 90 degrees. I like to have a bit of a deeper bend at the elbow, but it’s better than Masters of the Universe Classics, so I’ll take it.
The hip and knee movement is extremely restricted, almost to the point of being useless. I’m sure not every figure is like this, but my Gunner’s left hip joint has a massive gap that I can’t seem to do anything about. It looks terrible. I suppose I could return him and get another one.
Aside from the limitations on the hips and knees – which are design choices, not quality issues – all of the joints move and work well.
Sculpt: I bought the Barney Ross without the beret because that’s the one they had. I actually would have preferred the other one, but it wasn’t a big enough deal to wait. Besides, for all I know the hat might be a retailer exclusive or something. The head sculpt looks fantastic and is unmistakably Sly. I just bought NECA’s John Rambo and haven’t opened it yet, but from looking I can tell there is a huge difference between the two company’s sculpts. And yet they both look great. I think maybe DST’s is very slightly less realistic or detailed. But it still looks great. Unfortunately, the mustache is just paint, no sculpt, and looks kind of stupid because of that.
Barney has a unique tactical vest over a short-sleeve t-shirt. The vest is accurate to the second movie and has some nice detail, but in looking at it I think I’ve figured out the difference between DST’s sculpts and NECA’s – the lines are slightly softer on DST stuff. Where NECA would have really sharpened the buckles and creases and seams on that vest, DST’s detailing is just a tiny bit mushy. I’m not saying this is a bad thing – different companies do different things. It’s just something I noticed.
Sly has veiny muscle arms and nicely detailed, gloved hands. There are little straps and buttons on the gloves that look great. Both hands are posed to hold weapons.
Ross’ trousers are pretty boring, but those boots are chock-full of sculpted detail – eyelets, laces, and treads. They look really good.
Hale Caesar has what I think is the best head sculpt of the group. Backwards hats are usually lame, but I am not going to tell Terry Crews that. The likeness is outstanding and seems to have a bit more character than Gunner and a lot more than Barney.
Caesar’s torso is the most plain, but for some reason I like it the best. The vest looks like some old-school medieval leather armor. His arms are veiny and a little bigger than the other guys’. The gloves aren’t as unique as Barney’s, but they look good.
The trousers on this figure are a little more interesting than Sly’s, but not much. Cargo pants are cargo pants. The boots are just as detailed, though.
Gunner Jensen is the most visually interesting of the three figures. The head sculpt is spot-on Dolph Lundgren, right down to his character’s signature sneer. The hair has a good shape and hits the right balance between being too detailed and looking right at this scale.
Gunner’s torso is obviously the most interesting to look at between the more traditional combat vest and the Middle-Eastern style scarf. The vest is covered with detail – trim, pockets, bullet… what do you call those? Bullet slots? Bullet straps? I dunno. Unlike the other figures, Gunner has full gloves with padding. I didn’t comment on his arms because they’re just big muscle arms.
Dolph’s trousers and boots are just like everybody else’s, except different.
Coloring: The accuracy of the paint applications on these figures is very good, but they each look a bit weird. Not bad, just weird. Almost an overuse of washes.
Hale Caesar actually has sort of a pale blue theme going on, as his boots, trousers, and vest have highlights all over them. It doesn’t look bad by any means; it’s just one of those odd DST choices I mentioned. His gloves and hat are mostly monochromatic.
The paint on his head looks excellent. The facial hair, lips, and eyes look very realistic and are applied with an accuracy that sometimes escapes NECA. Caesar actually has one of my favorite heads that I’ve seen on an action figure.
Gunner has similar blue washes on his trousers, gloves, and vest. But he doesn’t look as strangely uniform as Caesar because of the scarf and tat fact that the wash was not applied to his boots. Looking at the other two figures, the paint job on Caesar’s boots almost looks like an error. I like the glossy trim on Gunner’s vest and the paint job on the scarf is good. Sometimes painted patterns on action figures look like painted patterns on action figures, know what I mean? But Gunner’s scarf looks solid.
The paint application on Gunner’s head is well done. All of the various apps stay within the lines and are accurately placed. The hair has a nice wash to approximate the character’s dirty look in the movie.
You know that Barney Ross is the leader because he has different-colored trousers. They have a slight wash on them that is much more subtle than what is on the other two figures. His boots are glossy and have a bit of dirt painted on. Ross’ shirt is flat black and his tactical vest has two strikingly different color sections. The bottom is pretty much a reversal of the color schemes on Hale and Gunner, while the top sort of matches this figure’s trousers. It looks a little weird, but also cool. And it is accurate to what’s in the movie. I think it’s just that paint looks slightly more odd than fabrics in this situation.
Barney’s head looks very good as far as the tightness of the paint apps go, but I can’t help but feel like all of his hair should be darker – facial and all. Otherwise it looks really good.
Flair: Each figure has its own unique bits of gear that are molded out of a plastic that is a bit too rigid and as a result feels cheap and doesn’t hang quite right on the figures.
Gunner has a watch, kneepads, and a belt with an attached holster and sheath. The watch is a bit loose on his wrist – as it is on all three figures – and would probably look better sculpted. I’m honestly not sure why it is a separate piece. The paint on it is a little sketchy as well. The face just doesn’t look very good. His kneepads don’t sit quite right and lack any paint at all. The belt actually looks good, but the sheath doesn’t hang right. The accessories do fit in their places.
Caesar has the watch, elbow and knee pads, and a belt with a holster and sheath. The watch is the same deal on all three figures. 
The pads seem to sit a little better than Gunner’s, but still lack paint. The belt and its parts work a bit better on this figure, mostly because his sheath is so much bigger that it hangs better. Like Gunner, the pistol and knife fit well in their storage spots.
Ross has the watch and a super-duper “I’m the leader” fancy-pants belt/holster thing. His has a holster on each leg with two straps to hold them in place (which only sort of works) and a holster on the back. 
The pistols all fit into the holsters and look good. You’ll notice all of the gold buckles on this gear. These, more than anything, make Ross stand out, but also show that Gunner and Caesar could have had a little paint on their gear.
Accessories: Barney comes with three pistols. They’re flat black with no paint. They store well and fit just fine in his right hand. His left hand holds a pistol about as well as a Star Wars figure from 1981.
Gunner comes with a grenade launcher, a knife, and a pistol. The grenade launcher is nicely detailed but lacks paint. You can get Dolph to hold it properly, but it takes some doing. The pistol also has detail and also has no paint. The knife looks good and does have a painted blade, but mine came a little bent.
Caesar comes with a pistol, a big knife, and that crazy gun from the movies that shoots explosions. The pistol is pretty much the same as the ones the other figures have. The knife looks great – with a detailed blade and a paint job. The explosion gun has no paint and is a little tough to put in the figure’s hand.
Oh, and Gunner and Caesar can’t really hold their knives, either. I think all three of these figures would have benefitted from extra hands – fists and differing types of grip.
Packaging: Blister cards! Great!Each guy also has a biography:

Value: $14.99 is a very fair price for these guys.
Overall: I felt compelled to own these figures, but now that I have them they’re kind of boring and have enough minor problems that I don’t want to look at them. They aren’t bad by any means, but all I can think about is how amazing they would have been if NECA had made them. Granted, they might have ended up derpy, but that’s a trade I might be willing to make.
3 out of 5

I was going to rate them individually, but I realized they all come in at the same level. These are still widely available at Toys R Us, from stores or from their website.



  1. I'm really, really debating picking up the Dolph figure. While my NECA Ivan Drago stands with my "Manly Men of 80's action" collection, I do think he'd look better in combat gear. Unless Mattel ever gets the rights to do a Dolph He-Man or we get figures from someother 80's Dolph film, Gunner might be the best we get.

    1. These aren't bad figures by any means, they just aren't quite up to snuff for me. Not for this style and scale.