Review: The Expendables 3 – Older, but no wiser
You pretty much know what you are getting into when you enter the theater for an Expendables movie. If you are a fan of eighties action-flicks, then you are probably going to get a nostalgic kick out of watching the old action-stars mixing it up again in the genre that made them household names back in the day; but even though these tough-guys are older, The Expendables 3 is proof that they’re not getting any wiser.
When the first Expendables movie came out in 2010, it was a pet project of Sylvester Stallone’s, written and directed by the action-film veteran, who was out to prove that he and his friends still had what it took to be macho movie men. Unfortunately, the novelty of that first film has worn thin and the 3.0 version is simply a rehash of the same material, but with new members in the ever expanding Expendable universe.
In addition to the past Expendable veterans (Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Jet Li), joining the geriatric action train this time is Harrison Ford as a government operative; Wesley Snipes as the former Expendable member, Doctor “Doc” Death; Kelsey Grammer as a guy with underground connections; Antonio Banderas as a blabbering mercenary named Galgo; and Mel Gibson as a maniacal bad-guy arms dealer, Conrad Stonebanks.
If you are still with me, Stallone’s character (Barney) retires the older Expendable members — you know, for their own safety (Whaaat?) – then he recruits a crew of younger mercs to help take down Stonebanks. But the only young’un that is really worth mentioning here is the Mixed Martial Arts fighter, Ronda Rousey, who plays Luna, a sexy bar-bouncer that Barney brings along on the Stonebanks mission (a welcome relief from the rest of the testosterone weighted wackiness.)
It’s easy to lose track of who is the knife expert, the bomb expert, the computer expert, the motorcycle expert, the jumping expert, and on and on; and of course the old guys are leery of the new guys, and the new guys just think the old guys are washed-up, and then Schwarzenegger shows up with a stogie and a Hawaiian shirt and adds some one-liners, and the smartest one of the bunch may have been Bruce Willis, who, reportedly, demanded one-million per day to work on this picture before Stallone cut him loose altogether – so he could work on his next movie, “The Expensives,” I’m assuming.
It’s easy to slam a movie like this and Expendables 3 has some major problems – like horrendously bad digital explosion effects, an excessive running time (over two-hours), absurd plot devices, etc. — with the first two-thirds being particularly bad — but it redeems itself in the final act and actually becomes the fairly decent “popcorn” picture that the whole movie could have been if it had some better direction and writing.
Another mistake this film makes is in fashioning itself as a PG-13 flick, the first for the franchise. I get that they’re trying to bring in young people and garner new fans, but the fallacy of that plan is that the ultra-violence of the previous films was part of the draw, so they’ve disenfranchised their regular fans in order to attract a younger crowd. Swift move, Barney.
On the plus side, both Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas are really fun in their respective roles, and it’s great to see them back on screen. The same goes with Mel Gibson, who proves he still has the chops to play a demented action hero. (It’s so sad he’s not in the upcoming Mad Max film.) Rumor has it that Gibson turned down directing this film, and that’s too bad because I think he could have killed it (in a good way.) Harrison Ford, on the other hand, seemed completely awkward and out of place in this movie.
So if you want to kick back with a bag of popcorn at a Saturday morning matinee and relive the glory days of hackneyed action films, the star power of The Expendables 3 makes it mindlessly entertaining enough to sit through, but I really hope they put some more thought and effort into the next one. Grade: 4.5/10
Photos © 2014 Lionsgate