There is a scene toward the middle portion of The Expendables 3 in which Sylvester Stallone is talking about the current state of his team (called The Expendables) and how if they don’t pull off this next job they could go down without anyone remembering them. At that moment, I realized that Stallone, the man who has been in charge of this franchise from the start, is beginning to lose hope in it himself. What started as a self-referential event of a motion picture to congregate a majority of household names has unintentionally evolved into a battle to see which big name can land the next entry. Looking back at the first movie in 2010, the list of big names seems so small. Stallone was there of course, along with Jason Statham, Jet Li, and Terry Crews (all back for the third entry). The other big names were Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mickey Rourke. The Expendables 2 added Jean-Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, and Bruce Willis to the bunch. In The Expendables 3 we are graced with Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas, and Mel Gibson, along with a list of other actors so big that the trailer had to display their names by way of machine gun fire. That sounds like a recipe for awesomeness. Sadly, some of the ingredients seem to have been lost in the mix.
The Expendables 3 may be better than the first movie, but it isn’t nearly as entertaining as the second one was. That one, while not great, seemed to know exactly what it was. Chuck Norris gave what was possibly one of the worst performances of that entire year with his terribly excruciating line delivery, but it was still awesome to watch Walker Texas Ranger kick some serious butt amongst all these action stars. I think that is where The Expendables 3 takes a left turn. Instead of recognizing what it is, it tries to take itself too seriously and feature unnecessary character development and dialogue driven scenes. I am all for character development and it is absolutely essential to further a story, but when you have already given us two movies that serve the purpose of being a nostalgic event for lovers of 80s action movies, then keep doing that instead of using screen time to try and convince us to suddenly care about the characters.
As for the stars themselves, they are as awesome as always. It isn’t a surprise to say that seeing Rambo, Crank, Blade, Indiana Jones, Mad Max, and The Terminator together on screen is incredibly awesome. I am a fan of these actors and I am a fan of these classic movie characters, so don’t take in this negative review of The Expendables 3 with the mindset that I hate everyone involved and find action movies stupid. I find stupid movies stupid, and this is a stupid movie. As The Expendables 2 showed us though, sometimes stupid is okay if it knows that it is stupid. When Stallone sat down to write this movie (with co-writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt) he lost all sense of pure fun and decided that this could be the end of the series, so why not do go out dramatically? If only he had stuck to his guns.
I like the way critic Jordan Hoffman phrased it in review. “If you can make it through the cripplingly lifeless first 70 minutes of “Expendables 3” there’s a treat waiting for you: the last hour isn’t quite that bad.” He goes on to say, “Oh, it’s still bad, but it seems to wake up to what we always wanted from this bicep-bulging supergroup franchise, which was to be entertained.” He hits the nail right on the head. The first half of this movie is an uninvolving drag of dialogue that seems to never end, but once the halfway point kicks in, it’s as if a whole different movie ensues. Part of that is thanks to the addition of Mel Gibson. I have always loved Mel Gibson. I could care less about his personal life. He has always entertained me with his movies and it’s no different here. He has a blast in the role of the villainous Stonebanks and at times he proves to be a pretty intimidating antagonist. He’s on a whole different level than anyone else. Much to my surprise, the standout in The Expendables 3 is actually Antonio Banderas. His fast-talking and unknowingly annoying Galgo is the best thing about the whole movie and he brings a great sense of comedy to a movie otherwise saturated in seriousness. He didn’t have a single scene that didn’t leave a smile on my face. Give me more of that.
Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t. It relies on giving audience fight scenes that never truly satisfy because the filming of them focus more on the action than the stars themselves. In that, we can never see which actor is fighting and therefore the movie loses something. It tries out its PG-13 safe level of violence to draw in the younger crowd, but it results in choppy scenes that were obviously edited for content. Also, I can’t say that rapid gunfire in a heated battle is any safer than some R rated content. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the terrible special effects. I would be lying if I said the explosions look like they should be in a movie in the 21st century. They’re 1990s at best. Maybe the movie was going for that. If so, what an embarrassment it is.
The final act of The Expendables 3 is a bit of fun. Antonio Banderas is hilarious and a welcome comedic relief to the Expendables team, Mel Gibson is diabolically insane as the main villain, and the cool factor of seeing these classic action stars together is there. But it can’t make up for the dull first half, terrible writing, and lackluster special effects. I was having fun with this franchise after the second one. Now I’m thinking it’s finally becoming expendable. See what I did there? I think it’s about time this franchise died.
The Expendables 3 (2014) 128 mins Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language Cast: Sylvester Stallone,Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Kelsey Grammer, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Robert Davi, Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford Writers: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Sylvester Stallone Director: Patrick Hughes
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