Review: The Expendables 3
NOTE: There are SPOILERS in this review. If you don't want any part of this film ruined for you, don't read any further. PS: We saw this film at the World Premiere, it's legit.. ;)
After two jaunts in the action legend round-up franchise, THE EXPENDABLES are back for a third outing in THE EXPENDABLES 3, this time bringing in more familiar faces as well as some fresh ones to liven up the series. The exit of Bruce Willis' character from the first two films isn't felt at all, as the additions of Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Kelsey Grammer, and Mel Gibson more than eclipse his absence. The regulars are back, of course, including Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, and of course, the glue that holds it all together, Sylvester Stallone, and they're all the same rowdy bunch we've come to expect after the last two outings. The fresh faces, including Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, and Victor Ortiz fill in as "new" Expendables, but it's hardly a takeover. The real question is; Is it better (or worse) than the last two outings?
The good news is that THE EXPENDABLES 3 is a damn fun movie. It's not perfect, it's not high art, and it's not one of the best action movies ever made, but that doesn't disqualify it from being an outright entertaining shot of cheesy action goodness, which it certainly is. The story is just slightly more developed than the last two, which isn't a grand stretch, but does offer some interesting back story to the origins of the group and creates a bad guy that's more than a cartoon cutout and something of a villain-that-may-not-be-so-villainous type character, which Mel Gibson fits to a tee.
The story kicks off with a bang as Stallone and co. rescue former Expendable Wesley Snipes, who has been locked up in a blackout prison for 8 years (which he jokingly says he was imprisoned for "tax evasion"). Snipes is quickly folded back into the team, just in time to conduct another mission, which exposes Gibson's Conrad Stonebanks as still being alive after being long-thought dead (at the hands of Stallone's Barney Ross, no less). Stonebanks, it turns out, was once an Expendable who "went rogue," prompting Stallone's Ross to take action. After one of the team members is seriously wounded in the ensuing gun battle that erupts after confronting Stonebanks (who makes a hasty escape), Stallone decides it's time to retire his long-standing members for fear of seeing them all die as a result. But, that doesn't mean he's letting Stonebanks run free; he's just enlisting some new help that fits the "expendable" profile to help wipe the slate clean.
What follows is a fun little recruiting montage that introduces us to the "young" Expendables, each of which have their own issues and reasons for agreeing to the gig (although none of them are fleshed out in a way that really gets you into their heads). What's great is seeing Stallone team up with Kelsey Grammer, who serves as a "recruiter" of sorts, to bring in the new guys. Grammer is a perfect fit here, adding some weight to the proceedings. He's in and out, but it's a good little visit. Harrison Ford also pops in as the new governement agent to steer Stallone and plays up the wink-to-the-audience vibe surprisingly well (for the short amount of time he's present).
We get an exceptionally meaty scene between Stallone and Gibson, which makes for the kind of machismo you want from a film like this. The hatred and anger between the characters is great, with Gibson goading Stallone into a reaction at every turn. It's the kind of scene you hope they'll include and luckily enough it's there and makes for a badass tension-filled relationship between the two characters. Stonebanks eventually makes things tough for Ross, putting him in a position that leads him to assemble his team and take part in what is definitely the largest battle they've yet to face in the franchise, filling in a riotous third act that's become the staple of the franchise.
If the first THE EXPENDABLES is the most brutal and THE EXPENDABLES 2 is the most goofy, then THE EXPENDABLES 3 is definitely the most fun. It's got energy, it's got spirt, it's got cheese, it's got high-flying stunts, it's got one-liners galore, it's got mano-y-mano throw downs, and ultimately the most heart of the three put together. Yeah, it's got bad dialogue and some occasional crappy CGI, but it more than makes up for that with a film that delivers on what it's supposed to be; a fun ride. It's easy to tear apart a film like THE EXPENDABLES 3 (and I'm positive many will), but I feel like it's asking a film to live up to more than it ever intended. Sure, there's room for improvement here, but it's also a nice, comfy place to kick up your heels, toss back a drink, and have a good time, and I can absolutely appreciate that, especially as someone that's grown up with these guys from their earliest work till now.
While the "young" cast is fine it's still more of an introduction to them, rather than a passing of the torch. They still have things to learn from these old dogs and we still have much to learn about them. The scene-stealers here are Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas, both of whom slide back into the genre with ease and it's a pleasure to see them having so much fun. Neither has been this engaging in years and it's simply great to have them back. As a wise-cracking loudmouth, Banderas takes the movie away from everyone else, providing both great comic relief and kickass action scenes all at once. You could easily make a standalone movie about his character (named "Galgo"). Unfortunately, regulars like Statham, Lundgren, Couture, Crews, and Li are relegated to mostly just presence, while Schwarzenegger literally pops in to either shoot a gun or deliver a one-liner.
Fortunately, the patriarch of the franchise, Stallone, shows a new angle to his character, which is that of a father figure, who leads his team with a tough guy nurturing that endears him to the audience in a way that goes beyond smashing heads or firing off guns. Not that those attributes are absent; His trademark shoot-em-up antics are all there, as is the throw down with the big bad at the end, which is fanboy bliss; seeing John Rambo and Martin Riggs beat the shit out of each other is pure awesomeness. If there's one complaint there, it's that it's not long enough. It could easily last twenty minutes and I'd never complain. As far as the PG-13 rating; it's barely noticeable. We get the highest body count of the series and the only thing missing is massive amounts of blood and gore, which was simply tacked on in the last film with CGI. I'd rather they leave it out if that's the most we'd get anyway.
In the end, you'll either appreciate THE EXPENDABLES 3 as the fun, cheesy, and macho extravaganza it is or you won't. If you're looking for a Paul Verhoeven-esque gore fest with the depth of a Terrence Malick flick then you're best to steer clear, but if you're down to watch these old-timers do what they do best and have a blast in doing so, then this third time may be the charm for you.
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