Review: The Expendables 3
Read Paul Shirey's review here!
PLOT: The Expendables find themselves up against another worthy opponent, only this time it's personal: a former member of the outfit is selling bombs to terrorists and laughing in the face of his old friends. In order to tackle the deadly threat, Barney Ross finds it necessary to recruit a crew of younger members to assist in taking down the arch-villain.
REVIEW: The boys - the old, old boys - are back in town for THE EXPENDABLES 3, and some of them really are getting too old for this shit. It's not that they don't acquit themselves well on the battlefield; holding a gun or punching a henchman in the kisser is still no problem for most of these senior citizens. It's the close-ups that do it; during some of the film's surprisingly numerous chatty sequences, the guys appear ready for a nap. Perhaps it's the reality that, with the third installment of almost any franchise, the freshness is inevitably gone; routine has set in. Or perhaps the gang is just pooped.
The good news, however, is that THE EXPENDABLES 3 is still schlocky, no frills fun. Keeping in step with the first two, the third installment knows what it is and what it wants to do: Present us with heroes of a bygone era who against all odds know how to kick the asses of scum who deserve ass-kickings. There's still something so reflexively entertaining about seeing a Sylvester Stallone or an Arnold Schwarzenegger fire off an impossibly large gun at an army of disposable bad guys; some may just chalk it up to nostalgia for the action flicks of yesteryear, but that doesn't make THE EXPENDABLES' eager-to-please goals any less admirable.
This time around, Barney Ross (Stallone) and his comrades are after an arms dealer who is selling deadly weapons to terrorists. That's a hell of an original idea, isn't it? These movies are not about their plots (I think THE EXPENDABLES 2 was about the exact same thing) but the men engaged by them. Naturally, Stallone has found a few new, yet familiar, faces to join the fray. Mel Gibson is quite effective as the villain, a former comrade of Ross' who has fully gone over to the dark side. Wesley Snipes, whose character is gained after the Expendables break him out of a prison train (add one or two "Wesley Snipes in prison" jokes for good measure), is terrific in his early scenes, the actor clearly relishing his return to action and chewing the scenery as an original member of the group, now off-kilter and bloodthirsty. Harrison Ford shows up, in lieu of Bruce Willis, as a CIA operative dishing out orders to Ross and company; Ford is his reliably grumpy self, not incredibly enthusiastic, but he at least seems to enjoy some of his exchanges with Stallone and Schwarzenegger. And Antonio Banderas provides a real jolt of energy as a fast-talking Spaniard eager to join Ross' team; he's kept out of the picture for the most part but enters the third act with gusto.
It's these personalities we come to see, these old dogs growling at each other and trading lame quips. Yes, the movies are somewhat clunky and rough around the edges, not unlike the stars themselves, but the spirit within is as resolute as ever.
Unfortunately, they all have glaring faults, and in this one it's the film's half-hearted attempt to bring in a teenaged crowd. Like Ross in the film, Stallone clearly feels the need to bring a youthful energy to the franchise, hence the hiring of former TWILIGHT hunk Kellan Lutz, professional boxer Victor Ortiz, up-and-comer Glen Powell and MMA hottie Ronda Rousey as young guns who Ross hires when the action gets too hot for his usual companions.The addition of the younger team proves unnecessary, as well as bewildering when you consider who they are. If Stallone is trying to appeal to a younger audience, why bring in this bunch of no names? Okay, Kellan Lutz is… Kellan Lutz, but I don't think the desired audience is barging down theater doors to see him. (See: The Legend of Hercules. Actually, don't.) The introduction of the Baby Expendables is even more askew when it turns out they spend a chunk of the movie captured, waiting for the old guard to save them. There may be an unsubtle message here about the veterans still being able to out-badass the younger generation, but it's frankly a waste of time to bother with these kids, who it must be said have very little chemistry with either the older fellows or each other.
In another effort to appeal to a broader audience, THE EXPENDABLES 3 has been rated PG-13, which is glaring. While the film contains plenty of action and bullet-riddled bodies, there's a noticeable toothlessness to the mayhem. It's not like I miss the cheesy CG blood of the first two, exactly, but it can't be denied seeing THE EXPENDABLES playing in a more family-friendly playground is going against the old-school flavor these movies are supposedly all about. The film feels especially neutered during the hand-to-hand combat scenes; as Wesley Snipes or Jason Statham go at a baddie with a six-inch blade, the fact that zero blood is shed is distractingly strange. (To be fair, an alleged director's cut is waiting in the wings.)
I am wondering if the whittling down on the gore might account for how incomprehensible some of the action sequences are, or if it's just director Patrick Hughes being out of his depth. Seeing how this is only his second feature film (after the Aussie thriller RED HILL), I wouldn't be surprised if the carnage just got away from him. A handful of fight scenes are blurs, rapidly cut but also shot erratically. Hughes values shaky close-ups of tussles, but for the audience it's just an off-putting array of swinging limbs. The director has much to learn before he tackles THE RAID remake, which figures to contain even more chaotic fight scenes; it actually wouldn't be a bad idea for him to watch and learn from that film's original director, Gareth Evans, who directs action like no other at this point.
But even if the action is not bloody and the film's attempts at being "hip" are foolhardy, THE EXPENDABLES 3 proves to be enjoyable fluff. From watching Mel Gibson actually sink his teeth into a role for the first time in years and tear apart a couple of juicy monologues, to seeing Banderas attempt to woo the team's lone female member in the middle of a deadly clash, the film exudes an atmosphere of hard-nosed enthusiasm and self-awareness. From THE EXPENDABLES 3, that's pretty much all we can ask for.
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