Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Expendables 3, The (2014)

Director: Patrick Hughes
Notable Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Kelsey Grammer, Glen Powell, Antonio Banderas, Victor Ortiz, Ronda Rousey, Kellan Lutz, Jet Li, Ivan Kostadinov, and a surprise cameo from Robert Davi

For me, The Expendables franchise is something of a gift. Years of money, time, and dedication to the B and A-grade action icons of three decades colliding in a fun series of films that worship the style and structures of an era that was mostly killed by the likes of Michael Bay and Paul WS Anderson. So when The Expendables 3 decided to add in a slew of young actors and actresses to the fold, I was a bit skeptical. It was deviating from what made me love the first two films. They weren’t broke, were they? Did they have to fix it? Did they really have to appeal to the youth with new hip stars and a PG-13 rating? The short answer is no. No, they didn’t. The resulting mixture of old and new school elements doesn’t always work for this third entry into the supergroup franchise. Yet even with all of the missed punches it’s hard not to have a fun time with the film. So it has that going for it.

After breaking out Doc (Snipes) from a vicious prison, The Expendables set out to finish their latest job – hunting down a guns dealer that turns out to be an old friend Stonebanks (Gibson), who was one of the founding members of the team. In a moment of fear, Barney (Stallone) decides to let his team go and recruit various younger members to help him hunt down his old adversary…but it’s going to take all of them to accomplish the mission.

Some motherfucker is always trying to ice skate uphill.
To an extent, I’m not sure why so many reviewers decided to shit on this entry of the franchise. Sure it’s a step down from both of the previous entries, but I had a massive blast with the film still as a whole…and let’s be honest, did they expect more? In the end, the basis of Expendables 3 is the same as the rest of the franchise: silly one liners, two big action set pieces, and the charisma of seeing your favorite action stars of yester year on screen. If you take it at the basics, then the film works. The one liners are funny, particularly when they note actor nuances like Snipes’ tax evasion punch or Harrison Ford remarking that Bruce Willis is ‘out of the picture,’ and director Patrick Hughes seemingly knows how to shoot an action sequence. The opening of the film and the final act are impressively balanced out when it comes to the action pacing.

A few things prevent The Expendables 3 from reaching the heights it could have.  Firstly, the PG-13 rating hurts. Not because they had to cut out all of the CGI blood, I actually approve of that, but because it hinders from some of the intensity of the performances. For Mel Gibson, he definitely felt hindered as the film’s villain as the character felt a bit muzzled and even when it comes to the final throwdown between him and Stallone you could tell that they were simply playing it safe.

Secondly, the new recruits add too many characters to the fold. The plot idea that the old guys get ‘let go’ because Barney feels like this job is going to get them killed isn’t terrible, but adding in so many new faces with too little to do and less character depth to build on sabotages the entire concept. The film spends damn near half of its time introducing them and getting them together for their first mission and I couldn’t tell you any of their names off hand. Don’t get me wrong I still think Lutz has potential to be an action star if he gets in a good film (see Java Heat and not Hercules), but the rest lack a lot of screen presence. In fact, Ronda Rousey is incredibly terrible in the film. It’s sad to think that because of the script the charismatic Snipes is sidelined for a third of the movie to make room for these folks. The only great thing that comes out of the second act in this movie is Banderas. Seriously, the guy EATS the screen and his ridiculously high-energy rambling and his action sequence at the end slathers on the fun.

The heavy artillery...armed with guns too!
The Expendables 3 is not a perfect film and it’s an obvious step down from the awesomeness of the second film. The first and third acts are still pretty fun (if you’re willing to overlook the horrible CGI) with lots of laughs and action to be had. Too bad the substandard script that features far too many characters and a dragging second act really does bog down the entire experience. I sincerely hope that the franchise survives the leaked copy and this weaker entry because there are a lot of great places for it to go.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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