The Expendables 3 (dir. Patrick Hughes)

Posted: July 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

I wasn’t a fan of the first “Expendables” film. The action scenes were boring, it didn’t make good use of a unique compilation of cast members, and when a monologue by Mickey Rourke is your best scene, well, you’re not up to snuff on action. Plus, you can’t call your heroes “The Expendables” and then not kill any of them off.

The second film, however, was delightfully fun, with Arnold and Bruce Willis firing guns from a Smart Car (or Mini Cooper or whatever), and douchebag Chuck Norris smiling and being a good sport about the “Chuck Norris” rules that made his untalented ass popular again (even though he sued the creators of it…and apparently argued for part 2 to be PG-13…asshole).

Now we have a third film, which adds some welcome cast members: Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson, and Harrison Ford. Snipes, no longer in jail from tax evasion, gets some good wisecracking in as a former Expendables member who has been held in black site prisons until he’s broken out in the film’s opening sequence wherein a helicopter attacks a train. After that sequence, the plot kicks in. Stallone (because who cares what their character names are, he’s Stallone) and his group head to Somalia to break up an arms deal, when one member is shot and almost dies, and we meet our villain, Mel Gibson of course. Gibson and Stallone’s characters go way back, so there’s a score to settle here. Gibson pretty much plays the same villain he played in “Machete Kills”, and seems to enjoy hamming it up quite a bit. His real life issues have necessitated that he play villains now, instead of the heroes he playing in “Lethal Weapon” and “Mad Max”, but Gibson seems to relish it, and he does the job well.

Ford replaces Bruce Willis (who supposedly wanted too much money to reprise his role) as the CIA contact for Stallone and his men, but he mostly just gets to deliver dialogue and fly a helicopter, but Ford does seem the least grumpy I’ve seen him in recent history, so it looks like he had fun with what amounts to something just a bit larger than a cameo. Banderas, who worked well with Stallone in “Assassins” way back in 1995, plays a chatty cathy who wants on Stallone’s team, and he adds comic relief to a film that has plenty of that. “The Expendables” films are comedies with explosions more than straight ahead action films. Sure, they’re not parodies of the genre, like Arnold’s famous bomb “Last Action Hero” (which I’ve always thought was underrated, but oh well), but they come pretty close.

The main problem with this film is the problem I had with the first one: the action sequences are boring. Aside from a moment when a motorcycle drives up a helicopter into the air to land a couple of stories up a building, which I don’t remember seeing before in a film, the sequences are pretty perfunctory, unmemorable, and are sometimes hampered with shoddy CGI. The most enjoyable parts of the film are really just watching the actors try to out-wisecrack one another. The late film critic Gene Siskel used to ask the question “Is this film more entertaining than a documentary of these same actors having lunch together?” I think for this film, the answer is no. In fact, the film is somewhat hampered BY having so many characters in the film. It’s also hampered by the same thing “The Avengers” and other team-up films get hampered by: A group of very dynamic heroes overshadows a single, solitary villain. Sure, Loki was popular in “Avengers”, but you weren’t afraid of him, or particularly impressed by him. Then the disposable alien villains attacking New York City was a boring bit of CGI nonsense, and we just wanted to watch Tony Stark and Bruce Banner outwit each other verbally. While Gibson is a fine villain, he’s not enough. If there’s another film in the series, I hope they make a team of evil “Expendables”. Surely there’s enough washed-up WWE wrestlers to populate that team.

Aside from those quibbles, and a wasted Kelsey Grammar, whose character feels superfluous and an excuse for a montage of different locales to open the film up, the film is not without its enjoyability factor. I love seeing Arnold say “Get to da choppah!” as much as anyone. That’s not enough, though. if you’re going to make a straight-ahead 80s-style action film, I need action that wows me, or these characters need to be more interesting than just “Hey! It’s that actor on screen with that other actor!” Plus, while the second film retained its R rating, this third one is PG-13, and the pulled punches do show. Little-to-no blood in an action movie doesn’t work when your villains shoot bullets and not lasers or something sci-fi.

“The Expendables 3” is not without its charm, but charm isn’t enough. C.

**Spoilery post-script**

Best exchange of dialogue in the film:

Villain: What about the Hague?
Stallone: I AM the Hague.
(Shoots him)

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