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Review: The Expendables 3 (2014)

The Expendables 3 (2014)

Directed by: Patrick Hughes

Premise: The mercenary squad is sent on a mission to capture a notorious arms dealer who is also a former member of The Expendables team.

What Works: The Expendables 3 has a large cast that consists mostly of masculine Neanderthals who lumber through their scenes and mumble their dialogue. One of the few bright spots among the cast is Antonio Banderas. He plays a hyper new recruit to the Expendables team and Banderas’ humor and kinetic presence is an agreeable counterpoint to the glum and emotionally stunted remainder of this cast. The film also includes Mel Gibson as the chief villain and Gibson’s character is the best antagonist in this series. Gibson has been and remains a watchable and unpredictable actor and he takes a role that would otherwise be a generic stooge and turns the part into an interesting and threatening character. The appeal of The Expendables movies has primarily been nostalgic as it gathered the major action stars of the 1980s and 90s into a single movie. The third installment mostly completes that project with the addition of Gibson as well as Harrison Ford and Wesley Snipes. Viewers who are familiar with these actors (as well as some of the drama behind the scenes) will get a laugh or two at some of the self-reflexive moments.

What Doesn’t: The previous Expendables movies were not great motion pictures but they were fun and competently made. These films exist to provide a combination of thrills and laughs and previous movies did that well enough, especially the second film. The general success of the previous entries and the low expectations of the audience makes the failure of Expendables 3 all the more bewildering. This movie is no fun and it’s terribly made. A lot of sequences are poorly shot and clumsily edited and the computer generated special effects look like something out of a SyFy Channel original movie. Expendables 3 is extremely disjointed with the story leaping all over the globe but with no coherent direction and it suffers from the imposition of pop music that seems like it was inserted less as a matter of filmmaking and much more as a way to incorporate a popular tune. There is a lot in this film that is stupid, even for an Expendables movie, and that is saying something. Action movies have always pushed credulity; that’s part of the fun. But this movie doesn’t make any sense. Another of the many failures of Expendables 3 is that it ruins the conceit that’s made the previous movies work. This was a franchise built on a gimmick: corral the stars of 1980s and 90s action movies into one film. In making the third entry, the filmmakers seem to have forgotten that and the new installment minimizes the characters played by Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The filmmakers even go through the trouble of introducing Wesley Snipes only to push him and the rest of the veteran cast into the background for the bulk of the picture while Stallone’s character recruits a batch of new and younger muscleheads. Placing Stallone as a mentor to younger characters could be fun but the movie doesn’t do anything interesting with anybody. A lot of the new characters aren’t played by professional actors; Victor Ortiz was a former boxer and Ronda Rousey is best known for MMA fighting. These actors and athletes do the stunts just fine but no one  is characterized. They just stand around listening to Stallone mumble his way through a phoned in performance. When the young and old are finally brought together in the climax what should be a moment of ass kicking camaraderie is instead just bunch of fights and shoot outs that don’t mean anything. By the end, Expendables 3 is guilty of the gravest sin an action movie can commit: it’s boring.

Bottom Line: The bar for the Expendables movies is low but somehow the filmmakers of this third (and hopefully last) installment have managed to limbo under it. It’s amazing that an action film written, starring and produced by the director of Rambo and the bulk of the Rocky series could fail this spectacularly.

Episode: #505 (August 24, 2014)