Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Expendables 3 Review

The Expendables 3 Review

By now, I think you have a good idea whether or not you are excited for “Expendables 3.” Sylvester Stallone has not separated himself far from his herd, the first Expendables movie was meant to be a throwback type movie featuring new school and old school action heroes. The second film did exactly that as well. The third film in the franchise is another throwback type, men-on-a-mission movie featuring new school and old school action heroes. I know Sly talked about bringing the third film into a different genre, but let’s not kid ourselves; Sly didn’t even bother to do that. It seems that the only goals he has for each new installment of Expendables is to make them bigger, louder, deadlier and jam-pack them with as many familiar faces as he can muster. I don’t want this to sound negative, because it’s certainly not. I have enjoyed the first two films in this franchise and I was ready and rabid for this third installment.

Make no mistake ladies and gentlemen, despite the PG-13 rating; Sly and director Patrick Hughes make this third entry count. Everything is bigger, everything is louder and everything is deadlier. (The only thing that is missing is much more blood-spatter, but that never mattered to me.) And of course, what would an Expendables movie be without a new string of action stars to come by? Not only do Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren and Arnold Schwarzenegger all return, but we also get Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas and even Kelsey Grammar for good measure. There is also a young team which consists of Kellan Lutz, Glenn Powell, Victor Ortiz and Ronda Rousey. As you could have probably guessed, “The Expendables 3” is easily the longest film in the franchise, running at a little over two hours.

 I could care less what other critics are saying about Sly and his new franchise. I have loved every step in this new direction and I think these movies get better as they go along. Do I think it is a perfect franchise? Heck no, and I will get into why it is not in a little bit. I never thought these Expendables movies rated up there with “Die Hard,” “Lethal Weapon,” “The Terminator,” “Rambo” or any of the other classic action films from yesteryear, but damn do they look good. These movies are designed to have big action beats, they are designed to have their stars throw out loony one-liners, and they are designed to be mostly style over substance. I have said countless times that a movie doesn’t have to tell an ultra-original, thought-provoking story, just as long as a movie can tell a story well, that can be enough for me. While, I think Sly still hasn’t mastered what makes a story work in this franchise, there is enough here that is so cool, so confident and so fun that I can’t help but love what he presents once again.

Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team of Expendables are contacted by brand-new CIA informant Maxwell Drummer (Ford) to go after a mysterious arms dealer. Ross and the rest of the gang break out former Expendables member Doctor Death (Snipes, and yes, his name is Doctor Death) to help in the mission, because Ying Yang (Li) is retired and they need another guy. The mysterious arms dealer turns out to be Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), another former Expendable who got kicked out of the group for being too dark. Ross thought he killed Stonebanks, and now he feels obligated to finish this mission after one of his teammates get wounded by Stonebanks and Stonebanks escapes.

What have always made this franchise fun are the performances and I would say that this is the most well-acted Expendables movie yet. It seems Stallone, Statham, Li, Schwarzenegger, Couture, Crews, and Lundgren have basically become these guys that this point, and it feels like they have imprinted a piece of themselves on their characters. I think Snipes brings a fresh energy to the team and I think Ford makes a much better informant than Willis ever did. They really give Ford a personality and it seems that Ford discovered that and ran with it. I also couldn’t help but laugh at Antonio Banderas’ Galgo, a former Spanish soldier who lost his entire team and now is so desperate to join another team that he jumps at the chance. He is the films comic relief and it works as a whole. The scene-stealer though is Mel Gibson. Say what you want about his personal life, but make no mistake, this guy comes to work. He seems energized by playing a villain, because he throws himself at the role in way I have never seen before.

I also like the young team of Expendables, I like that Lutz finally found an action role that he could really sync with, as this is his best role to date. I also liked Rousey and Ortiz quite a bit too. But I feel the one that will walk away from this third entry with a bigger career is Glen Powell. He is the young team member who shines the most in this movie; he is the one that gives the new team its heart. If Powell decides to become a new-age action hero, I’d be all for it. Overall, the film is packed with characters, and much like the other installments, the film feels like an actor’s runway at times. But the characters are so confident that it is hard not to root for them. I even liked Grammar’s small bit and I also loved that Robert Davi made an appearance. Davi is one of those guys who seem to have been in a lot of action movies, but his name doesn’t represent that. I couldn’t help but smile when he turned up.

 The slight problem with “The Expendables 3” has been the problem with all of the films: its story structure. I always found it kind of funny that even though Sly and company are playing mercenaries, these guys are essentially sweethearts with kind souls and bright moral centers. Not exactly the personalities you would expect from a group of people who kill for money. Sly always wants to be the hero, even though mercenaries are anti-heroes at best, and so the story set-up is always odd on these movies. I think the best film in this franchise, story-wise, is “Expendables 2,” as I can totally believe a group of killers wanting to avenge the death of one of their brothers-in-arms. For this third film, I guess I can believe a mercenary wanting to settle an old score; but for a mercenary to fire his old team, hire a new team, watch his new team get kidnapped, then recruit his old team to save his new team is really odd storytelling. It also seems like a cheap way to jam more actors into your film. While I like that Sly went big with this third film, the giant cast is too big this time, and we lose time with Statham, Crews and Li to make way for all these other guys, most of whom could have been edited out of the script entirely.

One thing I will say though, the first Expendables movie bothered me because it felt like a buddy movie between Stallone and Statham. I do like that the second and third films have felt more like ensemble pieces. I think Stallone is keeps getting better with each new entry into this franchise, I just hope he lets a new scribe write the script for a fourth movie. Seeing these characters go on a balls-to-the-wall mission that is not set up in strange way would be a movie I’d love to see. It seems we keep getting closer and closer to that movie, and once that movie hits, our minds will melt and leak out our ears. 


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