Sylvester Stallone - Barney Ross
Jason Statham - Lee Christmas
Antonio Banderas - Galgo
Jet Li - Yin Yang
Wesley Snipes - Doctor Death
Dolph Lundgren - Gunner Jensen
Kelsey Grammer - Bonaparte
Randy Couture - Toll Road
Terry Crews - Hale Caesar
Kellan Lutz - John Smilee
Ronda Rousey - Luna
Glen Powell - Thorn
Victor Ortiz - Mars
Robert Davi - Goran Vata
Mel Gibson - Conrad Stonebanks
Harrison Ford - Max Drummer
Arnold Schwarzenegger - Trench Mauser
Genre - Action/Adventure
Running Time - 126 Minutes
The mercenary group known as The Expendables are on another mission, this time breaking out a former member named Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes), who is traveling on a prison convoy within Somalia. As Death tries to fit back into the group, The Expendables continue their mission - only for leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) to realize that a man he thought dead, an arms dealer and war criminal named Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), is the mastermind behind the evil he must stop. Stonebanks makes the mission more personal when he badly wounds Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), forcing Barney to disband The Expendables so none of the other members get hurt - although they're against the idea. Now under the orders of a CIA operative named Drummer (Harrison Ford), Barney must do whatever is necessary to stop Stonebanks - even if he has to recruit younger members for a new Expendables team.
Being a fan of the first two EXPENDABLES films, I was heavily anticipating the third film in the series so far. I'm a huge fan of 80s and 90s action films, so watching all these grizzled stars join forces against evil just puts a smile on my face. Unfortunately, THE EXPENDABLES 3 had a lot of issues going against it.
One, the rating downgraded from an R to a PG-13 for a broader audience. That kind of irked me because action films from previous eras were usually pretty violent, but I understood it from a business standpoint. Then, I saw how large the cast became. I knew any sort of character development or motivations would be pretty non-existent. Then, someone leaked out a DVD-quality version of THE EXPENDABLES 3 about three weeks prior to its release last weekend. Millions downloaded it and gave their mixed opinions on it all over social media. These things most likely attributed to THE EXPENDABLES 3 being a box office bomb so far, at least domestically. Then again, I'm not sure how much this film would have made regardless, since in my opinion it's the worst of the three films - despite it still being pretty fun for most of it.
- The older cast. It's no surprise that the film is pretty good when the original cast appears. The comraderie between Stallone, Statham, Crews, Lundgren, and Couture is still intact. Watching them banter and blast away enemies will never get old. But then you bring in newer guys. Wesley Snipes has a good introduction at the beginning of the film, even joking about his tax evasion issues from his real life. Kelsey Grammer, who did X-MEN: THE LAST STAND to get his action film card, is pretty chill as Bonaparte - Barney's recruiting buddy. Harrison Ford takes the film more seriously than he probably should, but I thought every scene he appeared in gave the film a pulse and some meaning. Jet Li returns in a cameo, which is nice to see. Schwarzenegger is having fun, bringing back quotes from previous films for a genuine laugh and smile. Mel Gibson, whose personal life has tainted his professional one, is pretty great as the villain. He seems to be having fun acting a bit maniacal and chewing up the scenery. I thought he was one of the highlights of the film. But the best actor was Antonio Banderas as Galgo, the comic relief who wouldn't shut up. He was in a different film than everyone else, just making a fool of himself for the audience's amusement. For a serious action film, Banderas brought some much needed levity to the proceedings. I wish these actors were presented better, but at least the older cast was pretty damn cool.
- The action. I think THE EXPENDABLES 3 had my least favorite action sequences in the series so far, but they were still very watchable and entertaining. The half-hour climax had a lot going on, but it was a really fun watch. The second action scene once Gibson is introduced was cool. And while the opening sequence and the first sequence with the newbies were pretty short for an action film, at least they were decent-to-good for what they were. I still miss the blood and more violent R rating for these scenes, because I think they would have made these scenes better. But for a PG-13 action film, I expected worse actually. So I'm pretty content with these scenes for the most part.
- The premise. I liked the concepts and themes that formed THE EXPENDABLES 3. I liked that the villain was someone who was a part of the original Expendables team. I like that Barney wanted to build a new, younger team that was more in the know. I enjoyed the idea of "passing the torch" to newer action stars, since the older ones don't have much left in the tank. I liked that both generations embraced each other by the end of the film. The ideas are there. The elements should work if they come together. But unfortunately...
- The story. Now, were the first two films masterpieces in terms of screenwriting? Far from it. But at least they had a charm that made them resonate and work. The first film was based on the nostalgia of these old action stars teaming up and kicking ass. The second film took itself less seriously, playing along with the audience by bringing up previous films and lines of dialogue in a clever way. The third film seems to want to be a mix of the first two films, but the balance is all off.
THE EXPENDABLES 3 takes itself way too seriously for its own good. If it had some sort of emotional weight within the narrative to justify that tone, then it would be okay. But a lot of things just come across as unintentionally silly, that you wish it shared its tone with the second film, which knew what it was and had a blast admitting it.
I have issue with when one of the main characters is almost killed during the first act of the film, causing Barney to disband the team for a younger crew. Why? For one, the film is called THE EXPENDABLES 3. You couldn't kill this character off? Isn't that the definition of the title? And if you wanted to this character to survive, why not kill a character that's not as important? I'm glad this certain character survived because I enjoy what the actor brings to the table. But it just felt silly to take him out for the entire film like this, when he's been through much worse in previous installments.
Continuing on this, why would Barney disband his team because of this incident? Didn't a member of The Expendables get brutally murdered in front of them in the last film? That didn't make Barney break up the team. And worried for his friends' safety, he decides to recruit younger, more inexperienced, mercenaries to take their places? Like I said, I like the idea of "passing the torch". But it's just done so clumsily because it doesn't fit Barney's character in the previous two films.
It also doesn't help when these new characters are bland and one-dimensional. While the older cast aren't that fleshed out either, at least we know who they are pretty quickly because of their previous resumes. The older cast have personalities we can connect with, even if we don't know their backstories or how they were recruited to form this band of misfits. The new squad doesn't have any of that. One guy is a hacker. Another guy hates authority and rides a motorcycle. There's a girl now who can kick ass. And there's the other guy who just shoots a gun. I'll give Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, and the other two actors for trying to make something out of these stereotypical characters, but it couldn't work when there are already more than another people in this film than it actually needs. There's no room to breathe to let these characters live. I think if these characters were introduced throughout the franchise, or within their own spinoff where they could build themselves into interesting personalities, it could have worked. But all THE EXPENDABLES 3 did was prove that the younger generation can't match up with the older one in terms of personality, charisma, or even acting ability. It's a shame.
Is it a terrible script? No. There is dialogue that made me laugh. There are moments where characters actually feel believable. And I liked how the set pieces were laid out, as cliche as they were. But the focus of the film was flawed, making me wish I was watching the other two films instead.
- Direction in general. Patrick Hughes may be a nice guy. I have no idea what other films he has done. But he wasn't the right guy to film THE EXPENDABLES 3. It's not badly directed in the sense that it's unwatchable. The film looks pretty good and flows better than it should, to be honest. But a lot of the CGI stuff bugged me, especially when two actors are driving in front of a green screen that had me in stitches. The film is WAY too long for its own good, feeling bloated with too many characters and not enough substance. The editing is a bit off at times. And the direction of the action is annoying, especially when I'm seeing close-ups of actor's faces rather than the fight scenes themselves. I don't know when shooting action too close became this hip trend, but it needs to end. I want to see a punch connect to some dude's face, not a close-up of the puncher's face. I'm sure some of this was done to satisfy the PG-13 rating, which makes the opposition for it pretty justified. The visuals just didn't feel confident to me, as if Hughes was struggling with what kind of film this needed to be.
THE FINAL HOWL
I wanted to like THE EXPENDABLES 3 more than I actually did. I like the ideas and themes presented in the film, especially "passing the torch" to a younger generation of stars. But it's an unbalanced action film with an uneven story and direction that needed more confidence. It's also way too long and introduces a young cast that could use a personality transplant. However, the action is still pretty good and the older cast is pretty great, especially Gibson and Banderas - both stealing the film. I prefer the first two films over this one, but the third has its moments and won't bore anyone who is a fan of these kind of films. I just wish it were better because all the elements were there for a better film than we actually get here.