No one expects The Expendables franchise to be masterpieces of cinema, but I’d be lying if I said they weren’t at least mildly entertaining. The thing that makes them so appealing to action junkies like me is that you get to see a lot of the biggest action stars from the ’80s and ’90s come together and bring their individual classic badassery with them. However, aside from a few awesome additions to the cast (Banderas, Gibson, Snipes), The Expendables 3, under new direction by Patrick Hughes (the guy remaking my precious The Raid movie), suffers from a lame PG-13 rating, a large and unnecessary addition of newbies, and not enough corny fan servicing to the old school action lovers.
Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and Toll Road (Randy Couture) break a former Expendables member named Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) out of a military prison and recruit him to help them with a mission in Somalia. When they arrive, Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) is already there to assist them. To Barney’s surprise, another former Expendables member and enemy, Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who Barney thought he had killed, is there working as an arms dealer and selling off a shipment of bombs. After a shoot-out, Caesar is injured and hospitalized, and this leads to Barney’s desire to exact revenge on Stonebanks, but he doesn’t want the rest of his crew to be killed in the process. After dropping his crew, he meets up with Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer), who helps him in tracking down some new young members for his team. This leads to the addition of an ex-Marine, John Smilee (Kellan Lutz), a club bouncer, Luna (Ronda Rousey), a computer expert, Thorn (Glen Powell), and a weapons expert, Mars (Victor Ortiz). Somewhere along the way, a looney, fast-talking Spaniard named Galgo (Antonio Banderas), joins him in desperation to find work. When the young crew end up captured and held as hostages, Barney has to reunite with old crew in order to save them.
I’m excited to see Wesley Snipes back in action again. He even makes a joke about being locked up because of tax evasion–the reason for his real life imprisonment. In this, he’s a knife-wielding badass, rivaling the already established knife-wielding team member, Lee Christmas. I think it’s cheap, though, that they bring in Wesley Snipes and then immediately hospitalize the only other black guy on the team. What’s up with that? Not trying to bring up a race issue or anything, but I’m just saying Terry Crews is one of the better and more enjoyable cast members. This movie is weighed down heavily enough by people who can’t act worth a damn. If you have to hospitalize someone, why not Randy Couture or something? But apparently there can only be one black guy? Lame!
Antonio Banderas is another great addition to the cast, he was actually my favorite character in this whole movie. He was the only one who was even remotely funny, and he had a very goofy, likable charm to him that was present even in his shoot-out action scenes.
Mel Gibson was one of the best things about this movie. He’s a great bad guy and so easy to hate. Having him on the opposite side was one of the filmmakers’ better decisions. I might even like him more than Jean-Claude Van Damme’s villainous character from The Expendables 2, although Gibson can’t bring the awesome roundhouse kicks that Van Damme brought to the last movie, so in that sense, the fight between him and Stallone’s character was not as good.
I love Harrison Ford in general, but I didn’t like his character in this. He was kind of dull and I wasn’t sure what his purpose was besides taking the place of Bruce Willis. I’m actually surprised he agreed to do this movie. He had a couple of ok scenes involving piloting a helicopter, but other than that, he was forgettable like many others in this bloated cast. I kind of missed Bruce Willis, honestly, he may do a lot of really terrible movies, but at least he is reliable and delivers his special humorous Bruce Willis-y action in every one.
Stallone was his usual self, but I feel like he brought a lot of overly dramatic performances in a few scenes. Actually, I think the story suffered a bit from being too overly dramatic in some places. For example, when Barney tries to drop his old team members and replace them with new ones, you have your typical montage of characters moping around at home, with some kind of melancholy rock music playing in the background. It was a little bit corny, not to mention, I don’t understand the logic behind dropping a bunch of old members so that a bunch of young people can risk their lives for a mission instead. It was just a sad excuse to add in a ton of uninteresting new people to the story.
I didn’t think the young cast was really needed for this. I mean, the best part about The Expendables is that it’s nostalgic of all the older action films people have either grown up loving or grown to love, the older and more experienced cast is what makes these movies what they are. Now, it seems, it’s losing itself in the desire to cater to those who have no friggin’ clue about the greatness of B-action movies of the ’80s and ’90s. Yes, I love new action movies also and there are quite a few young action stars I love to watch, but that doesn’t mean that they belong in this movie, especially if they aren’t going to be utilized to their full potential. With that said, Kellan Lutz and Glen Powell were ok I guess, Ronda Rousey had a few cool fight scenes, but her acting and weird facial expressions were a little distracting, and I totally forgot that Victor Ortiz even existed in this, and I don’t know if that’s because he can’t act or he was written as an unmemorable, inconsequential character–probably a little of both.
I also have to add that these movies need a lot more Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jet Li. Arnold is just so ridiculous that I can’t help but love him, but he barely exists in these movies, with the exception of a bigger part in The Expendables 2. Jet Li was only ever really in the first movie, as he checked out pretty early on in the second, and in this one he just shows up towards the end. How are you going to have a martial arts star in a movie and make him just sit on a helicopter and shoot stuff? Come on.
The Expendables 3 also lacked the obvious nods to some of the actors’ previous roles, which is something that totally made the second movie. The Expendables 2 had a ton of nerdy fan servicing too, even going as far to cast Chuck Norris in a role and give him a line consisting of one of the numerous Chuck Norris jokes that circulate the Internet. It was a movie that was so self-aware of being a rehash of old action stars, it was corny in all the right ways, it made better use of its cast members, it had some great nostalgic dialogue, and it was just an all around better attempt at doing what these kind of movies aim to do.
This movie succeeds in bringing quite a few entertaining action scenes, with some great new cast members and a few that are forgettable. Overall, it lacks the same kind of excitement from the previous movies, and a lot of the better characters don’t get enough screen time. You can’t really expect too much from a movie like this, but coming from someone who actually loves stupid action movies, this wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for in a movie that stars a lot of people I’ve enjoyed watching over the years.