Monday, August 18, 2014

The Expendables 3 - 2014

"The Expendables 3" - 2014
Dir. by Patrick Hughes - 2 hrs. 6 min.

Official Trailer #1

by Clayton Hollifield

It's time to blow some stuff up!  Why?  Sylvester Stallone says so!

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his crew of Expendables (which is down to five) break a prisoner out of a train-car prison.  This prisoner, Doc (Wesley Snipes), is a former (and soon to be current) member of the Expendables, and is not only a doctor, but trained with knives.  With the roster up to six, (Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, and Dolph Lundgren's characters round out the crew), they head off to another job, to capture some arms dealer in Somalia.  Things go sideways, someone gets hurt badly, and the target turns out not to be a nobody, but a somebody, somebody who was supposed to be dead.  This forces Barney to confront the fact that he's old as balls, and so is his crew, so he abruptly fires them, enlists Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) to help him round up some new talent, and then they attempt to do the job right.  Which, of course, is exactly how it goes.

I did enjoy "The Expendables 3," maybe more than the last installment.  I didn't have that feeling that something great was just out of grasp; instead, I just kicked back with my popcorn and enjoyed what there was to enjoy.  The action was fairly good; I don't know how much of that had to do with stunt actors or if the director just did a great job of misdirection.  The story itself was kind of predictable, but that in itself isn't always a problem.  I mean, I don't derive any less satisfaction from watching giant guns blow thing up just because I know it's coming.  Once a situation is set up, there's only so many ways that the story can go.  That's life.  I'm not sure if I'd even watched the trailer for this film ahead of time, so more than half of the fun is seeing who showed up this time around.  I had no idea Mel Gibson had a substantial role, nor Kelsey Grammer, nor Antonio Banderas, who really stole the movie with his scenes.

As for the negatives, a lot of people might point towards the shift from an R-rated franchise to a PG-13 one, and I have no idea why the decision to make that shift occurred.  It didn't really affect anything in the story, other than I'm sure that Stallone had to bellow "shit" instead of "fuck" when things went awry.  It seems disingenuous to make any kind of a war/mercenary film that's anything less than an R-rating; why is murder-for-hire an acceptable topic for a movie for teenagers?  Even if you avoid boobies and bad words and dude ass and excessive blood, I feel like the profession itself is unacceptable to present to kids.  If Joe Camel being a cartoon isn't acceptable, why can a thirteen year-old watch movies about arms dealers?  The whole thing just seems weird to me, as does the desire to sell this material to the underage set.  I feel like the notion that being a mercenary is an acceptable way to earn a living is far more damaging than a string of muttered obscenities.  But I'm an adult, and I don't have any children, so who cares?

The main difference here is a shift from dark comedy to lighter comedy.  Part of that is the inevitable "you're old/you're young" generational nonsense between the old crew and the new crew, and part of that is how awesome Antonio Banderas' was.  He's so much fun, it would have been a shame to cut any of his material.  But one of the main points of the film was Barney not wanting to cost people lives by misjudging when he was over the hill, which is a fairly serious point, and a real moral conundrum.  Barney broods over it, but light-hearted banter doesn't go well with that message.  And out of all of the new crew, I'd really only want to watch a couple of them again (Ronda Rousey and Kellan Lutz, for the record), should a fourth installment materialize.

It feels like this franchise has reached it's conclusion with "The Expendables 3."  I'm okay with that; I had to go back and read my review of the second installment to remember what I thought of it.  That (fairly) indicates that these films have been something pretty far from memorable.  Enjoyable, surely, and a surprisingly good idea, also, check.  It takes a certain amount of ingenuity to get good action films out of a cast that really has no business doing action films.  The last time around, I felt like there was a legitimately great film possible with this premise and these actors, and rather than pursuing that, the third installment goes down the road of navel-gazing and torch-passing.  That's a dramatic shift in tone from the second "Expendables," where it was so completely over-blown and cameo-riddled that the notion of looking forward instead of backward seemed impossible.  The idea that the old guard needs some new blood to move forward is pretty contrary to the idea of seeing all of your favorite old action stars in one film.  After "The Expendables 2," I was game to see a third.  After "The Expendables 3," there's a good chance that I would need to know who's in it, and be sold on the story a little bit to turn back up at the theatre for a fourth "Expendables."

2.5 / 5 - Theatre


  1. This Sylvester Stallone franchise has devolved into the clown car of action movies: a casting gimmick to see how many AARP actors you can cram into one vehicle.
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  2. There's no de-evolution; that's the entire point (and appeal) of the franchise in the first place. And it's not like the kiddie crew of new characters really made any case for displacing any of the older ones - for the most part, at least the older actors had some baggage to play off of, whereas the new characters were indistinguishable, Ronda Rousey aside.