Oh man! What’s this? A second review in one week? That’s rare. Mostly it’s because I watched this film last week and kinda delayed writing this review and then went to see Terminator Genisys when I was about to actually write. Oh, and then watched another film, to be reviewed later, right before Terminator Genisys. So yeah… got some reviews coming. Should probably talk about Expendables 3 I guess. I’ve covered the previous films and thought they were pretty mediocre, not really capitalising on the big 80s nostalgia machoness they could have. Will Expendables 3 be any better? Let’s see shall we.
Expendables 3 plot is basically about some old dudes feeling too old coming across another old dude we’ve never heard of before that’s apparently a pretty dude. He hurts Terry Crewes because I think had had to go be in a terrible Adam Sandler film. Sylvester Stallone decides everyone is now too old and so he goes and recruits some younger guys, on the advice of Kelsey Grammer, and they go to do some job for the CIA that involves catching Mel Gibson, who’s the bad man mentioned earlier. Mel Gibson captures those guys so Stallone begrudgingly accepts the help of his old friends to get them back and maybe capture/kill Mel Gibson. That’s a lot simpler than Terminator Genisys wasn’t it?
Now, the shift to a younger group of Expendables has made the series weird fixation on modern effects driven action sequences making some kind of sense. The new crew are all extreme sports, MMA, hackers and general supermen… and woman. That’s a very modern style of action team, and so, the modern style of action, bloodless PG-13 and all, fits with that team. It’s not good action, but it plays better… in context. Of course, when the old guys, all slow moving and tired looking as they are, with the exception of Statham, are jumping around like supermen it all feels weirdly out of place. Always had this issue with these films. The action doesn’t play to the cast members strengths and the feeling of action nostalgia the series wants to remind you of. So, what I’m saying is, the modern action fits the younger stars better. There, that was a messy paragraph.
Story wise Expendables 3 is actually kinda decent. For the first time in the series I kinda felt engaged. Partly this is because Mel Gibson is so easily dislikeable. Also, he’s still pretty damn charismatic, which kinda compounds his dis-likeability. The scenes he’s in, where he’s being all scenery chewingly evil are probably the best moments in the film. Stallone does his down-trodden hero thing, which he’s gotten pretty good at in recent years, and it suits the story quite well. The story isn’t going to get you on the edge of your seat, but it has just enough to keep you watching. It certainly doesn’t go into the dour and slow as all hell levels of Expendables 2’s second act.
There’s a number of moments where the film does screech to a halt, the overly long recruitment montage for one, but it never feels like the wheels are spinning in the mud. The scenes go on too long but stuff is happening. Antonio Banderas appears as an overly eager former merc, desperate for a job, who has a habit of talking constantly. His talkative nature is played for laughs but it really doesn’t work. It’s one of those humour things where someone figured as long as someone was talking fast we’d think it was hilarious. Things like this grated on my patience a little but once they’re out the way the film moves along solidly enough. The finale features a potential tension ramping plot device that isn’t used until literally the final minute, which comes across like they actually forgot about it as, well, things get abrupt. That was a missed chance. There was some cool stunts during this whole finale though so I’m all for that. Like, actual stunts without CG effects. Good for them.
Of the new cast most are pretty forgettable and serve the purpose of making Stallone’s Barney Ross feel old. There’s no “the old ways are better” message given by the film and the younger cast never outshine the old. Everyone gets at least one action scene to show their worth. Possibly the best of the new group is Kellen Lutz who has the typically silly name of Smilee. Not familiar with his work, he’s in those Twilight films apparently, also IMDB claims I saw him in that Nightmare on Elm Street film… I don’t remember him. Here though, he fits really well. He’s got a kind of rugged charisma. The sort you may associate with a character like Wolverine. Just all moody and unshaven. He’s certainly presented as the hero of the new group and, I’d imagine, he would be one of the few to return should there be an Expendables 4. Maybe Ronda Rousey too because you need a woman one. But only one it seems. Charisma Carpenter wasn’t in this film at all so they replaced her with Ronda. Ronda holds her own but I really couldn’t tell you a character trait she had beyond woman who punches people a lot. Pretty sure that’s not a character trait though.
The film manages to trundle along with a little more humour than before, breaking Wesley Snipes’ Doc out of the prison transport at the start was a bit of a nice cheeky touch. Same goes for Harrison Ford’s CIA agent Drummer describing Church (Played by Bruce Willis in the previous films) was “out of the picture”. A sly little jab at how Bruce was kicked off the project for, allegedly, asking for too much money. Harrison Ford is actually pretty enjoyable towards the end and there was a couple of moments where I thought he may have been enjoying himself. Which is nice for him. Dolph Lundgren’s Gunner (who really should have stayed dead in the first film) has some humourous stuff where he’s trying to act a little more youthful, walking around with a computer on his arm. Generally the tone is kept fairly light, beyond a couple of moments. I rather have the odd slow moments like there is here punctuated with humour, unlike the previous films that just forgot to be actual fun at most points.
The film has left me confused, as my rambling here can attest. There’s moments where I actually got a little into the performances of Gibson and Stallone. Snipes being crazy was fun to watch, although why spend ten minutes introducing him to sideline him for the rest of the film is beyond me. The lack of digitally imposed blood is very welcome. I’d rather an action film of this type be bloodless than have that crap going on. The newer cast alleviates some of the expectation for nostalgia driven 80s style action. But there’s also a lot of stalled pacing, plotting for the sake of cameos and a whole litany of forgettable characters. Jet Li turns up at the end of this. He does nothing. But he’s there so… yeah. Again, Expendables proves to be a missed chance but, of the free films, this one is the least irritating to me. As I mentioned in my Terminator Genisys review, that’s kind of the low passing bar these days. I wasn’t bored, the film had a few fun moments, I didn’t get angry at anything and it ended at the right point. That’s about all I can ask from these films. Remember that 4th Rambo film? That was good. Can we have another like that please?