Thursday, August 21, 2014

Movie Review: The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3
Directed by: Patrick Hughes.
Written by: Sylvester Stallone and Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt based on characters created by Dave Callaham.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (Barney Ross), Jason Statham (Lee Christmas), Harrison Ford (Drummer), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Trench), Mel Gibson (Stonebanks), Wesley Snipes (Doc), Dolph Lundgren (Gunnar Jensen), Randy Couture (Toll Road), Terry Crews (Caesar), Kelsey Grammer (Bonaparte), Glen Powell (Thorn), Antonio Banderas (Galgo), Victor Ortiz (Mars), Ronda Rousey (Luna), Kellan Lutz (Smilee), Jet Li (Yin Yang).

You would think that for a series that is based almost exclusively on 1980s action movie nostalgia that the people behind The Expendables movies would think of hiring one of the directors who made those films in the first place. I mean, Jon McTiernan out of jail now – what else is he doing. Even better, why not hire one of the great Hong Kong directors from that era – John Woo, Tsui Hark, hell Id even take Ringo Lam. I say this because the worst thing about The Expendables 3 – and there isn’t much good about it – is the action itself, and that’s just inexcusable. Director Patrick Hughes – the third director in the series so far – seems to want to be Michael Bay, and shoots every action sequence with a camera that never stops shaking, and rapid fire editing. For the most part, I had no idea what the hell was going on during the action sequences. At the very least, a better director would have known that you don’t cast Jet Li in an action movie and then waste him standing behind a machine gun for his entire role.

The movie begins with The Expendables breaking out one of their own – Doc (Wesley Snipes) – from a maximum security prison in some backwoods, Eastern European country. He has spent years in there (for tax evasion, Snipes quips) – and the boys need him to pull off their latest job. But, of course, things go horribly wrong when the bad guy they were expecting turns out to be someone else. In fact, its Barney (Sylvester Stallone) old partner – Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). One of The Expendables is shot, and Barney fears that they are too old to continue doing what they are doing. So he fires his team, and hires a bunch of young new recruits to go after Stonebanks himself. But, of course, he will eventually need his old team back again – with another new addition (Antonio Banderas), who lost his team in Benghazi (which is a reference thrown in for kicks apparently).

The Expendables movies have never been very good – they are barely movies at all really, but an excuse for a bunch of old action stars to keep working – who together have enough fans to keep the films profitable. They are the brainchild of Stallone, but none of them come close to being as good as the final installment of Rambo that Stallone made a few years ago – the closest he will ever come to making his own version of Unforgiven. The cast of these movies is so big – and continuously growing – that other than Stallone no one gets much of a chance to distinguish themselves. This film adds a few more faces – some work well, like Antonio Bandera, who is great as a motor mouth crazy guy and Ronda Rousey, as one of the young Expendables, who is the only woman I’ve seen in a film that I think could hold her own with Gina Carano – others not really, Snipes who is given nothing to do, and the rest of the younger Expendables, who are essentially interchangeable. Best of all is Mel Gibson, who slips effortlessly into the role of a crazy person, for obvious reasons. Too bad he’s such an asshole, because Gibson could have one hell of a career playing bad guys now.

For the most part, The Expendables 3 doesn’t really work that well. It almost seems like the filmmakers are barely trying anymore. They’ve squeezed three of these movie into in the last five years, which is probably too much, too soon. Would I watch an Expendables 4? Yes, I would. What can I say. I’m a sucker.

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