The Expendables 3 (Review)

2014

126 min

United States / France

Director: Patrick Hughes

Writer: Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt (Story: Sylvester Stallone / Characters: Dave Callaham)

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mel Gibson

Release Date: August 15, 2014


The Expendables 3 is easily the third best in the series, proving once and for all that more than more is too many.

"It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage." Remember when Harrison Ford playing as Indiana Jones says that in Raiders of the Lost Ark? I feel like that quote should be tattooed along Sylvester Stallone's forearm. Dude's pushing 70 and he's still flying helicopters, firing assault rifles, taking punches and running out of exploding buildings. The Expendables franchise is the epitome of that line. Over the four year journey it's been taking actions stars (with both plenty of years and plenty of mileage) and having them attempt to relive their glory days. You'd think with a third installment that it would have seriously considered the criticism of the first two films and finally found its stride, but this is the weakest installment yet.

The teasers and posters and billboards for The Expendables 3 had me pretty excited. The sheer number of team members involved would surely result in some insane and extensive warfare. Why would I think that in the first place? All this means is more characters to cut between during the film's finale when almost every one of those names in that poster above (Stallone, Statham, Banderas, Li, Snipes, Lundgren, Grammar, Couture, Crews, Lutz, Rousey, Powell, Ortiz, Davi, Gibson, Ford and Schwarzenegger) are part of the fray. The editing is more choppy and the action is more repetitive than ever before. And for some reason they decided to forego all the blood and gore from the first films in submission to a PG-13 rating, which is still absurd for something with this much death and destruction to get away with.

This time around Barney Ross (Stallone) has set his crosshairs on Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). Stonebanks was the co-founder of The Expendables and is now a dangerous arms dealer. Stallone sets out on a recruitment tour to hire some fresh and crazy blood for the team. This is comprised of a series of unoriginal scenes during which I found Stallone's wardrobe changes to be the most interesting element. All the new and young faces defeat the whole purpose of this franchise. It ultimately adds to the running time making this the longest in the series clocking in at an unnecessary 2 hours.

Mel Gibson, a great actor at any age, is given the most acting to do. He's a riot and any scene without him almost feels lifeless. The robotics of the motions (from recon work to capturing the target to only end up being captured by the target) are the pits of the action film. We're spoiled these days with films like The Raid 2 and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, but both of those demonstrate how to acknowledge the conventions, go at them in a way that's both narrative-driven and spectacular to observe, or sidesteps the checklist altogether with sheer ingenuity. 

The after-party scene in this movie is the nail in the coffin. Stallone must have mapped out the bar with action figures on his dining room table, making sure each of the characters would exchange dialogue one with another. It drags on (as does Antonio Banderas' hyper schtick) until Barney Ross has made the rounds to each of his Expendables, giving them a deep chuckle and nod of approval. At this point it seems the only hope for The Expendables is to have someone cut the best bits from the three films and slap those together into a 90-minute fan edit. The Expendables 3 would have the least amount of screen time.

I think we should get this over with.
— Lee Christmas