The Expendables 3 is a stupid, fun movie that could’ve been a lot worse
‘The Expendables 3′ delivers what it promises, plus a few extra really enjoyable bits and not that many truly dull ones.
Ah, The Expendables. The trilogy began with a conceit that was very simple: a collection of aging action stars (heroes and villains) all in a single movie with every single cliche and one liner you’d expect. There were plenty of explosions, a lot of CGI blood, grunting galore, a few superfluous subplots, useless tertiary characters, and even some legitimately good action. In a standout then, Jason Statham showcased plenty of wit and talent and Terry Crews was a revelation, but not everyone was that great.
Still, it was decent, stupid fun, right? Expendables 2 jammed in a few more characters and had some okay action scenes, including Jean Claude Van Damme chewing the scenery as a villain. Once again though, Stallone merely grunted and shot his way through the movie as the least interesting lead. I should also say that Randy Couture was boring as well, because he’s a former MMA fighter who didn’t even fight with his fists in the sequel, unlike the first movie. So the second movie was a bit of disappointment. And then problems began to arise with the third one, mainly that Bruce Willis left production because he wasn’t being paid enough (allegedly). But instead we got some new characters instead. Does it work?
The Expendables 3 has a paper thin plot, as per usual, but there are some hidden secrets here. Stallone is back as gruff Barney Ross, leader of the now mostly dead group of the Expendables, including Randy Couture (boring guy from the last paragraph), Dolph Lundgren (underused in the movie), Terry Crews (sidelined from most of the movie due to conflicts with shooting the hilarious Brooklyn Nine Nine) and Jason Statham (also underused, but not that badly). The movie begins with the team breaking Doc, a new character played by Wesley Snipes, out of a black ops, vaguely Eastern European prison train. Explosions, non-bloody deaths by the score, one liners, and scene!
Snipes is actually a lot of fun for this first part of the movie, but unfortunately he is quickly turned into background noise after the next segment. Barney and company have another job when they run into Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a former Expendable turned bad guy believed dead, and things get screwed up. So Barney decides to get a new team, discarding the old one. He pulls in a new team who are all boring characters and nobodies, with the help of wrangler Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer). You have the punk who doesn’t respect authority but has what it takes ironically to be a leader (Kellan Lutz, boring), weapons expert-slash-boring guy (boxer Victor Ortiz, boring as well), hacker-slash-adrenaline junkie (Glen Powell, mostly boring), and the kickass lady (MMA champion Ronda Rousey, who is not such a great actress).
Things continue to get worse, Harrison Ford has a cameo, they make many meta-commentary jokes about Bruce Willis being fired and Wesley Snipes’ tax troubles, etc. But then there is a brilliant bright spot, Antonio Banderas as Galgo, a crazed killer who is also hilariously annoying. This guy was legitimately the best part of the film, although I have to say that Mel Gibson still does crazy well. The final big set piece was fine, but once you see a lot of shooting random minions the first hour, the second hour seems the same. The problem with The Expendables 3 is that it isn’t quite stupid enough, but on the other hand, you do wonder if Stallone is trying to say something about older stars being replaced by generic, younger, boring ones. Or maybe not, it could be just skin deep. Once again, this movie had too much shooting, not enough punching. That said, we do see one scene of Statham showing he can still kick some ass, and Rousey had a few decent action bits. Kelsey Grammer was pretty funny in his short time, despite not shooting anybody, and Harrison Ford seemed to be almost trying.
These movies are kind of an oddity, because it’s hard to be critical of things that are clearly not trying that hard, so that becomes the best thing you can even say. The movie is decently paced, despite its length, and it does have some fun scenes and a pretty good bad guy. In the end it just once again becomes a matter of “this could’ve been even better,” but that’s basically every movie. I suppose here it’s even more true, because everyone here (except the boring youngsters and Couture) has been in a great action movie in their career. See the movie for Banderas, Gibson, and some fun action scenes. Skip it if you’re already bored with The Expendables after the first one.