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Movie Review: The Expendables 3 (2014)

Updated on August 27, 2014

Director: Patrick Hughes
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crewes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kelsey Grammer, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz, Antonio Banderas, Kellan Lutz, Glenn Powell, Harrison Ford, Jet Li, Robert Davi, Randy Couture

For hard core action movie junkies, the very idea of The Expendables sounded like a dream come true: gather a number of iconic action movie stars together, and watch them do what they do best (namely, blow stuff up real good and kill some bad guys). The first movie was an unholy mess, a poorly acted, written, and directed botch job that was about as much fun as watching someone eat their own vomit for two hours. In contrast, the second film was a treat, a smart, funny, bloody good action film directed with energy and skill by Simon West. The second movie was so much fun, that it actually got me excited about the third movie.

What a dreary bore it turned out to be.

The Expendables 3 is missing the very thing that made its immediate predecessor such a pleasure to watch: a sense of humor. This new film, for some unfathomable reason, takes itself way too seriously, and what's worse, it keeps many of the actors people are paying good money to see out of the majority of the film. For the entire middle portion of the movie, actors Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Wesley Snipes, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have been replaced by a younger and blander cast. Bruce Willis doesn't even appear in the film, and Jet Li has what amounts to a cameo appearance.

The movie opens up with the title characters rescuing a former Expendable who calls himself Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) from a military prison train. Team leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) needs his help on a new mission in Somalia, where he and his team have to stop an evil arms dealer from trafficking in missiles. As it turns out, the arms dealer is none other than former Expendable Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who was believed to have been killed by Barney many years ago. Stonebanks escapes, and Barney's friend Caesar (Terry Crewes) is left critically injured.

Statham: "You see? I told you my knife was longer than yours!"
Statham: "You see? I told you my knife was longer than yours!"

It is here where the movie makes an impossibly stupid decision by having Barney fire his team because he doesn't want to see them get hurt (he's in the wrong business, then). Barney is given a second chance by his CIA contact Drummer (Harrison Ford) to capture Stonebanks, and so Barney decides to hire a younger and faster crew for the mission. There's Luna (Ronda Rousey), a martial arts expert and night club bouncer; Mars (Victor Ortiz), a sniper; former Navy SEAL Smilee (Kellan Lutz), who has a problem with authority; and Thorn (Glenn Powell), a computer hacker.

Absolutely no thought was put into giving these four youngsters personality or even entertainingly cheesy one-liners (Luna snarls and says "Men!" after beating up some bad guys, but that's about it). They're an exceptionally dull bunch, and for much of the film, we're left hoping that Barney will ditch the kids and reunite with his old team.

He does reunite with them eventually, after Stonebanks kidnaps the new recruits and holds them captive inside a rundown building rigged with explosives. This leads to a scene where our heroes discover a digital readout, counting down the seconds till the bombs go off. It's a tired cliché, and one that's made all the more laughable when one of the new recruits uses a digital device to stop the timer. The thing about the device is that its batteries are almost dead. How can we tell? Because there's a digital read out telling us how much battery life the thing has, and once it dies, the bombs go off.

It would be one thing if the movie were having fun with the whole "digital read out" cliché, but director Patrick Hughes plays things totally straight. He doesn't seem to be having fun here, and neither does his cast. Sylvester Stallone is downright comatose now as Barney. He just doesn't have the spark he had in the previous film. In fact, he seems sluggish here, as though he took a handful of sleeping pills and was struggling to stay awake. The other actors are merely going through the motions, and often times look as though they would rather be any place else.

Here he is: The one redeemable thing about the movie!
Here he is: The one redeemable thing about the movie!

There are two performers who are the exception. Antonio Banderas brings an insane amount of energy as a soldier who wants very badly to join the Expendables, although his schtick does get a little annoying after a while. The best performance is easily turned in by Mel Gibson, who creates such a convincing, menacing, and slimy villain that he brings the movie out of its stupor every time he comes on screen. The best scene in the movie comes when Stonebanks is briefly captured and engages in a verbal duel with Barney. Both the acting and the writing are so good in this scene, that it ends up being more exciting to watch than the many generic action sequences in the movie.

The Expendables 3 isn't even a good looking movie. In fact, it actually looks quite terrible. Cinematographer Peter Menzies, Jr. films much of the movie in a muddy color palette (the climax is especially grimy looking), and the special-effects are almost unbelievably phony. There's a scene where Stallone is in a car with Kelsey Grammer's ally Bonaparte, and they're driving through the desert, and the green screen effects used are obvious that it's really embarrassing. It's not difficult to film two people inside a car, but the filmmakers can't even get that right.

Perhaps the most baffling thing about this movie is that it somehow got away with a PG-13 rating. There have been many thoughtful, beautiful, and challenging movies out there that got the R rating because of language, or maybe a few sexual references or sexual content. The Expendables 3 features scenes in which hundreds of people are shot, stabbed, slashed, blown up, or beaten to death. There is a ridiculous amount of violence in this movie, but no blood, which I guess makes all the difference for the people at the Motion Picture Association of America. Exposing youngsters to bad language and sexual content is out of the question, but violence is okay, especially if the people getting killed bleed invisible ink.

Rated (somehow) PG-13 for tons of (bloodless) violence and some strong language.

Final Grade: * ½ (out of ****)

What did you think of this movie? :)

2 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of The Expendables 3 (2014)

The trailer is more fun than the movie.

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    • priley84 profile image
      Author

      priley84 3 years ago from Warner Robins, Ga

      Thanks for reading. :)

      Given how terrible this movie was, it seems like there would be no place for the franchise to go but up. Here's hoping the next one will be a major improvement!

    • The Silver Stream profile image

      The Silver Stream 3 years ago from Fort Worth, TX

      I find your take to be spot on. I always go into these films with a low bar in mind on quality and enjoy it for what it is, but this one was tough. I sympathize with your disappointment and think they can do much better. The inevitable fourth installment needs to take the franchise to new levels to make up for this debacle.