Film Of The Week: THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)


SYNOPSIS:
Barney (Stallone), Christmas (Statham) and the rest of the team comes face-to-face with Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), who years ago co-founded The Expendables with Barney. Stonebanks subsequently became a ruthless arms trader and someone who Barney was forced to kill… or so he thought. Stonebanks, who eluded death once before, now is making it his mission to end The Expendables — but Barney has other plans. 
Barney decides that he has to fight old blood with new blood, and brings in a new era of Expendables team members, recruiting individuals who are younger, faster and more tech-savvy. The latest mission becomes a clash of classic old-school style versus high-tech expertise in the Expendables’ most personal battle yet.

REVIEW:

In 2010, filmmaker Patrick Hughes earned the spotlight for his then-directorial debut Western thriller, Red Hill. It earned several nomimations and became a hit among audiences, including actor Sylvester Stallone who went on to officially announce Hughes as the director of the new film, The Expendables 3, after dropping twitter hints like crazy beforehand. And while reading his tweets, it seemed as if Stallone's vision intended on outdoing his predecessors, namely Rambo (2008), in light of all the hype involving the fanfare for R-rated action - something which the Expendables franchise became known for four years ago with the first film.

Unfortunately, I have not yet seen Red Hill, so I cannot give a full and analytic comparison between that film and The Expendables 3. However, I did see the trailer for Red Hill, and I can honestly say it delivers a very different tone than what was promised in my viewing of the latter film on Monday night; To be fair though, the hype may have come long before it was reported that the studio behind the third installation was issuing PG-13 release, much to the chagrin of an entire niche of action cinephiles that grew up watching the film's stars in R-rated blockbusters over the last three decades or more. As such, fans were left to bite the PG-13 bullet whilst awaiting what the film had in store for its release. Accordingly, this did not extingush the interest from many fans who may have been otherwise interested in a fourth film, from the looks of things based on this weekend's box office numbers, there is a good chance that won't happen. So if this is indeed "the last ride", I'm glad I caught it on the big screen where it was meant to be seen. But, the film is not without its faults, and there are plenty.

Stallone returns as Barney Ross, the grizzled leader of the Expendables, who have since diminished in numbers over the years. With Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunnar (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll Road (Randy Couture) on hand, we soon meet veteran Expendable, Doc (Wesley Snipes) who puts the finishing touch on much of the film's explosive opening sequence. The cast then reunites with fellow member Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) on a mission shortly after, only to find themselves out-gunned and nearly killed by Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), arms dealer, war criminal and former Expendable himself once thought to be dead.

Ross, troubled by potentially getting his long-devoted team killed and hell-bent on catching Stonebanks-preferably alive at the behest of his new boss, Drummer (Harrison Ford), abandons the team in search for new blood with the aide of Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer). Soon, we meet Thorn (Glen Powell), Luna (Ronda Rousey), Smilee (Kellan Lutz) and Mars (Victor Ortiz), all of whom are brought onto the team with the exception of Galgo (Antonio Banderas), an able-bodied mercenary himself with the gift of gab. The team moves in on Stonebanks and the mission is successful, until they are ambushed. Ross is left for dead, and his new team is captured by Stonebanks whose intent is to lure Ross back for a sick game of his own. With time running out, Galgo re-emerges, as do Drummer, Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and the old team, to help Ross rescue the others, and bury an old enemy once and for all.

When I first saw the 2010 film, the first of the trilogy, I left the theater excited, intended on seeing every film on the big screen with the promise of watching a really great franchise blossom for action fans like myself. Yes, it did hit a few bumps and missed out on some of the beats where it counted the most; I went with a friend to see the second film one evening, and he fell asleep! I couldn't really believe it. And even some family of mine were hesitant to see the second film though it delivered on its continued promise of bringing mature, violent R-rated action for the audience it was meant for. As for the third, while I did enjoy it as much as I could, I can't help but wish they took some more time with it. It felt a little bit rushed than appropriate for a trilogy installer and there are quite a few holes where I would have wanted some more back story into the the former connection between Ross and Stonebanks. And, some of the questionable CG in the film made it feel less epic than it should have for a Hollywood blockbuster.

The performances were adequate with the exception of a few; Snipes gets his moment at the top of the film with an eccentric element to his character that was fun to watch from time to time. Lutz, who has been slowly and gradually ascending in the ranks of action stardom in films like Java Heat and The Legend Of Hercules does nice job with his character opposite Stallone in some scenes, as does Gibson. Newcomer Powell did a good job with his role, as does former professional welterweight boxer-turned-actor Ortiz who doesn't really have much to say, though his physical performance does most of the talking. As far as Rousey goes, this is pretty much her first acting gig in a feature of this magnitude, and while I welcome seeing her again in the pending production of The Athena Project for Warner Bros., she ought to stop badmouthing people who can actually act. As it stands, she's a far cry from anywhere close to the acting talent Gal Gadot has. Not trying to knock Rousey, she's damn good in the octagon, but she's a cinematic half-talent, and she needs to work on her craft before bashing others who have been acting longer than her. Not cool.

All in all, much of the cast did a generally good job of delivering a toned-down, family-friendly action adventure film, with plenty of Stallone doing what he does best; He's pushed himself fervently to physical extremes in his years in film despite being handed some turkeys along the way, but I commend him nonetheless. Lundgren pretty much frowns his way through his character, and that's all we can really expect of him since there isn't much to go on. Statham does an adequate job with a supporting role that both charms and dazzles on the big screen, whereas Couture doesn't really stand out much at this point. He's kinda just there, and herein lies where the film could have floundered; Were it not for Banderas carrying the rest of the film through despite us learning his background long after all said and done, the entire third act, coupled with the sight of Jet Li as the butt of a headshakingly ridiculous short joke and seeing him behind a big machine gun he can barely hold onto would have been a little more depressing. 

Moreover, don't look for Li much either. He's in about three scenes in the second half of the film and he does none of his screenfighting whatsoever, but considering his hyperthyroidism, that is understandable. Nonetheless, the fight choreography in the climatic action finale does give you something to look at, with Rousey, Snipes, Statham, Ortiz and Banderas all having an ass-kicking good time. It is ensemble hand-to-hand fight scenes like this are exactly what make a film like this all the more enjoyable for action fans, and its a shame that this may very well be all we get for a trilogy that was meant for greatness before ultimately doing a one-eighty in an attempt to reach out to younger audiences.

Sorry to say, Lionsgate, but that was a big mistake. I really like the Expendables franchise at the core of what it was meant to be. But I wanted to love it, and turning your back on a loyal generation of action fans who grew up with many of these actors sends an otherwise debateworthy message about the state of action movies today, especially with a trilogy.

Many action movies are getting the short end of the stick now because the PG-13 fan base have emerged for YA novel adaptations and superhero movie lore. Sure, those movies are moneymakers for their niche. But if Lionsgate wanted a moneymaker by way of a younger audiences this time around, they picked the wrong franchise to do it. And no, we can't forget the damage done by the film's two-week early online leak by the millions. That is almost certainly a factor in the film's flop over the past weekend, and there's no excuse for it. Point in fact, there's no excuse why any real patron of film should be stealing movies. I was hoping for Chan, Brosnan, Hogan and Johnson to stake their claim at some point in this franchise and it sucks this might never happen. And if it does, it might be a really, really long time.

So...yeah. The film doesn't out-do Rambo (that will be for part five to handle), nor does it "raid the Raid" like Sly said he was hoping for it to - that task will now go to Hughes, actor Frank Grillo and the ensemble of twelve main characters he is casting for next year's filming of The Raid remake. As for The Expendables 3, it's really a film meant for 13 year olds boys who want to see Rousey in a red-dress beat guys up, and girls who think Lutz and Ortiz looks good without a t-shirt on...

Hey, they look better than me. I'll give them that!

Comments

  1. Surprised you didn't mention more about Gibson. He gives a powerful performance, and he's easily the best thing about this movie (him and Banderas).

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    Replies
    1. Gibson did a terrific job, gave it a brief mention above after Lutz. Very noteworthy, but I was eager to get a few of my other points out.

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