THE EXPENDABLES 3 (Dir. Patrick Hughes, 2014)
If you don't know the drill by now, it goes like this: Sylvester Stallone assembles a cast of every action movie star ever into a summer blockbuster filled with explosions and fantastically stupid stunts in hopes that every action movie fan ever will go see it.
So far it’s worked - both 2010's THE EXPENDABLES, and its 2012 sequel were huge hits despite largely negative critical reaction.
So here’s the third one, directed by Australian filmmaker Patrick Hughes, whose only previous feature length credit is the little seen thriller RED HILL.
This time, the mercenary group headed by the smug 68-year old Stallone goes up against Mel Gibson as a former Expendable gone rogue.
The bare bones of the plot-line: On a team mission in Somalia, Crews gets shot in the ass (that’s right) by evil arms trader Gibson, which causes a guilt ridden Stallone to disband his crew, made up of the returning Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Stallone hires new Expendables (Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, and Victor Ortiz) to help him bring down Gibson, but he captures the new recruits so the old members get back together to go save them.
A less crabby than usual Harrison Ford fills in for Bruce Willis as the gang's CIA contact, a slick Wesley Snipes, and a constantly jibber jabbering Antonio Banderas are on hand as a new “old” Expendables, and Kelsey Grammer, for some reason, appears as a retired mercenary who helps Stallone find the new blood.
There’s way less dumb fun as the second installment, but it’s still much better than the first, although it shares that film’s draggy down times.
It’s surprising that three writers (Stallone with Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt) are credited for the screenplay, because most of the dialogue has a real make-it-up-as-we-go feel to it especially when it comes to lines like “You were stupid enough to get yourself into this mess! And we're the only ones crazy enough to get you out of it.”
Another favorite bad line, “Morons need friends,” could serve as the movie’s motto, and just about everything that Schwarzenegger says is funny as Hell - especially his callback to PREDATOR: “Get to the Chopper!”
The climax, taking place in an abandoned building in Bulgaria that Gibson has rigged with C4, is the most successful set-piece sequence, a reward of sorts for being able to get through the excruciating boredom of the bulk of the film.
It, of course, all comes down to hand-to-hand combat between Stallone and Gibson right up to the building being detonated, because what action film doesn’t end with the protagonist and antagonist facing off? You know, like in FACE/OFF?
Except for some jokes made about their elders’ advancing age (“That would be a good plan, if it was still 1985” one quips about Stallone’s proposed strategy), the new Expendables don't make much of an impression, except for Rousy, a UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion in real life, but that’s really only because she’s the only woman present.
Ford is amusing in his role, showing off his helicopter piloting skills, and I almost believe him when he says at the end that the adventure “was the most fun I've had in years.”
Gibson makes a great scenery chewing adversary, you know, the kind of vicious villain that kills his henchmen if they fail. He certainly makes the most of being the guy that audiences love to hate, even without saying anything racially insensitive.
But this is Stallone’s show, and overall I like how he’s re-branded himself with this franchise. It’s so much more preferable to him putting out Rambo and Rocky sequels for the rest of his life, but it’s disappointing that this sloppily executed old school action exercise doesn’t go for the so-bad-it’s-good gold until the last 15 minutes.
I also hate that it's the first EXPENDABLES that's rated PG-13. I really miss the blood splatter.