It’s an even numbered year, so you know what that means: another installment of Sly Stallone’s old-school action troupe series “The Expendables”. Never mind the fact that it leaked earlier this year: if you saw it that early, you still need to pick your jaw up off of the floor. Brian and Zach review this trilogy making entry in the series. How does it fare against the first two? How do the newer, younger Expendables team stack up to the heavyweights? Can Mel Gibson be a villain without saying something anti-Semetic? All these questions answered and more in our reviews below.
Before I dove straight in to the third installment of this action epic, I jogged my memory on the previous two films. The first Expendables isn’t as impressive as it was when it first came out. The cardinal sins were an uninspiring villian (ooh, Eric Roberts!), a criminal waste of Steve Austin (even though his death was kinda cool), and a completely useless sub-plot with Lee Christmas and Charisma Carpenter’s character (romance? pass).
Luckily, Stallone remembered what worked and what didn’t from the first film for “The Expendables 2”. Gone were un-necessary sub-plots. The action was beefed up and so was the villain (a key Jean Claude Van-Damme performance). Throw in a few inspired action scenes and Chuck Norris telling Chuck Norris jokes and “Expendables 2” comes across as a very solid action film.
“The Expendables 3” tries to built upon the ass-kicking intense-ness of the second film. Sadly, it fails to build upon it. But don’t fret: “Expendables 3” is still very, very, kick-ass.
Stallone and crew start off the film breaking out an old friend out of a prison train: Doc, played with a cock-sure attitude and a penchant for knife-throwing by none other than Wesley Snipes. Up a member, the crew take on a simple mission that goes awry when Barney Ross (Stallone) comes across and old friend-turned-foe. He was confident that ex-Expendables member Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson) was dead until that mission shows he was the target all along.
A big fire-fight ensues and in the process not only Stonebanks gets away, but Hale Caesar is badly wounded. Barney drops off his lucky ring at his bed side; he’s ready to go to war to take care of Stonebanks. But this time he doesn’t want to put another one of his crew-members in danger and instead enlists the help of old friend Boneparte (Kelsey Grammer) to put together a new team of Expendables.
The new team, consisting of Kellen Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell, come up with a great plan to capture Stonebanks that’s successful until his goons catch on and get Stonebanks back along with the new team. Now Barney Ross must assemble his old team for another mission, and this time it’s to the death.
The new players in “Expendables 3” do their part nicely. Lutz is positioned as the cliche “rogue leader” but his charisma on screen does a nice enough job for the part. Rousey is the eye candy but still manages to get some of her moves in as well. Ortiz and Powell though are largely forgettable.
Harrison Ford does a decent job as the replacement for Bruce Willis’ Church character. It’s also great that he manages to get into the action as well. Grammer is mainly there to progress the plot but his presence is at least felt. Once you see Wesley Snipes you wish he never stopped being an action star. And in a strange turn, Bandaras shows up as a wannabe Expendable which is played off as comic relief. It’s interesting.
Compared to the second film, “Expendables 3” is a bit of a let-down. Maybe I was spoiled by all the awesome action. There’s still a good share of it in the third movie. Gibson can’t match the evil-ness of Jean Claude’s Jean Vilain. With a fourth installment on the way, “The Expendables” shows no sign of stopping. Hey, if number four is half as good as numbers two or three: I’m good.
Like a lot of fans, I was worried going in that the PG-13 was going to knock the teeth out the franchise but the third entry is exactly what I expected to get from the latest Expendables, crazy action, lots of banter and inside jokes about everyone’s careers.
I think 2 is still the high point just for the iconic image of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Norris and Willis blasting away in that weirdly deserted airport and, of course, JCVD’s fantastic turn as Jean Villain. I would put 3 at a close second. Mel Gibson plays off his crazed persona as the evil ex-Expendable turned arms dealer/war criminal Conrad Stonebanks, who is apparently a fighting and strategic genius, as he easily defeats our team in their first encounter. That leads Barney, in kind of a contradictory manner to how he reacted to Billy’s death in Expendables 2, to ditch his team and get a team of young guns that he doesn’t care about for a potentially suicidal revenge mission against Stonebanks. The new team is OK for the most part, with Ronda Rousey being the standout as far as the action is concerned. It seems like it was setting up some big dramatic moment between Barney and Kellan Lutz’s that never happens. The new “old school” guys this movie brings in though are all great. Wesley Snipes plays the slightly unhinged Dr. Death, a knife obsessed medic who the gang break out of an armored prison train in the opening action sequence (that definitely feels abridged compared to the almost 20 minute epic opening of 2). Antonio Banderas is hilarious and charming as Galgo, who’s constantly trying to get onto any mercenary team, much to the chagrin of mercenary recruiter, Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammar). Harrison Ford steps in to replace Bruce Willis as the team’s new CIA contact and it seems like he’s actually have fun and, if nothing else, Expendables 3 is the only movie you will see where Ford is piloting a chopper while Arnold and Jet Li (yes, he’s back finally) mow down bad guys with machine guns.
Something you normally don’t say about Expendables movies but was definitely noticeable in 3 was the way scenes were shot. Director Patrick Hughes takes the time to setup scenes with excellent use of wide shots and lighting that stand out compared to the kind of bland way the first two movies were shot. There’s unfortunately a few really cheap looking CG effects in the movie that stand out even more compared to the real effects.
The action of EX 3 is toned down violence wise but still ridiculously over the top, especially the incredible finale where they somehow find a way to give everyone a big hero moment or fight scene and, of course, it comes down to Gibson vs Stallone in a fight reminiscent of the lawn fight that ended Lethal Weapon 1. There’s plenty of catchphrases and one liners, mostly from Arnold, in that scene as well. I think I would have preferred to have a little more to the opening and there’s plenty of time you could have taken from Stallone recruiting the young guns, which goes on a bit too long as each new recruit gets a 5 or 10 minute intro scene but the movie doesn’t really do anything with any of those characters to warrant all that intro. I could see maybe introducing Kellan Lutz and Ronda Rousey and then introduce the other two before the mission kicks off. I’ve seen some reviews that complained the action was too choppy and edited but I did not feel like that at all. There are movies like Taken 2 and the Red Dawn remake that are much more egregious in their attempts to hide violence for a PG-13.
Overall, EX 3 is another fun entry in the series and if you’re a fan of the first two, you’ll get exactly what you’re expecting from 3. It’s not quite up to the blood soaked, Van Damme fueled highs of 2 but it’s definitely worth checking out.