The Expendables 3 (2014) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
Running Time: 127 min.
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Kellan Lutz, Antonio Banderas, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Ronda Rousey, Kelsey Grammer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Glen Powell, Randy Crews, Victor Ortiz, Jet Li, Robert Davi
Director: Patrick Hughes
Screenplay: Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt
Review published August 14, 2014
This review is fairly simple: If you've enjoyed The Expendables and The Expendables 2, you'll very likely enjoy this third (and purportedly final) entry, and if you didn't, you probably won't. I'd grade this as the best of the series, which means that I've enjoyed each successive chapter more than the last, but it still falls short of the mark of being a movie worth going out of your way for if you're not a hardcore action fan.
The plot involves a mission to apprehend an old nemesis of theirs, a weapons dealer named Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson, Machete Kills), but the Expendable-founding-member-gone-rogue proves too wily, and deadly, and he gets away. Forced into a do-or-die retirement situation, the current Expendables have to sit this one out while Barney Ross (Stallone, Grudge Match) decides to take on some new recruits who will eventually replace them, out for one last window of opportunity to take Stonebanks down.
The Expendables 3 is the first film in the franchise to sport a PG-13 rating, which some fans will likely be disappointed with, especially since the first two films really pushed heavily into R-rated blood and guts depictions.
You won't likely be surprised to learn that, outside of the main handful of guys, most of the cast is either a small supporting role or a cameo. That means that if you're a Stallone or Gibson fan, it's probably worth your while, but if your only interest in seeing this film is because of Jet Li (The Mummy 3), you'll likely grow impatient, as he is barely used and doesn't appear until close to the end.
However, with what's there, they do get good use out of the stars, with Harrison Ford (Ender's Game) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Sabotage) recurring throughout the movie just enough to keep their effort above a cameo, and Antonio Banderas gets some good laughs in a comic relief role as the fighter who is always passed over, but really wants to be back in the fold. Wesley Snipes (The Detonator) is also well utilized in his first major theatrical release in many years (his character, like Snipes in real life, was sent away from the action and imprisoned due to tax evasion). Some of the stalwarts -- Statham (Homefront), Lundgren (The Punisher), Couture (Ambushed) and Crews (Blended) -- well, they're kinda just there, going through motions we've already seen before, so don't expect anything new.
There's the requisite nuggets for action fans: you get to hear Schwarzenegger say, "Get to the Choppa!" and you get to see Snipes bust a victory dance move, Blade style. Expendables 3 does benefit from the self-deprecating humor for the fans, but when you add Ford, Gibson, Banderas (Haywire), and Snipes to the cast, there are actually some decent acting moments sprinkled throughout. If there is a problem with the cast, perhaps it is too much of a good thing. I'd rather see more time for the main stars than force situations in which non-action stars like Kelsey Grammer (Transformers: Age of Extinction) and Robert Davi (An American Carol) get parts just because they can add names to the roll call that is the movie poster.
Though the screenplay isn't much more than forced confrontations and mild one-liners, where The Expendables 3 delivers most, beyond the star appearances, is in the action department. Though rife with obvious CGI elements (there's a shot involving a parachute that will go down as one of the worst CG shots of 2014), it's a fairly impressive effort, with the requisite explosions, destruction, knife throws, and fistfights galore.
While series fans should be pleased at all of it except the toning down of the violence, it's not something that anyone tepid to the material should go out of their way for. At over two hours, it feels long, especially since the plot of the film is so standard, and will have many looking at their watches almost as much as they bother to look at the screen.. I suppose it could rightfully be said that it's all of that you love about 1980s action flicks, and also all of what you don't. It's a cliché-ridden, muscle-headed blow-'em-up only of note for its celebrity beats, and it's as 'expendable' as its title surely suggests.
©2014 Vince Leo