It occurred to me a few minutes into The Expendables 3 that maybe when you hit a certain age you're actually incapable of producing an actual R-rated action flick.
I chuckled. Briefly.
That sort of sums up my view of The Expendables 3, a money grab likely borne out of action star camaraderie and also borne out of the simple fact that when you're an aging action star you're options in Hollywood are, let's face it, more than a little bit limited.
On the positive side, at least Stallone hasn't served up another arm wrestling movie.
To be fair to Stallone, it's hard to blame the guy for milking a concept that has worked far better than anyone could have predicted mostly owing to the two words "guilty pleasure." The Expendables films have never been brilliant films, but they've offered enough nostalgia and action-lite that for the most part you don't leave the theater resenting the time and money spent.
There are going to be those who swear up and down that The Expendables 3 is the best of the bunch. They're wrong. Then again, those who consider the film to be the obvious death knell of the series could very well be wrong as well. It's hard to say for sure, of course, because rumor has it that this really is the last film in the series.
Yeah, we've heard that before. I'm looking at you, Michael Bay.
The Expendables 3 is neither as good as some of its fans are saying nor the travesty that others are proclaiming. It's a decent enough action flick with some genuinely comical moments that likely should have been served up more frequently and action sequences that are plentiful if not entirely imaginative.
The Expendables 3 kicks off with Ross (Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Road (Randy Couture), and Caesar (Terry Crews) on a mission to rescue the imprisoned Doc (Wesley Snipes). After the mission is accomplished, in dramatic fashion of course, they head off on their latest CIA-sponsored mission to eliminate an arms dealer, a mission that doesn't go particularly well considering said arms dealer is Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who just so happens to be the co-founder of The Expendables until his path took a different direction. In the resulting confrontation, Caesar is nearly killed and Ross ends up disbanding The Expendables and recruiting a younger band of mercenaries to go after Stonebanks with direction from his new CIA contact (Harrison Ford) that Stonebanks is to be brought in alive. He then recruits an old rival, Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who decides to tag along. Eventually, of course, The Expendables will be back in the picture.
Then, there is action.
Then, there is a pause.
Then, there is more action.
Then, there is a longer pause.
Then. Well, you get the idea.
Director Patrick Hughes has crafted a film, actually crafted is too generous here, that is poorly paced and muddily choreographed. I'm not even sure that muddily is a word, but it's the only thing I can think of that describes fight scenes that carry out this recent trend towards chaos without purpose, shaky cam with no mission, and overall action sequences that seem devoid of thrills, chills, or suspense. At 126 minutes, The Expendables 3 could have easily dropped half an hour from its running time and been a leaner, meaner and more fun adventure.
On the plus side, supporting players like Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas are an absolute vibe and are clearly in sync with the vibe that Stallone has undoubtedly been going for with this series. Mel Gibson, who still seems to be in Hollywood's doghouse these days, reminds us all he can still act and adds a nice intensity as Stonebanks. On the other hand, Harrison Ford seems lost and uninterested while Jet Li's appearance is pretty much a waste of time. In case you're wondering, despite their appearance in the film's credits Willis bowed out of this production along with Chuck Norris.
The Expendables 3 may very well end up being the end of this guilty pleasure of a trilogy. While it's been for the most part pleasurable enough, it's hard to imagine who Stallone could recruit for ongoing adventures.
Maybe Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber?
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic