THE EXPENDABLES 3 MOVIE REVIEW
Ah, the Expendables franchise. The one place where 1980s-era action stars have their careers resuscitated in the same way that the Marvel Cinematic Universe does for the rest of the Breakfast Club. What started as a gimmick for Stallone to cast all his has-been friends and associates in has become an institution. Four years have passed since, and now we have The Expendables 3.
The same premise goes out for all installments. Old Man Sly and his tough-as-nails version of the Rat Pack are up against an action star that hasn’t been in the limelight for so long (probably because of scandals, drugs, or the inevitable failing career) because even other action stars have standards. In director Patrick Hughes’ contribution to the series, Barney Ross (Stallone) disbands the original team in favor of a younger, tech-savvy group of ass-kickers that could provide the youthful energy their dynamics need. (There’s Stallone again with his whining about being an old dog in a new world.) Of course, this does not sit well with the original members (with newcomer old guy Wesley Snipes claiming the bag too), so tension ensues. But in the midst of that, in true Stallonesque American-way fashion, they have no choice but to set aside their differences with the newbies and band together to stop the maniacal Mel Gibson for having made The Passion of the Christ.
The younger cast, featuring noted mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey and Twilight’s Kellan Lutz, weren’t so colorful that they didn’t make much of an impact for me. The way I saw it, the quartet was just part of the scenery. No motivation or whatsoever was provided on why they want to risk their necks by signing up for the Expendables. OK, one was bouncer beating up guys and the other was just being bounced around and beaten by guys. What an existentialist way to live, right? That’s still not enough reason for me to invest in the characters. Even if the middle part of the movie is dedicated to how they were recruited, it was done in a way that felt nothing more than just a slideshow-like sequence by way of Kelsey Grammer.
Now let’s go to the veterans. The Expendables themselves – Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Snipes – are officially reduced to one-dimensional cartoons, more so than the last time. Jet Li felt almost non-existent, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was not given much to do but spew out paraphrase throwbacks. (“Now let’s all get to the choppa.”) Robert Davi gets a walk-on part as a dude who gets shot. Harrison Ford is a nice addition to the cast. His snarky grandpa of a CIA agent was a good in place of Bruce Willis (who was not asked to reprise his team handler Church due to salary increase). Seeing him manning that CGI helicopter evoked the days of when Han Solo was still capable of flying the Millennium Falcon. Gibson provided the right amount of screen presence for me to be drawn in to the character of rogue American Conrad Stonebanks.It’s nice to see him back on screen after all the crazy things he’s done the years before. Maybe this could be his springboard to a career revival. He proved to me that he hasn’t lost it after all. And he makes for an interesting baddie, too. But I have to hand it to Antonio Banderas, who emerged as the movie’s the scene-stealer. He was a cartoon, yes; but a rather amusing one, at that. Really a breath of fresh air.
[ There really isn’t much to say. Screenplay (written by three people) was messed up. As the team discovers their long lost foe hasn’t perished as they assume, Ross gets dumbfounded, yelling out “STOOONEBAAAANKSSS!!!” before jumping out in to action. Great. What a way to blow your cover. And when Ross has finally caught Stonebankspast the middle of the movie, and has the opportunity to kill him, he doesn’t. Why? Because Ross needs to bring Stonebanks to the Hague for trial. And then Stonebanks escapes. We have to wait for another forty minutes just for Ross to confront Stonebanks, leading to climax in a warehouse (typical) for a mano-al-mano between the two (because action movies equals machismo). Then Stonebanks goes on the losing end. “What about the Hague?” he retorts. And then BANG! Ross goes, in one of the cheesiest one liners I’ve heard since the dawn of Golan-Globus style action movies, “I am the Hague.” The end.
Seriously. You should’ve killed him earlier on, man! Caused you less trouble. ]
END OF SPOILERS
For an action movie, the action sequences were off. Cuts were too brief. Angles lingering for a while can be really helpful to understand what the hell is going on. But this is a problem that is nothing new. This is the problem with Hollywood blockbuster-aimed movies now. I fear that it’s affecting cinema from around the world (because anything Hollywood does is always right, so they like to believe). Is this how we are now, our attention spans have become shorter by the decade, and we’re nourishing that? This has to stop. It’s already bad enough (and ironic) that we have pop songs lasting for six minutes. How much more do I have to endure in a nearly three-hour movie full of flish-flash? In the end, I learned that I spent three hours of my life trying to figure out what the hell was going on between the epileptic cutting and Stallone’s mangled voice box.
All in all, I was left miffed with The Expendables 3. OK, “take it or leave it, man, it’s supposed to be a ride.” I get that. But unlike this movie, I could say that at least its predecessor, Simon West’s The Expendables 2, for all its self-awareness and shrugs on the shoulder, knows how to give you a good time.