Mania Grade: B-
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- Rated: PG-13
- Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wesley Snipes, Kelsey Grammer, and more!
- Written By: Sylvester Stallone (screenplay), Creighton Rothenberger (screenplay)
- Directed By: Patrick Hughes
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Run Time: 126 min
Mania Review: The Expendables 3
Any tricks left?
By Robert T. Trate
August 15, 2014
The Expendables 3 (2014)
Expendables 3. Yes, they got to the third one and yes, it is PG-13 this time around. Sylvester Stallone has wrangled up new and old faces to the franchise. On his third trip to the well, does Sly and director Patrick Hughes have any tricks we haven’t seen yet?
From the get-go, Barney Ross (Stallone) and his Expendables are on a mission to get inside a prison train transport. Their goal is initially unclear, but we learn that it is to apprehend one of the prisoners, a man who calls himself Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes). It is evident that the remaining members of the Expendables, Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunnar (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll (Randy Couture) are not thrilled with this mission. When they evict Doc from his cage, he makes a break for it. Not for freedom, but to the head of the train where he can rain down death on the prison that was going to be his home. Doc was an Expendable and Barney is there to get his old teammate out of jail. With a series of explosions and a near misses, Doc gets onto Barney’s helicopter and makes his way to freedom. This opening James Bond style mission starts us off running. There is no rest for the Expendables, as picking up Doc was just to get a member of the crew back into the fold for yet another mission.
With a chance to catch our breath, well to actually hear these old action stars talk, we get an unexpected chemistry between Snipes’ Doc and Statham’s Christmas. They don’t like one another. It seems that both Christmas and Doc have a bromance with Barney and don’t like the other guy in the picture. This chemistry of disliking one another is a route where Patrick Hughes could have taken the story in a million different directions.
Off to Somalia where Barney has been hired by Church (played by Bruce Willis in the previous film, but not actually seen in this one) to take down a weapons dealer. The team rendezvous with Caesar (Terry Crews) and the action kicks in. Doc quickly earns the team’s respect, but the competition between him and Christmas returns during the mission. The fun and games, if taking down a dealer of Weapons of Mass Destruction can be called that, is interrupted when Barney sees that his target is actually an ex-Expendable named Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a man Barney believed to be dead. Everything falls apart as the heart of the team, Barney, is now out of sync. The black-ops assassination quickly becomes a mad dash to escape. Stonebanks is more than ready and after taking down on member of the team, he then drops a bomb on the rest. With a man down, we finally see something in The Expendables we haven’t before. One of the team fighting for his life and the others scrambling to save him. Are they now Expendable in the film as well? Will more people die when Barney enacts his revenge?
The film takes a departure from the “Mission Impossible” and revenge motifs as Barney breaks up the Expendables. He cuts them lose as he doesn’t want to lose the only family he has left. He then goes recruiting with Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) to find a new team of young hot-heads to take down Stonebanks. This, in many ways, cuts the balls off of the movie. We had blood thirsty revenge, a fallen comrade, and two members of the team who didn’t get along. Instead we go looking for the next crop of action heroes. Despite getting to know this new team with all their quirky character traits, all hope for the movie is not lost.
We learn that Church (Willis) is literally out of the picture. One of many in-your-face jokes that hit the audience better than the film's scattered one liners. Drummer (Harrison Ford) is Barney’s new contact and he supplies all information to take Stonebanks down. Ford does his great angry old man here that first emerged in Air Force One. When the shock of seeing Indiana Jones and John Rambo talking to one another wears off, the scene is actually well done. No explosions, no guns blazing, and there isn’t even any smack talk. Just two well seasoned actors delivering the goods. Thankfully, more of this arrives in the form of banter between Stallone and Grammer. Those moments keep us in the movie, not the introduction of these new would-be action heroes. This film is supposed to be fun. Dr. Frasier Crane and Rocky are trading jabs and telling jokes and we buy that these guys know each other. When Kellan Lutz attempts at making an impression on both the characters and the audience, we don’t care too much how terrible it was.
With a film of this nature, we need a bad guy that is cold, calculating, and believable. Yes, that is Mel Gibson playing Stonebanks. This isn’t the same tongue and cheek villain we saw in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills. Stonebanks was wronged by the very people he fought beside and for. Now he fights for himself with no consequences. He is a stone cold killer and a dark reflection of what Barney is, he just decided to do it all for the money. What is so crazy is that Gibson makes you believe it.
The film takes the predictable turn when Barney’s new recruits fail. You can see that coming a mile away. So when you expect the cavalry to show up, it is not Barney’s ex-teammates who come riding it. It comes in the form Antonio Banderas’ Galgo, a man who is only too eager to please.
I have to save something for those that are willing to take the gamble on The Expendables 3, and I have. It is frustrating when returning characters get their world shaken up. Enter Snipes’ Doc, and the focus goes to a new team and a new story. The argument could be made that we have seen all that before and this is something different, but what transpires isn’t all that different. Your mind starts wondering what those other characters are doing when Barney is off trying to save the day. I enjoyed myself while watching the film. How could I not? Indiana Jones barking orders at the Terminator. Martin Riggs going hand to hand with Rocky Balboa. The appeal, as it was in the first film, is seeing these actors together. The story of The Expendables 3 is just nothing to stand up and cheer about.
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