The Good: Decent special effects/stunts
The Bad: Light on genuine character development, Obvious plot, Dull performances
The Basics: The Expendables 3 is exactly what one expects from a lowbrow action adventure movie released during Summer Blockbuster Season.
There are few cinematic franchises I have less interest in than The Expendables. Outside The Fast And The Furious, the “Dragon Tattoo” films, and the forthcoming films based on Fifty Shades Of Grey, The Expendables might be the film franchise that is the most obvious, lowbrow and unimpressive still being produced. While I did see The Expendables (reviewed here!), I had no interest in the sequel. So why did I bother with The Expendables 3?
Kelsey Grammer and Harrison Ford. A few years back, Ford declared that he was only going to appear in one film per year, which should have made him very choosy. I suppose some part of me still lives with that mentality (he has long-since gone back to being a more active actor appearing in multiple films per year), that if Harrison Ford is going to risk his reputation, there has to be some redeeming aspect to the film. As for Kelsey Grammer, after years of being trapped in the role of Frasier Crane (albeit a role of a lifetime!), it is understandable that he is appearing in multiple blockbusters this Summer Blockbuster Season just to make bank for a change. When both Grammer and Ford were announced as being in The Expendables 3, it raised the profile of the film so that it had the appearance of respectability. How and why The Expendables 3 was made (other than raw profit motive based on the success of its predecessors) is something of a mystery. Outside giving the film two characters with enough articulation and erudition to make some lines actually comprehensible, how the franchise got Ford and Grammer is still a mystery to me. That said, more than being truly awful, The Expendables 3 is just what viewers would expect of the lowbrow action-adventure franchise.
Opening with a pulse-pounding soundtrack on an armored prison train, The Expendables 3 finds Doc (Doctor Death) being returned to Denzali Prison. Through the clever use of a military helicopter and steel cable, Barney Ross (Zero), Lee Christmas, Jenson and Toll Road are able to rescue him, though is thirst for vengeance leads him to blow up the prison. Rather than taking him right home, Zero arms Doc and the team heads to Somalia where they drop off bombs with Hale Caesar and Victor Minz. Minz turns out to be an enemy Ross once encountered named Stonebanks, which the team discovers when Stonebanks arrives and fouls the deal, mortally wounding Caesar in the process.
The presence of Stonebanks inspires Trench to lend a hand and puts Ross in front of Operations Officer Drummer. Drummer is determined to find Stonebanks one more time, but he does not trust Ross to finish the job. Ross employs Bonaparte to assemble a new team to take out Stonebanks (and fast). Bonaparte shops the soldiers and psychos Thorn, Smilee, Luna, and Mars to Ross to form the new team. Drummer tasks Ross with bringing Stonebanks in alive, with only a thirty-six hour window to find and apprehend Stonebanks before he goes off the grid again. Revealing to Mars that Stonebanks was once an Expendable, the team arrives in Bucharest where they convince Ross to break into the museum where the latest sale is going down. Apprehending Stonebanks, Ross’s new team is en route to delivering him to the Hague when Stonebanks is rescued by his own mercenaries. The rescue operation leaves Ross’s new team captured by Stonebanks and forces Ross to reunite the old team and rescue them and thwart his old friend.
What is not a mystery is how and why the cast of The Expendables 3 added Mel Gibson and Wesley Snipes to the franchise’s roster. In addition of continuing the trend of casting men who are able to growl all of their lines, the film seems determined to cast every possible aging action star or outsider in Hollywood. With Robert Davi cast as one of the film’s behind-the-scenes villains, one has to wonder if the casting session was simply a meeting of the Hollywood chapter of the RNC! Gibson seems willing to take whatever work he is offered and the role of the film’s primary villain allows him to play dark and angry in a way that at the very least taps into the public’s perception of him easily-enough. As for Snipes, his role of Doc is sufficient to remind viewers that he was once a-list on the action movie circuit and restore him to prominence there. As well, Snipes gets to deliver a cute tax evasion joke early in the film that sets the tone of the tongue-in-cheek nature of the humor for The Expendables 3.
Unfortunately, The Expendables 3 is painfully obvious. Viewers who keep checking the clock (as they are want to do during the mediocre establishing events) will easily realize that there is no possible way that Ross’s team will succeed with his apprehension of Stonebanks. The only question becomes whether or not Ross will be captured with them. In fact, the only genuine surprise in The Expendables 3 is that Stonebanks does not shoot the tech whose bomb fails to go off immediately (director Patrick Hughes telegraphs the potential that that will occur, but does not see it through, which was momentarily interesting). Sadly, everything in The Expendables 3 is only momentarily interesting.
Most of The Expendables 3 aims to appeal to the most simplistic of sensibilities. Even if one has not seen any of the prior films in the franchise, they can come into The Expendables 3 and pick up all they need to know. The Expendables is a largely male cast being ridiculous and saying remarkably little (save Antonio Banderas’s late return to the film), it is hard to imagine that the script had more than twenty pages of actual dialogue to it. We get it, these are manly men. The guy doesn’t need to use a scimitar to shave his face before we understand he’s hard core (as Doc does to go from being the disheveled to recognizable Snipes).
While The Expendables 3 has a massive cast, full of recognizable actors, none of the performers are known for being particularly great actors (save Harrison Ford and Kelsey Grammer). As it is, even the two most-recognized actors do not deliver much to be proud of. Ford smirks his way into the movie, as if he knows that he is augmenting a cast of people whose prior credits were made up of fight movies and actual fights (Ronda Rousey and Randy Couture were very well known for fighting and wrestling entertainment before these films). Grammer’s lines are almost all clichés, so his grizzled character is not one of Grammer’s more memorable ones.
All of that said, outside being painfully boring for its predictability, The Expendables 3 is not bad, just thoroughly underwhelming. The character relationships are obvious, the fight sequences are predictable and the acting is entirely familiar for most of the performers involved. Outside teenagers who suddenly realize they no longer have to sneak into an Expendables movie and people searching for two hours of air conditioned theater, it is hard to imagine what the appeal is for making The Expendables 3 a part of this summer’s blockbuster push.
For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
The Best Of Me
The Zero Theorem
The Maze Runner
This Is Where I Leave You
Guardians Of The Galaxy
Life Of Crime
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
Transformers: Age Of Extinction
For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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