The original Expendables movie had a very simple premise, get a bunch of 80s action heroes, throw them into a simple meat-grinder action plot, then sit back and enjoy. It worked rather well. Now the first film contained more than just eighties action stars as it included the likes of Terry Crews and Randy Couture but they certainly fit in well with the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren. Even co-star Jason Statham only started acting at the tail end of the 90s but he had amazing chemistry with Stallone. So even if the cast didn’t consist of even a majority of 80s stars they all felt like they came from that same school. Two years later we got a sequel that added more actors from the 80s into the mix making it more balanced and a bit more awesome – Jet Li bailing after the first action sequence was the only true disappointment – but these are films for action movie buffs and they both delivered on what they promised.
Now comes The Expendables 3 and with it, they’ve pissed all that goodwill right out the window, clocking in at just over two hours it is the longest in the series and the most boring. Sure there are plenty of explodey action scenes but in service of a thin plot, even by the standards of this series, and with just terrible, terrible pacing that had me checking my watch multiple times. The worst sin of course was the introduction of The Expendable Muppet Babies, seriously, two twenty-something professional fighters and one of the dudes from Twilight. WTF?
The movie starts well enough with Barney (Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), and Toll Road (Randy Couture) staging a rescue of a prisoner from a heavily armoured train. The man they are rescuing is Doc (Wesley Snipes) who has been a prisoner for eight long years and once was a member of The Expendables. It’s an excellent scene with our heroes wreaking havoc from a helicopter while Snipes proves he can still act the badass. A hop, skip and a jump later finds the team in Mogadishu where they meet up with Caesar (Terry Crews) and try and take down an arms dealer. Unfortunately for the team, they were not quite aware of this dealer’s true identity which is that of Ex-Expendable Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a man who betrayed everything Barney stands for and went to the dark side of the mercenary business, also, he is supposed to be dead.
The mission becomes a clusterfuck and ends with Caesar taking a round in the chest from Stonebanks while the team barely makes it out alive. With Caesar stuck in the hospital on life support Barney makes the dumbest decision ever. He believes his team has gotten too old so he dismisses the lot of them and runs off to recruit fresh younger meat to go after Stonebanks. This is a terrible idea on multiple levels. Not only is it idiotic to think that a veteran mercenary would let go of his experienced team who have fought beside him through thick and thin to then turn around and replace them with people he doesn’t even know, but from a film standpoint, it’s even worse as it jettisons the cast members we actually like for a group of yahoos hardly anyone in the audience has even heard of. This is a colossal blunder.
Barney goes off with mercenary finder Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) to locate his new team, and it’s here that the movie stops dead in its tracks while we travel around to meet three of the most uninteresting people on the planet, but also Antonio Banderas. Yes, one of the potential recruits lied about his age on his resume as Galgo (Antonio Banderas) is a sad merc with no friends or family, and will do anything to get back into the fight. Banderas as Galgo is the one breath of fresh air in this entire movie. He plays a man so full of enthusiasm that he simply can’t shut up, much to the chagrin of his companions. He pretty much steals the movie. He should have given it back and starred in his own film. But because Barney and this movie don’t have a clue as to what they’re doing we leave behind the one good actor while Barney takes his new team on the mission to bring down Stonebanks. To no one’s surprise, the new members end up hostages when their plan goes to shit.
Of course, the original team finally shows up and with Galgo they attack Stonebanks and his personal army giving us a loud, kinetic and probably too long finale. The film wasting most of the cast was a huge mistake but the biggest crime being the poor use of Wesley Snipes, why introduce a new character to the team and then relegate him to second string almost immediately? We get Harrison Ford stepping in to replace Bruce Willis (Bruce asked for too much money this time out) as the government man, Schwarzenegger is back as Trench but not given much to do, and Jet Li makes an appearance but mainly just for another short joke. sigh
I’m guessing this is going to be the last of The Expendables movies, as some of the actors are really showing their age and they will make way for the “promised” Expendables: The Next Generation. It’s just disappointing that this installment was so weak, made so by the strange choice to sideline the main cast for a bunch of nobodies.
The Expendables 3
Director Patrick Hughes drops the ball in this outing by mainly dropping the cast of characters we actually like in favor of a few younger “actors” hardly anyone has even heard of. The action is fine and Mel Gibson is fun as the villain but I found the film rather boring for most of its 126 minute running time.