Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, Wesley Snipes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Ronda Rousey, Antonio Banderas, Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz, Glen Powell, Kelsey Gremmer, Terry Crews
Back in 2010 when Stallone first launched The Expendables, it was supposed to be a one off nostalgia trip with all of our favorite has-been action stars back for one last ride. Little did we know this was the beginning of a resurgence for Stallone’s career that would eventually lead to a slew of new 80s style action movies and two more Expendables films. The premise of all our old favorites coming together for one last job is still enticing, but after two less than compelling outings does the idea have any real juice left or is this just another piece of expendable filmmaking?
The Expendables gang returns lead by Barney(Sylvester Stallone) and his longtime partner Christmas(Jason Statham) as they rescue Doc(Wesley Snipes) before taking on another deadly black ops mission. Gunner(Dolph Lundgren), Toll(Randy Couture), and Caesar(Terry Crews) all return to help Barney take down his top secret target. Everything is going off without a hitch until Barney realizes their man is Stonebanks(Mel Gibson), one of the original Expendables thought dead. After the mission goes wry, Barney decides to sever tithes with the old gang in favor of a younger group he’s less attached to. As the mission gets bigger and deadlier, Barney is joined by CIA specialist Drummer(Harrison Ford), his old rival Trench(Arnold Schwarzenegger), new guy Galgo(Antonio Banderas), and his old friend Yin Yang(Jet Li).
Fans of the first two films are going to feel right at home with The Expendables 3 thanks to the obscenely ridiculous action set pieces, cheesy attempts at character development, and fun bits of self depreciated humor. The story is dumb, full of gaping plot holes, and the villain is about as stereotypically evil as they come. It’s essentially more of the same which may or may not be a bad thing depending on how you feel about Stallone’s recent outings.
The action in this film has its moments that impress especially when it comes to gun fighting and the climatic battle against the entire Asmanistanian army(Mel Gibson can apparently afford his own country). The Expendables 3 offers some really fun spectacle that falls very much in line with the first two films, but I actually found that the hand to hand fights were lacking the passionate energy and exceptional choreography seen in earlier entries. The final mano-e-mano duel between Stallone and Gibson lacks the oomph or edginess that other actors like Van Damme brought to the table. It may know how to blow stuff up and pull off insane vehicular stunts, but The Expendables 3 falls just a bit short when it comes to good old fashioned fist fighting.
The Expendables 3 has an all star cast so big that even the smaller bit roles are filled by actors with a legendary pedigree. This sounds great in theory, but Stallone often bites off more than he can chew as he attempts to give every big name actor a moment to share their own character history. This works really well for actors like Kelsey Grammer who pop in just long enough to allude to his back story, but other actors like Antonio Banderas have an entire scene dedicated to explaining his tragedy. Many of these scenes feel totally irrelevant to what’s going on and really don’t do much to round out the characters or why they are such an important member of the team.
Stallone’s script is predictably terrible, but he sneaks in just enough quick quips and self depreciating jabs between all of the characters to make for some fun winks at the camera. I’ll still never quite wrap my head around what brings all these guys together, especially when the surviving to dead expendables ratio is apparently very low. In reality, character motivations don’t matter at all; it’s seeing all of these Schwarzenegger sized egos working together on screen that drives the film. Despite the fact that this may be the definition of a paint by the numbers action movie, these guys all look like they are having a ton of fun with the admittedly awful writing.
The Expendables 3 isn’t anything particularly special but it does have enough thrills and self referential jokes to make for a fun time. Even though I couldn’t shake the feeling that an action team up of this magnitude should be better, I still enjoyed getting to see all of these legends come together to cap off the 2014 summer blockbuster season. This is actually about as generic as action movies get, but if you’re a fan of the cast, this is easily worth the price of a matinee ticket.