Bigger is not necessarily better. Such is the case with The Expendables 3, a limp sequel that pales in comparison to the not so high bar set by the previous installments of this action franchise. Without the initial novelty factor of The Expendables (the first one) or the over the top silliness of the rather fun second one (The Expendables 2…my review of which you can find here), this time around the film is forced to stand on its own, and The Expendables 3 disappoints. Overlong, overcrowded, and underwhelming in just about all aspects, you just have to shake your head at all the ways this flick went wrong. Pointlessly neutered in order to attain a PG-13 rating (you know, teenage boys are huge Sylvester Stallone fans), this movie also has lost the wow factor in seeing all of these aging actors on the screen together. Co-writer/star Stallone even seems bored this time. Director Patrick Hughes brings nothing to the table, and you spend about two hours just waiting for things to end. I was indifferent to The Expendables, had way more fun with The Expendables 2 than I should have, and was basically bored throughout The Expendables 3. I know there will be another installment in this franchise, but honestly…there shouldn’t be at this point. If there’s a shark in the cinematic waters, it’s been jumped.
There’s sort of a plot on display here, but really, are you looking for story in this franchise? Once again, a group of aging mercenaries is led by Barney Ross (Stallone), though after what’s left of his normal crew frees a former friend in Doc (Wesley Snipes), Barney decides to basically retire the old crew and get some new blood, calling on Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) to fashion him with appealing options. The reason? He wants to nab Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), an original co-founder of The Expendables and currently a rather notorious arms dealer. Subbing out the likes of Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) for young folks like Smilee (Kellan Lutz) initially seems like a good idea, but Barney finds Conrad more than their match. Eventually, big guns like Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) are called in and the biggest group of Expendables ever goes to war. Lots of fighting ensues, but without the cartoonish blood and gore of previous experiences, things just seem too chaste to make sense. For the first time, it really looks like senior citizens who are too old for this shit. The joke has officially been lost on them. It’s a real shame too. The goofiness we once saw has faded away into a depressing sense of obligation to deliver a product.
This is normally where I’d talk about the acting in a film, but really…there’s not much on display here, so I can mostly just spout off who appears on the screen. This is the sort of flick where just showing up and smiling/shooting is all that’s required. Sylvester Stallone is the aforementioned lead, but he’s fairly bored looking throughout. Returning members of the team like Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews appear happy to collect paychecks, while newcomers such as Wesley Snipes, Kellen Lutz, Kelsey Grammer, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, and Victor Ortiz all seem well aware that they’ve arrived on the scene one movie too late. Even Mel Gibson, who you’d think would relish this sort of a bad guy role, basically sleepwalks through the thing. Bit players include Robert Davi, and plenty of others, but they serves just as little a purpose as anyone else here does. The movie serves up lots of familiar faces, but the fun is gone.
Patrick Hughes certainly has the unenviable task of wrangling all of these actors, but with the watered down PG-13 rating, he’s unable to do much in the way of interesting filmmaking. The screenplay by Stallone, Katrin Benedikt, and Creighton Rothenberger is pretty half assed though, so there was likely only so much that Hughes could have done anyway. Even the opening scene, which again drops us right into the action of the crew on a mission seems tired and obligatory. You can almost hear the yawns in the background. That’s never a good sign when an action sequel starts out boring and just goes downhill from there.
I might be a bit harder on The Expendables 3 than necessary because I remember having a blast with The Expendables 2, as I cited above in that review (where I even recommended it, believe it or not), but that still doesn’t mean that this is a good film. It’s not overtly terrible, but the movie is just a bore. Unless you’re a die hard fan of the franchise, this flick can be skipped. When all is said and done, The Expendables 3 is just that…completely expendable.
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!