The Expendables 3 (2014) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Expendables 3 (2014)

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A group of mercenaries known as The Expendables discovers that the man who sold them out years ago is still alive and ready to take the world for what its worth.  Are they still up for the challenge, or is new blood needed to remove this threat?  This is the third film in The Expendables franchise, and the first directed by Patrick Hughes.

Quickly fading out of viewI don't know if it's appropriate, or a bit sad, that we here at Can't Stop the Movies can measure our growth as a website against the march of time and the Expendables franchise.  Ryan reviewed the first film in the franchise exactly four years and one day ago, and the sequel its opening weekend.  He's always been our fun-loving action movie guy, and now that he is off guiding the world in other ways, the task falls upon me to take up the mantle.

The first Expendables was execrable garbage that amounted to little more than group masturbation.  The action scenes were stiff, difficult to follow, and the cast playing up in-jokes that they only sort of shared to the audience through their earlier movie roles.  Saints preserve Terry Crews for giving that movie its one great scene as he laughs maniacally and chases down baddies with an explosive weapon.  Hating the original, I didn't watch the sequel until earlier this week and, surprisingly, I liked it.  It abandoned the jokey positioning of '80s archetypes and embraced the darkness, hired a good action director in Simon West, and led by an appropriately brutal villain in Jean-Claude Van Damme.  I was actually looking forward to going out and watching the third film.

Silly me.  The Expendables 3 returns the series to its joking roots and with it any chance of leaving a positive impression.  It's also one of the most bloated films of the year, spacing action beats almost a half-hour apart, and awkwardly trying to comment on the old guard needing to step aside for a new generation of the blandest white mercenaries this new millennium can provide.  If the first film is plain terrible, this one is just unnecessary.

Figures blend with backgrounds so many times that the images look far more static than the score and dialogue suggest.

Figures blend with backgrounds so many times that the images look far more static than the score and dialogue suggest.

The biggest step down is going from director Simon West in the second film to Patrick Hughes in this volume.  He's slated to direct the American remake of The Raid: Redemption, and based on his results with action here I fear we'll have another disappointment on our hands soon.  Hughes has little sense of pacing or geographic awareness, with action scenes that make it difficult to tell where multiple groups of combatants are in a multi-story structure (another reason to be worried about his Raid remake).  He also has this problem with tilting the axis of action onscreen for no reason, as the world is not going topsy-turvy, but as an unnecessary stylistic excess.

Regarding that pacing, he is partly to blame for crafting an action movie where those action beats are spread so far apart.  But I have to fault the screenplay for devoting so much of the movie to a recruitment drive where Expendables leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) has to fill in the ranks.  None of the new recruits have any personality, and the film goes so far as to humiliate its one female lead (Ronda Rousey), defeating the purpose of her ability to hang with the guys.   Thankfully, Ronda is set to appear in the next Fast and Furious film, where she'll hopefully be provided with some room to bust heads à la the sixth film highlight rumble between Michelle Rodriguez and Gina Carano.

All this talk of other franchises brings me to the biggest problem with the script - constantly reminding the audience of the better films they could be watching.  This has been something of a running joke throughout the series, but now Arnold Schwarzenegger shows up to say, "Get to the choppah!" because that's what he's done before.  No joke, just a ragged Schwarzenegger reliving his glory days through tame action.  Going PG-13 did not help this franchise's energy, as this team of super mercenaries is rarely filmed with their violent actions and consequences in the same frame.  Look at the second film with the fun knife fight in the church and it's fluid, violent slashing.  Then watch any scene here where someone is shooting off-screen, or the camera cuts away before any hand to hand rumble has an impact.

Antonio Banderas is a welcome bright spot in this gloomy world.

Antonio Banderas is a welcome bright spot in this gloomy world.

All the new additions just seem to be along for the paycheck.  Harrison Ford is the worst, barely able to muster up the very aggravation against life that has become his trademark, when that's the sole reason he was hired.  Kelsey Grammer is just fine, but suffers as he serves as an exposition guide through the lengthy recruiting section of the film.  The one saving grace in all this falls again to the comedic performer, and with Terry Crews cruelly taken out early in the film, Antonio Banderas commands every scene that he's in.  He would have stuck out anyway with his vibrant positive outlook, but that energy mutates the film around him into something better, a free-flowing ballet of violence filmed with absolute glee and tops off the one jaw-dropping stunt in the film.

With this edition of The Expendables unable to offer even cheap thrills, it's unlikely that a surge of even more guest stars will give it the jolt it needs to continue.  The cast is just too bloated, the craft lacking, and the scenario barely worth registering.  The second film shows that it's possible to blend that old '80s action film darkness with today's multinational media, but not by simply adding more.

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Tail - The Expendables 3The Expendables 3 (2014)

Directed by Patrick Hughes.
Screenplay written by Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger, and Katrin Benedikt.
Starring Sylvester Stallone.

Posted by Andrew

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