Movie Review: “The Expendables 3” – Fires its Last Shot

Written by Leo Panasyuk August 16, 2014

The-Expendables-3-Mel-Gibson

Sly Stallone and the gang are back for another round of ass-kicking, bullet-flying, pulse-pounding action and it feels good to have them back… right? With the third entry in the explosive, 80s-reminiscent action series, “The Expendables 3” feels like it’s treading on familiar ground, with a few new bumps along the way to keep things ‘interesting.’ Yet while the film certainly isn’t as tongue-in-cheek as its predecessor, it’s ultimately nowhere near as good or memorable as the first “Expendables.” Maybe they’re truly getting too old for this…

“They Should Just Call You the ‘Deletables!’”

Barney Ross (Stallone) returns with his friends in tow – Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lungdren), and Toll Road (Randy Couture), to name a few – for another adventure fighting evil wherever it may be found. This time, however, the game is personal as Ross squares off against Conrad Stonebanks (played by a charismatic Mel Gibson), an international arms dealer but more importantly, one of the original Expendables, now gone rogue. While this premise sounds promising on paper it’s ultimately subdued under something apparently more important for the screenwriters – Junior Expendables.

Indiana Jones and Rambo... you'd think it'd look better than this, right?

Indiana Jones and Rambo… you’d think it’d look better than this, right?

New Kids on the Block

The biggest problem with “The Expendables 3” is that it tries to retire its heroes early on in the film in lieu of a newer, younger, and bolder generation of hard-edged mercenaries… but does it work? Short answer: no. One of the few things that makes “The Expendables 3” an enjoyable film is the fact that we get to see characters we’re familiar with return for a third outing of badassery – yet for some reason they’re shoved to the side for half the film in order to make room for new characters who barely get any exposition or development, and who basically act as stand-ins until the real heroes come back. I understand that they may be getting too old to constantly travel the world blowing things up, but if you’re going to retire them – especially in the first act, no less – do it with a bit more drama and emphasis. Makes us feel as though we’ll never see them again (when we know we most certainly will).

However, the inclusion of Wesley Snipes was not a bad casting choice, as his character (Doctor Death) is pure Expendables material: violent, witty, and just the right amount of unhinged. There are some interesting bits of rivalry between him and Christmas, as both are profoundly professional with their use of knives and take pokes at each other’s skills whenever the opportunity presents itself. Gibson is one of the film’s strongest points, as his character proves to be the series’ most interesting and complex antagonist yet. Schwarzenegger and Harrison Ford stop by to join the fun, though they look like they came to the wrong party and are certainly not having the time of their lives. Antonio Banderas literally leaps, flips, and somersaults into the story and instantly becomes one of the film’s weakest points, playing an obnoxious, overly-talkative caricature of a ‘hero.’ His offbeat style of ‘comedy’ tries to work as the film’s  comedic relief, but is ultimately so annoying that he looks misplaced next to his serious-as-shit co-stars.

The first female Expendable... and she barely stands out among the rest.

The first female Expendable… and she barely stands out among the rest.

“I Got My Lucky Ring On!”

The action is more or less what you’ve come to expect: Expendables shoot, blow everything up, kill all the bad guys, and save the day; and the bad guys? They fall like dominoes with aim worse than that of a Stormtrooper. The film is bookended with two spectacular action setpieces, and the climax is probably the strongest of the series so far. However, the ‘climactic’ fight between Stallone and Gibson is painfully anticlimactic, even more so than the final fight between Stallone and Van Damme at the end of “Expendables 2.” The direction is decent, though the editing is choppy and the PG-13 action just feels wrong after two R-rated “Expendables.”

Overall

Patrick Hughes’ “The Expendables 3” offers up a third serving of action, machismo, and 80s-action movie inside jokes, though it’s a bit rough around the edges. With an emphasis on the film’s newer, younger cast, much is taken away from the original actors who, once re-introduced, quickly get the film back on track. With Mel Gibson as a formidable and intimidating antagonist, and Wesley Snipes as an interesting yet somewhat off-putting new addition to the team, the film does manage to save itself from shooting itself in the foot, but it’s ultimately not enough to save it altogether.

My Rating: 4.5/10

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About Leo Panasyuk

A fan of all things film, Leo never really lets himself get tied down to one specific genre. He's always interested in watching new and old films and especially loves the IMAX format. When he's not choosing which movie to watch next, he's studying Film and English at Western University.

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