Should I Watch..? The Expendables 3
What's the big deal?
The Expendables 3 is an action thriller released in 2014 and is the third instalment of the Expendables franchise. Like its predecessors, it is an ensemble of current and former action movie stars reuniting to pay tribute to the big-budget action films of the 80's and 90's. However, writer and co-star Sylvester Stallone decided to bring in some younger action movie stars including former welterweight champion boxer Victor Ortiz and UFC fighter Ronda Rousey. It is the first film in the series not to be rated R in the US, instead securing a more box-office friendly PG-13 rating. This had a dramatic effect on the film's takings, making it the least successful entry so far. Stallone himself later admitted that the efforts to tone the film down for a PG-13 rating were a mistake. The critics agreed and as a result, the series has been on hiatus ever since.
What's it about?
The Expendables are a team of heavily-armed and well trained mercenaries operating from their base in New Orleans, lead by Barney Ross and his friend Lee Christmas. After busting former Expendables member Doc from prison, the Expendables make their way to Somali to intercept a shipment of explosives. But they are stunned to find that the arms dealer is none other than a former co-founder of the Expendables who went rogue and ultimately disappeared, Conrad Stonebanks. Conrad just about escapes but not before critically injuring Hale Caesar which gives Barney all the motivation he needs to track him down and stop him.
However, Barney now feels that the old team - Christmas, Yin Yang, Gunner and Toll Road - can't cut it any more and so he meets up with an old contact, Bonaparte, to recruit new members. Assembling his new team, Barney sets off after Stonebanks - with the old crew following not to far behind, in case things go wrong...
Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt *
Release Date (UK)
14th August, 2014
Worst Supporting Actor (Kelsey Grammer)
Worst Supporting Actor (Mel Gibson), Worst Supporting Actor (Arnold Schwarzenegger)
What's to like?
Credit where it's due but Stallone has assembled what is arguably the best cast yet, and certainly the biggest. There are, of course, notable absences - no sign of Bruce Willis while Steven Seagal and Jackie Chan still have yet to appear - but by and large, this is an action-fans dream cast list. And the action is once again the sole reason for watching as it dropkicks realism out of a window and goes full-on cartoon. It's as loud and brash as it is daft and dumb but action fans couldn't care less.
These is another reason why one might go to watch an Expendables picture - the banter between all these meatheads is still present and correct, especially when Banderas turns up. The clunky dialogue might be about as sharp as a teaspoon but it gives them a chance to have fun with their catchphrases once again. The new guys (and girl) also have their moments as well but with so many actors involved, it can difficult to get much screen-time - just ask Jet Li...
- When Toll Road askes Doc why he was jailed, he sarcastically replies "Tax evasion". This is an obvious reference to Snipes' own jail time for tax evasion which he had just finished when he was offered the role.
- The film was leaked online three weeks before its official release. In the first 24 hours, it was downloaded 189'000 times.
- The film marks the full acting debut of UFC fighter Ronda Rousey who has since appeared in Fast & Furious 7 (1) and Entourage (2).
What's not to like?
For starters, Antonio Banderas did not bring a guitar-case full of guns to the picture!
The scripts do seem to be getting weaker as the series goes on and nobody will watch The Expendables 3 and claim it as a cinematic masterpiece. It actually feels so similar to the first two films that I was tempted to have this page be a reprint of my coverage of The Expendables (3) and just add a 3 onto the end of the title. Plus, the added problem of what to do with such a large cast still hasn't been solved. The younger cast members don't really add that much to the film besides Rousey (only because you can spot her in a fight compared to the others) and Banderas is little more than extremely irritating comic relief. Performances are a little lazy, to be honest - hence why the film picked up three Razzie nominations for Worst Supporting Actor (rightly won by Grammer) - and there is little tension to drive the film towards the inevitable final show-down.
But by far the worse decision taken on set was to shoot a PG-13 film. Why? No Expendables picture is designed for kids so why tone the violence down in order to get them to watch? The digital gore has gone and so too has most of the swearing, meaning all that's left are endless gun battles, explosions and fisticuffs with moody lighting (which makes an unwelcome return from the first film). Maybe I'm tired of these films now - the first film was a good joke but by now, it's getting pretty stale.
And why wasn't Banderas playing a spin-off of El Mariachi? It's obvious! Would have made the film so much better!
Should I watch it?
Unless you're a sucker for anything with an explosion on the poster then my advice would be to stay away. The first two films are tolerable but this tired reread through the book of cliché feels like eating reheated leftovers. There's nothing you haven't seen in the first two films in this one and that damn PG-13 rating (which incidentally is ridiculous, given how much of the film is nothing but violence) ruins any shred of credibility the film strives for. A wasted opportunity and maybe a good point to call it quits, Sly?
Great For: action fans, people who haven't seen the first two yet, teenage boys
Not So Great For: fans of the first two films, grown ups, romantic date nights
What else should I watch?
The best Expendables movie so far is The Expendables 2 (4) which still has a decent cast but one which isn't bursting at the seams. It's funnier and more adult than this nonsense, as is the first film. However, Stallone's clumsy direction on the first film makes the second picture the winner by default. This film, however, is a non-starter. And I've not got my hopes high for a fourth either, if it ever turns up.
As usual, there are no shortage of quality action films out there whether you prefer old-school stuff like Commando (5) or Die Hard (6) or more modern fare like The Matrix (7) or under-rated sci-fi Equilibrium (8). They might not have the banter or the knowing glint in their eyes but they deliver the goods just as well and are still worth a watch.