The Expendables 3 (2014)
★ / ★★★★
Clearly the weakest of the first three films, “The Expendables 3,” directed by Patrick Hughes, is not only plagued by a wasteland of crippling boredom after the first and final action sequences—each, by the way, is composed of only about fifteen minutes of good material—but it also suffers an identity crisis so severe that audiences coming into it expecting one thing will be gravely disappointed because they are handed another.
Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) leads a mission in Somalia which goes horribly awry when he and his men (Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews) discover that a war criminal believed to be dead is very much alive. Stonebanks (Mel Gibson—who gives a performance worthy of the series), an arms dealer, critically injures one of the Expendables which leads Ross to disassemble his current team of muscles in favor of new blood—a younger group with the potential to be as good, if not better, than his former crew.
The premise itself is a serious miscalculation. I suppose that part of the idea is the passing of the torch which implies that the younger characters recruited by Ross are to be played by action stars of the future. Kellan Lutz is the most high-profile name of the young bunch but even then I do not consider him to have the potential to become a bona fide action star—and I suspect others are likely to feel the same.
Though he and his co-stars have the physicality, they command neither the charm nor the intensity of the following pool of actors that perhaps should have been cast instead: Channing Tatum, Jeremy Renner, Iko Uwais, Gina Carano, Michael B. Jordan, Tom Hardy. Given that the casting directors are able to employ big names into the franchise, to expect the hiring of the aforementioned names is not at all unjustified.
What makes the series so enjoyable is the old-fashioned style of action. It is all about the big menacing guns, the deafening explosions so closely and so expertly shot that we feel the heat approaching our seats, the bone-crunching mano-a-mano, and the cheesy one-liners as chaos unfolds all around. Instead, we endure scenes and tech talk involving security grids, surveillance videos, CCTV systems—elements that belong to another picture completely. As a result, the work is reduced to a forgettable, standard modern action movie.
The script has never been the series’ strongest asset but it is most unbearable here. Speeches concerning the leader not allowing his team to go down with him is laughable. By the end of the epic talk, the implication is this: younger lives are more expendable than older lives. Clearly, Ross is convinced that any mission involving the capture of one of the deadliest men he knows is suicide.
So, pragmatically, shouldn’t he be striving to keep his current team because they have experience together, that they share awareness down to one another’s rhythms? Thus, employing a new team, aside from being nonsensical, comes across as nothing but a convenient and lazy device to allow the minutes to trickle away. What I detest most are movies whose filmmakers are fully aware that they are wasting everybody’s time and it is so apparent that it should be criminal.