Action Movie Friday: The Expendables 3

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title:  The Expendables 3
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: 2014
Genre: Action
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Kelsey Grammer, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Director: Patrick Hughes
Writer: Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Dave Callaham
Distributor: Lionsgate
Budget: $90 Million
Box Office: $209 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 33%

Gingersnaps Rating: 3 3/4 Gingersnaps!

Another action team extravaganza where the headliner list just keeps getting longer and longer. In the first movie we killed Stone Cold Austin and some guy in a suit that no one cared about, the second movie was Jean Claude Van Damme’s turn in the ring and this time we go up against the craziness of Mel Gibson.  While there are a great many actors in the headliner list that probably haven’t earned that accolade yet, it does serve to tell us the cast is large and there will be lots of crazy hijinks going down. Exactly what we expect and want from an Expendables movie.

Summary:

Barney Ross (Stallone) and the team of mercenaries, the Expendables, are not having a good day. After they break an old teammate (Snipes) out of a black ops prison, a job goes south when one of their own gets shot and Barney finds out a man (Gibson) he thought he’d put in the grave is alive and well. Sure that this is going to be the end of the Expendables and going after Stonebanks is a one way trip, Barney fires the team and goes on a mission with Bonaparte (Grammer) to get a new team of young kids who are suicidal and crazy. Which, think of it, isn’t much different than the old team except for the age. Stonebank is a step ahead of them, the new team gets captured except Barney and Barney decides to go in alone to get the new team back. But the old team shows up and refuses to let him do so. Will they free the new kids? Will Stonebank get his just desserts? How many explosions will there be and how badly will Barney almost die this time?

Review:

Let’s do a quick run of the financials. This movie had a budget between $90 million and $100 million depending on where you look. It was released at the end of August, which I like to call ‘tent pole fatigue’ month. Everyone is worn out from the summer blockbusters and going to see yet another action flick just makes them tired. That, and the headliner list of “star” actors for this movie is mildly overwhelming and a huge mix of actors that people know and love and those, they probably never heard of or saw in another movie that flopped miserably. So, it is almost a guarantee that the actors that people know and love aren’t going to get enough screen time and the actors they don’t know about are just going to be a confusing bunch of faces with no development. Another nail in the coffin was the film’s rating. The previous two films were rated R. I guess in hopes of getting a bigger audience, this film was rated PG-13. Fans made a huge outcry and showed their displeasure with their pocketbooks. Consequentially, this movie only made $39 million domestically. This is, if we do the math, a third of it’s production budget. Not a good return in the eyes of Hollywood executives. Fortunately, in this day and age, oversees made up the lack for a total of $209 million in ticket sales. This guaranteed that there will be a fourth Expendables (already casting) and possibly a female only spin off Expendabelles.  The movie has sold $25 million in blu-ray and DVD sales already.

The opening of this film could have been shortened slightly. Though once again it sets the tone for the movie. The scene where they break their old member, Doctor Death (Snipes) out of jail ends with Doc going overboard and ramming a train into the prison where he’d been held causing it to explode. (There were plenty of explosions in this movie to make me happy. So, one cookie right there.) From there, we get straight to the plot of the movie, where Doc and the others almost immediately begin dick measuring and trying to prove that they are better than each other. They get to the target, find out the information they were given was wrong, mainly because it is the CIA and the CIA is being shown as incompetent for some reason, and it is actually an old teammate, Stonebank (Gibson) who went ‘dark’, meaning he turned into an organized crime, weapons dealing kingpin, who they thought was dead. Stonebank proves to be just as good as they are and instead of killing Barney when he has the chance, he injures Hail Caesar instead (dumb move.)

Here follows what I call a by the numbers plot. Barney fires old crew. Check. Barney hires new crew. Check. Montage of hiring new crew. Check. New crew questions Barney’s plans and make one of their own. Check. New crew uses plans. Check. People show up early. Check. Plan succeeds, sort of. Check. Bad Guy monologue. Check. Bad guy a step ahead of them. Check. New crew gets captured. Check. Barney decides to go after them alone. Check. Old crew shows up to make sure he doesn’t. Check. Cue lots of villain taunting. Check. If I go any further, I’d guess I’d spoil the last third of the movie. Oh, and somehow we’re supposed to believe the last third of the movie takes twenty-five minutes of real time. (Because, yes, they did put a timer deadline in there.)

I don’t mind a by the numbers plot, as long as it is entertaining. Fortunately, this one is entertaining, preachy at points, but entertaining. There are plenty of fire fights, an interesting dirt bike scene against tanks and Harrison Ford being Harrison Ford. If there has been any theme to these movies, it is ‘friends don’t let friends do suicidal things alone.’ That holds true to this movie with some overt hammering home that friends are the family you choose. And of course, with any sequel, we have to up the ante of danger that our heroes are in, so cue a building rigged with C4, an army marching in, half a dozen tanks and at least three choppers in the sky, once again, all on a time limit. The script is much tighter than the second. The dialogue about as snappy as the first. Though it does resort to ‘state the obvious’ in some spots.

But once again, where this movie fails is that there are too many people. We don’t need Thorn (Glen Powell) to be a tech guy, when we could just bring back Yin Yang (Jet Li.) Most of the new kids are caricatures in a cast of barely fleshed out protagonists as it is. Smilee (Lutz) has a problem with authority. Luna (Rousey) has a chip on her shoulder about men. Mars (Ortiz) ended up just being a face to annoy Toll Road (Couture). Those that do get any sort of character depth at all, are once again, older actors such as Kelsey Grammer, Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas. Harrison Ford’s part might have been more of a bit thing, but he still gets more to do and more interesting dialogue than all the new kids put together. Banderas got to run around this movie being goofy, though a Spanish stereotype, it was obvious he was having a blast.

Because there are too many people. They don’t get a chance to shine. To give every actor a chance to have a real fight of his or her own, I won’t forget you Ronda, and not against minions and goons, the movie would have to be about three hours long or have a much better fight choreographer. So thus, most of the fights in this movie are people shooting guns at each other with a few random punches thrown in for fun. Let me put it this way. We know these movies are still primarily a Stallone vehicle. He’s the boss. He’s the driving force. He gets to have the big shots. Next in like is Jason Statham, who has been there from the beginning being sarcastic and generally being the awesome guy that we all know Jason Statham is. In this movie, not even Jason Statham gets an all out fight. While Statham gets to fight Gibson’s main henchman, it is so short, so abbreviated and the henchman was never even given anything to do before that, it might as well been a fight against a regular goon. There was absolutely no sense of tension or worry with that fight.

Ronda Rousey was just sort of there. They could have gone two ways with this character. Either the blatant sex goddess trope where she distracts with her looks more than fighting or the overtly damsel in distress with threats of rape on the side. Thankfully, they did neither, but because they did neither, it was like they just didn’t know what to do with her at all. They gave her a bit of the preachy philosophical dialogue. Gave a hint that she could be in more trouble than the men from the bad guys because she’s a girl and has girl parts (but in real life they’re both equally at risk here, let’s be honest, it is only Hollywood that puts emphasis on the female.) She took down more than her fair share of goons, though most of her lines did consist of “men.” However, to encourage them to keep putting women in the cast, I will give them a cookie for having her in the movie.

I’m not sure I can overtly justify the rating I’m going to give this movie. It wasn’t as good as the first, but was much better than the second. It “fit” in the Expendables universe. So, snappy dialogue backed with plenty of explosions in an entertaining if by the numbers plot with enough emphasis on the people we care about that we don’t really care too much that the new kids barely had anything to do. It could have used some better fight sequences and a few cut characters or a better by the numbers plot to really give it that five gingersnap rating. 3.75 Gingersnaps.

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