In this third installment of the Expendables franchise we learn a little bit about the origins of Barney Frank and Lee Christmas’ (Stallone and Statham) gang of do-gooder mercenaries. Apparently the team was originally co-founded with Frank by a man named Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) who eventually tired of being the run around man of various government agencies and decided to form his own crew of “Expendables” to make himself crazy rich/powerful, unfortunately he did this by killing a lot of innocent civilians, and a lot of his own former team members in the process. But hey, at least he did it all with style, right?
Now some twenty years later Banks, who is thought to be long since dead, turns up very much alive and once again becomes a very big pain in the ass of his former teammates. Barney Frank, who has grown too attached to his current crew of guys to risk losing them at the hands of this very deadly mad man, decides to put together a new team for the job of capturing Stonebanks and his team of thugs. Will the new young squirts be good enough to capture the cagey old psycho, or will Banks have to turn once again to his original crew of battle tested buddies? I’d spoil it for you here but you probably don’t even need me to do so in order to figure it out for yourself.
I’ve already written this review twice. To do it a third time now may or may not be a waste of time, so read ahead at your own risk. You have to know what you’re getting into with these movies. This is the very definition of “turn your brain off” entertainment. The purpose of this movie, like both of its predecessors is to trigger fond nostalgia for the big B-level (and some A-level) stars of yesteryear, and of course, to blow lots of stuff up and see nameless, faceless bad guys get mowed down by the hundreds while the heroes make it through without a scratch. One of the best lines comes from Mel Gibson who plays the lead villain in this movie, in charge of a small army including several tanks and hundreds of supposedly competent mercenaries. During the final shoot out with Stallone’s gang he says “How hard can it be to kill ten men? D’you think you could even just wound a couple?” before giving a firsthand demonstration by shooting the closest baddie next to him.
Mel Gibson is tremendous in his role as the evil Stonebanks here. I only wish there had been more scenes of him cracking wise and generally being an evil mofo. As it was, and this goes for the entire movie, even outside of this subject, felt very rushed, like every second spent without a big gun battle was a giant test of its patience. That has been a flaw of both of the previous movies though, so it is what it is I suppose.
The big attraction to these movies are the names that show up in them. Pretty much all of the regular crew is back from the first two movies. Jet Li returns in a small role. He was a regular cast member in the first movie, and only took part in the first few minutes of the second one. Also absent from the original movie is Mickey Rourke, who didn’t make the last sequel either. The biggest news coming out of this was the hoopla surrounding Bruce Willis, who was in the first two movies, and was already on set at this one before walking out over a monetary dispute, which, according to the story says he wanted five million dollars instead of four for his role as CIA director/overseer Mr. Church. Taking his part in this movie is Harrison Ford. Although I’m a fan of Willis, at least in his older work, I have to say Ford was definitely a welcome upgrade.
Kelsey Grammar stars in a “what the hell is he doing in THIS movie?” kind of role, as one of Stallone’s old buddies who helps him put a new team together after he disbands his current on. (And really, when the name of your group is the Expendables, should it really be that surprising when your leader in fact deems you to be in fact, expendable?) Grammar introduces Stallone to many potential recruit who represent most of the action movie character clichés you’ve seen before, and will see again. The stand outs in this montage are Antonio Banderas and Ronda Rousey.
Banderas plays a character unlike any I’ve ever seen him portray and he pumps comedic life into what is an otherwise kind of routine action flick with only the occasional wink and nod gestures from the big stars to pass for levity. His character is kind of a cross between Puss in Boots (another Banderas character) and Jar Jar Binks. He talks constantly to the annoyance of everyone around him and is generally a manic blast to watch on screen. Ronda Rousey doesn’t get much to do here besides look sexy and kick ass, but those are two things she does incredibly well. I have no doubt that once her run in the UFC is over (which hopefully will be a long time from now) she will have a secure future in Hollywood. To show you just how badass she is, she filmed this entire movie while also training for a successful title defense.
Wesley Snipes is another new edition to the franchise and he fits it like a well worn glove. The friendly (or not so friendly) jokes exchanged between him and Jason Statham during the many action scenes here are some of the biggest highlights of the movie. And yes, Arnold is back too, and he gets to do his usual scene at the end where rides into the final battle to assist our heroes dispense of the horde of Rent-A-Goons. Like I said, I’ve already written this review twice, well, three times now. This movie neither exceeds nor falls away from the standard set by the first two films. For what it is, it is perfectly acceptable brainless popcorn shoot em’ up entertainment. If that’s not your thing, you should probably not watch it. If it is your thing though, this movie should provide the same general level of entertainment that the previous two movies did.
The Expendables 3 gets a three out of five: GOOD.