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4 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Expendables 3, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Meatheads Is Murder"
3 stars

Last week saw the passing of Menahem Golan and while that name may not be immediately familiar to some of you, anyone who grew up watching movies in the 1980's has likely seen some examples of his work both as a filmmaker and as the co-head of the then-omnipresent Cannon Films, especially those with a fondness of the over-the-top action spectacles of the era. Although he would produce high-end art house fare that would include works by the likes of John Cassavetes, Jean-Luc Godard and Barbet Schroeder, not to mention the avant-garde classic "Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo," he also cranked out a huge amount of action films that would feature mucho-macho heroes--sometimes featuring a current star like Chuck Norris and sometimes with one slightly past his prime such as Charles Bronson--lots of explosions and gunfire and, as noted drive-in critic Joe Bob Briggs used to say, absolutely no plot to get in the way of the story. These films were supremely dumb, of course, but they served their purpose and many of them, despite their flaws, possessed a certain goofball style that is generally lacking in most of today's would-be blockbusters

Although it is nothing more than an odd coincidence, it somehow seems fitting that Golan's passing would be followed a week later with the release of "The Expendables 3" because if he were still alive and making movies as he was back in his heyday, this is exactly the kind of film that he would have made. After all, it contains many of the key elements familiar to students of his work--it features a virtual's Whitman's Sampler of action stars both old and new in its cast led by Sylvester Stallone, with whom he worked on a couple of occasions, it contains enough gunshots, explosions and neck-snappings for a dozen other films with enough left over to fill up the deleted scenes sections of the Blu-rays and a narrative so reductive that even young children might find it to be too simplistic for their tastes. And like Golan's productions, the whole thing has a certain fenderheaded charm to it that allows it to pass by painlessly enough despite its flaws, or at least more painlessly than the really useless "The Expendables 2." As far as I can tell, the only things separating this film from a full-fledged Cannon Films epic is that Golan probably would have gone for the R rating instead of a PG-13 (more about that later) and he probably would have insisted on bringing back Chuck Norris and sticking Michael Dudikoff into the mix as well.

The film begins with our aging mercenary heroes, led by the micro-monosyllabic Barney Ross (Stallone), off to Somalia in order to break up a huge illegal arms shipment, only to discover that the bad guy in charge is none other than Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who co-founded the Expendables with Barney before going rogue as an international criminal. This is a bit of a surprise since Barney was under the impression that he killed him years ago but before he can ponder this fully, the mission goes sideways and fellow Expendable Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) is gravely wounded (presumably because he couldn't get time off from "Brooklyn 99"). Barney is determined to get Stonebanks once and for all but, not wanting to risk the lives of his longtime comrades--Christmas (Jason Statham), Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Gunnar (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll Road (Randy Couture)--he decides to fire them all and replace them with a new group of younger, tech-savvy hotshots that will help him save the world and possibly appear in "The Expendables 4" if the contracts for the older guys only had options for two sequels.

In a move that no one could have possibly anticipated, this approach goes gunny as well and Barney barely escapes with his life while the rest of the team is taken hostage. Undaunted, Barney decides to go once more into the breach and (Spoiler Alert!) the old team magically returns to help him rescue the B squad and the two groups pool their abilities to take down the seemingly unstoppable bad guy once and for all. Now that I think of it, this is roughly the same finale as the conclusion of "Step Up All In," right down to the incessant fireballs, though most of the choreography here seems to have gone into juggling all the actor schedules and making sure that everyone gets the contractually allowed amount of screen time.

This may seem like a fairly scanty plot, especially for a film clocking in at over two hours, but something had to give in order to make room for all the new characters, both young and old, that need to be introduced. Among the grizzled action veterans popping up here, Wesley Snipes is the long-imprisoned Doc (who claims to have been jailed for tax evasion, ho ho), Antonio Banderas is the motor-mouthed Galgo, a would-be mercenary searching for a team that will tolerate him, Kelsey Grammer--yes, Kelsey Grammer--as Bonaparte, Barney's top mercenary headhunter (the non-gory kind) and Harrison Ford as Drummer, a CIA spook who is presumably meant to replace the otherwise MIA character played by Bruce Willis in the previous installments. The younger (and presumably cheaper) generation is represented by the likes of Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz and Ronda Rousey. Of the newbies, the only one that you will remember at all is Rousey and that is almost entirely because she has the best legs of the entire gang by far, though her chest is perhaps only the fourth-largest on display. (If you are under the suspicion that I have undertaken this review almost entirely as an excuse to make that last joke, there is an excellent chance that you may be correct in that assumption.)

Like the previous "Expendables" films, "The Expendables 3" has nothing more on its mind than being a meat-and-potatoes action extravaganza slathered with enough explosive gravy and stunt-casting spices to keep viewers from noticing that the main ingredients are utility-grade at best. The screenplay by Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger (now there is a name for an "Expendables" villain) and Katrin Benedikt is so dumb and contrived, even by the admittedly lowered standards of this style of filmmaking, that it boggles the mind at certain points--the story makes zero sense, the clash of the old and new generations of characters generates little excitement and there are far too many scenes of people just wandering around while trying to get from one location to the next. The action scenes, essentially the raison d'ĂȘtre for a film like this, are indifferently staged by director Patrick Hughes, who is under the impression that if you set off enough explosives, fire enough bullets and have enough stunt people flying through the air, viewers won't notice that there is no real rhyme or reason as to how they have been produced. Additionally, it is way too long for its own good--a film like this should theoretically clock in at around 90 minutes but at 126, even the most generous-minded of viewers may find themselves looking away during the big fight scenes to look at their watches and idly wonder if they are in need of repair.

Another problem that I had with "The Expendables 3"--admittedly an odd one given the subject at hand--is the level of violence on display. Throughout the films, characters are shot, stabbed, slashed, strangled, blown up and have their necks snapped like twigs and the sequences in which our heroes mow down platoons of bad guys who can't hit the broad side of guys as big as barns get so ridiculous after a while that they make "Where Eagles Dare" look like a model of documentary-like realism. Now mind you, I do not object to the amount of violence on display--this is an "Expendables" movie, after all. No, what I object to is that despite all of the carnage on display, the film managed to score a PG-13 rating from the MPAA, presumably because of the cynical decision by the filmmakers to avoid showing any overt displays of bloodletting amidst the brutality, instead of the R that it more clearly deserves. I don't want to sound overly sensitive here but by giving this film a PG-13 while slapping the R on "Boyhood" for its comparatively mild transgressions, the MPAA has once again proven themselves to be nothing more than a joke.

And yet, despite its flaws, I cannot help but feel a certain degree of fondness for certain aspects of "The Expendables 3." For one thing, the complete lack of pretension has a certain basic charm to it--this is an idiotic movie that at least seems aware of its own idiocies and runs with them, which is more than you can say for "Transformers 4" and its ilk. For another, there is still some amount of fun to be had from the sight of so many action icons in the same scene bouncing off of each other, even if it is oftentimes difficult to understand what half of them are saying--the whole thing feels like a testosterone-soaked version of one of the old Rat Pack movies in which everyone is clearly just goofing off on someone else's dime. (Even Harrison Ford, who has been in grumpy-old-man-mode for too long to remember, almost appears to be having something vaguely resembling fun here.)

While the previous films in the franchise have suffered from relatively blah villains, that is definitely not the case here thanks to Mel Gibson's energetic performance. Whatever you may think of the guy personally, his hyperkinetic turn here as the cartoonish super-villain du jour is undeniably entertaining and serves as a reminder as to why he was such an enormous star before he began to self-destruct. And while most of the dialogue is borderline functional at best (Schwarzenegger even gets to say "Let's get to the choppah," which I believe he has said in every one of his films, including "Junior") and rarely hits even those reduced heights, Stallone gets the one undeniably great line when, after being reminded that he is supposed to deliver a bad guy to the Hague for trial, declares "I am the Hague!" I promise, if that line ever comes out as a ring tone, I will snap it up in an instant.

"The Expendables 3" is junk but as junk goes these days, it isn't quite as insufferable as most of its like-minded competition. It isn't quite good enough for me to even attempt to suggest to those disinclined towards seeing it that it might be worth a look and it isn't bad enough to suggest to those who have been looking forward to it that their time might be better spent doing other things like seeing "Lucy" again or nothing. Essentially, the experience of watching it is akin to watching the earlier entries--you will be mildly entertained while watching it, completely forget about it a couple of hours after it ends and then not give another thought to its existence until the next one comes out in a couple of years.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25909&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/16/14 18:49:43
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell i did not like the first one 1 stars
3/15/15 mr.mike "Average" is a compliment. 3 stars
11/05/14 meep Rather boring, have lost interest in this series 2 stars
9/04/14 Charles Tatum Best of the series 4 stars
8/17/14 Sugarfoot If you liked the first two (which I did) there is no reason you won't like part 3. 3 stars
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  15-Aug-2014 (PG-13)
  DVD: 25-Nov-2014


  DVD: 25-Nov-2014

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