Michael’s Review: ‘The Expendables 3’- Michael Bay’s Wet Dreams Realized

The Expendables 3 - poster

The franchise that keeps on truckin’ despite the average age of its stars being 143, is back and it’s exactly what you expect…loud. Sylvester Stallone, the mastermind behind this meeting of the biceps again headlines this testosterone fest with a vast array of co-stars, some old faces and some new ones. Sly’s band of merry men set out to kill as many people as possible without spilling an ounce of blood to achieve a PG-13 rating and make sure that this film stays “kid-friendly”, cause…’Merica!

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The Expendables, led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), are an aging group of veteran mercenaries who, despite their age, are the best in the business at what they do. When one of their team, Doc (Wesley Snipes) gets captured, the team consisting of Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunnar (Dolph Lundgren), and Toll Road (Randy Couture), spring into action to rescue their comrade from a military convoy. When a mission is presented to the team to take out an arms sale in Somalia, the team realizes it’s facing one of their own when Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) is revealed as the mastermind behind the deal. Stonebanks, was a co-founder of The Expendables along with Barney and the two had a falling out. Believing that the current Expendables are incapable of facing this challenge, Ross decides to recruit some of the youngest and brightest to become Expendables and take on Stonebanks and his army.

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A group consisting of Thorn (Glen Powell), Mars (Victor Ortiz), Smilee (Kellen Lutz), and Luna (UFC’s Ronda Rousey) must become that team. But after Stonebanks captures the current Expendables in training, the old band must reunite to save the day one more time, this time with the help of CIA field commander Drummer (Harrison Ford) and former Spanish special forces member Galgo (Antonio Banderas). Can Barney and company rescue the newbies and stop Stonebanks once and for all?

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Director Patrick Hughes was hand-picked by Sly Stallone to direct The Expendables 3 after seeing his talent after watching Hughes’ 2010 western thriller Red Hill. Stallone knew then that he was the right man to inject new blood into the franchise. Hughes does inject his style into the third film in this franchise, but he also allows the old dogs to do what they do best, not speak too much and just kick ass. The film is not short on violence, not by a long shot. The death toll in this feature definitely tops the kills in the previous Expendable movies, all while keeping the MPAA happy and allowing the film its PG-13 rating. That in and of itself is a job well done.

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The screenplay, written by Stallone, is exactly what you would expect from a Stallone-written screenplay, dull and full of recycled one liners from the collective talent’s careers. Don’t get me wrong, hearing Arnold Schwarzenegger scream, “Get to the choppah!” one more time is entertaining, but it’s as cliché as much of the more dramatic dialogue is. And maybe that’s the point. It’s a film that does not take itself too seriously and allows the fun to flow throughout, we can put up with a couple cringe worthy lines right?

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The acting is an interesting topic. The collective group is truly pretty great. Stallone has compiled a really great cast this time around and gives the strongest of the bunch much of the screen time. While the core group of Stallone, Statham, Lundgren, Crews and Couture were nothing more than amicable in their repeat performances, there were some really great performances from some long time favorites. Mel Gibson is fantastic as the antagonist. Gibson plays crazy better than anyone, and Stonebanks is as Martin Riggs as we may ever see Gibson again and it was a pleasure to watch. Wesley Snipes was also really great in his first Expendables movie. I’ve always been a fan of Snipes so it was really nice to see him perform well in this film. The show stealer was Antonio Banderas. The past few decade has not been kind to Banderas as his film career consists more of bit roles and B-movies, but when presented with this opportunity to shine, Banderas knocks it out of the park. Not only does he hold his own with the rest of the action star legends, but his humor and delivery are topped by no one in the film. I hope this films allows for a resurgence of his career.

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The newcomers do very little to make you feel they will be the future of the franchise. Each is given a skill set to add to the team and each tries their best to create some space for themselves in an overcrowded film, but none of the characters really resonate with the audience much by the conclusion of the film. Kellen Lutz, it appears, was selected as the heir apparent to Stallone’s Barney, and he turns in a fine job in a limited role, but I’m not sure the character was given enough tread to take on a much juicer part in future films. UFC star Ronda Rousey continues to try her break into film and she’s learning the ropes, but her delivery needs some much needed polish. It’ll be interesting to see if she can expand her acting talents if presented with a script with a little more meat to it. Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell are not provided with enough for their characters to really get any momentum. The performances are serviceable at best.

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Overall, The Expendables 3 is not going to win any awards for originality or acting, but it doesn’t need. It’s an enjoyable trip down memory lane with a few bumps along the way but a whole lot of fun. If you’re looking for mindless entertainment you’d be hard pressed to find anything more mindless.

Stars: 2 1/2 out of 5

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