This week, I took a trip to my local cinema to check out the third “Action hero retirement home” film The Expendables 3.
When the first movie came out, I was immediately excited to see the 80’s cheesefest. In general, I think they’re okay, serviceable action films. I’m really ambivalent about the whole series- and the third one especially. There were some good parts, some bad parts, and some irritating parts. All in all, I think it’s a perfectly okay flick- but not something I’d recommend going to see in theaters.
Sylvester Stallone (his character is technically called Barney Ross, but no one cares) discovers a long-thought-dead rogue comrade (Mel Gibson) is secretly alive, and Terry Crews gets shot on a mission gone bad. Heartbroken, and determined not to let his pseudo-family die, Stallone disbands his team of mercenaries and gathers a group of younger soldiers to go on a suicide mission to kill Mel Gibson. Those kids get captured and Stallone and the Old Men Gang must rescue them. Explosions and hi-jinx ensue.
There were some moments during the film that I actually, thoroughly enjoyed. Most of them were courtesy of Mel Gibson and Antonio Banderas.
Mel Gibson plays “Conrad Stonebanks,” founding member of the Expendables who went rogue and was presumed dead by Sylvester Stallone. Gibson makes for a wonderfully delightful (and oddly convincing) psychopath. The scenes with him are by far the most entertaining and enjoyable. If only because he seems like one of the few people still excited to be in an Expendables movie.
Antonio Banderas surprisingly does NOT play a bad-ass macho character as one would expect. Instead, he plays kind of the team scrappy. Constantly rejected by the team until Stallone goes on his anti-gibson suicide mission. Banderas plays a motor-mouthed ex-Spanish special forces operative who is the least-awesome and only surviving member of his team. Banderas is like an excited puppy- and it is wonderful to watch. He definitely has the most charm of the cast.
Part of the draw of the original The Expendables was the assembly of action heroes- and the series has touted its celebrity cameos all throughout. Now, those cameos have always been irritatingly heavy-handed (this is one of my biggest complaints about the second film). And you still have that in this one as well. We can’t get through the movie without Arnold screaming “GET TO THE CHOPPA” and there is of course a “Wesley Snipes tax evasion” joke. But all in all, it’s a lot less- and I don’t mind it as much.
The new celebs this time actually add a lot (with the exception of Harrison Ford, but more on that later)- Kelsey Grammer does a wonderful job in his fifteen minute scene as a special operations recruiter, and I’ve already said how Banderas and Gibson made the film watchable. Snipes and Ford, on the other hand, are some of the lower points of the film. Wesley Snipes may as well not have even been in this film since he has so little to do once he’s introduced. And Harrison Ford, well, he’s just tired now. You can see it all the movies he’s been in recently (see: Ender’s Game). It makes me very worried about the upcoming Star Wars.
The movie actually has a nice sort-of thematic plot about passing on the torch of action. This film and the second one incorporate a lot more of the action heroes from the 90’s (Norris, Van Damme, Gibson, Snipes, Banderas), and The Expendables 3 has Stallone recruiting a team made up of all “youngsters.” Modern action movie stars (including one of the new Hercules), along with two MMA fighters. Oddly enough, I enjoyed the new team more than the others- they had a lot more charm and spunk than the others.
I was worried when I saw that the new team gets captured in the trailer that the one female on the team would spend the whole movie as a damsel in distress. Thankfully they aren’t captured for very long and she actually holds her own against the action heroes- so it’s not quite as sexist as I feared- it certainly doesn’t hurt that Ronda Rousey could realistically kick the ass of almost everyone else in that movie.
In the beginning, the team treats them with contempt and anger for taking their spots on the team. In the end, though Stallone and the Expendables accept and embrace the newbies as tried and true Expendables, and it’s nice symbolism- nice enough that I don’t think it was planned.
Also, thanks to SciFriday’s own Sarah Lawrence, I now am aware of the Expendables 3 facebook sticker set:
All in all, the movie was okay. I certainly don’t regret it, and actually found it reasonably entertaining. Still, I wouldn’t recommend you see this one in theater. It’s better than the last two, but like its predecessors, it’s best left to late-night on the TV with friends.
Join me next week when I go see the new Pierce Brosnan film, The November Man. In the meantime, check out my other column Trope-ic Thunder, where I discuss science tropes in the media.
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