“The Expendables 3” Movie Review

     It’s not hard to sway me into seeing a film that allows one to relive the kind of 1980s and early 1990s nostalgia that made icons out of actors such as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Remembering just how silly some of those films were (think “Cobra” or “Commando”) makes watching a film like “The Expendables 3” a bit more palatable.  Fact is, Stallone created the “Expendables” franchise to both satisfy his need to go back to what made him successful in the first place, while also satisfying us 40 somethings along with a new generation of fans.  While the first installment was somewhat of a novelty with viewers mesmerized in seeing these guys ham it up together, the new third installment doesn’t have the same punch and attempts to compensate by adding plenty of new blood.  Stallone has recruited a younger more raw director in Patrick Hughes, and populated the film with new blood, both young and old.  The resulting film is watchable and mostly entertaining, but viewers should understand the type of films Stallone is trying to emulate.  In other words, this is not to be taken serious.

     “The Expendables 3” marks the first entry in the series to boast a more family friendly PG-13 rating, which itself is kind of a head scratcher.  Perhaps the additions of a younger crew, including Kellan Lutz (“Twilight”), television actors Glen Powell and Victor Ortiz, and none other than UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey, are intended to attract a younger audience and thus the need to allow for a broader rating.  What’s kind of comical about that decision is despite a slick editing job that removes even the slightest trace of blood and gore, I wouldn’t be shocked to learn over one thousand people are killed on screen in this film!  As I previously stated, the action is nonetheless entertaining and well executed.  The dialogue in the film is limited to the characters yelling two words at a time during the action scenes, typically saying “Look Out!” or “Behind You!”.  For the most part, each actor is given a moment or two to shine, but these moments usually mean firing a really mean looking gun or participating in martial arts inspired combat.

     Stallone and his screenwriting team concoct a story that nearly mirrors each and every 80s action film the various cast members have starred in at one time or another.  He manages several instances of witty dialogue, taking advantage of a few real life situations involving several of his actors, as well as dialogue that will be instantly familiar based on their previous films.  Wesley Snipes, fresh off his real life prison term for tax evasion, answers the same when asked why he was in the prison the Expendables crew rescues him from in the film’s explosive opening sequence.  Harrison Ford replaces Bruce Willis as a CIA guy who provides Stallone’s Barney Ross with the intel behind the missions they are involved in.  You may recall Willis wanted a substantial raise to appear in the third installment and when that demand wasn’t met, Stallone recruited Ford.  Their early scene together takes a poke at Willis as his character is explained away by Ford who clearly had fun with his role.  Fans will also appreciate Arnold’s use of a famous line from “Predator” during the film’s climactic sequence.

     As for the plot, Ross (Stallone) determines his guys don’t seem to perform the way they used to and basically kicks them off the team for good.  Of course Christmas (Jason Statham), Toll Road (Randy Couture), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), and Caesar (Terry Crews) have a different opinion, but Ross sticks with it and is led by a CIA recruiter named Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) on a trek around the world to find candidates for a new team.  Their target is Stonebanks, an arms dealer and former original member of the Expendables played by Mel Gibson with all of the same personality traits he used to make his Martin Riggs character famous in the “Lethal Weapon” series.  As the highlight of the film, Gibson is given a bad guy role he can truly sink his teeth into.  A verbal confrontation in a cargo van with Ross is one of the film’s best scenes and allows the story to have the requisite villain needed to create enough of a reason for the audience to buy into the Expendables going after him.

     As one would likely expect, Hughes plays to the past and current strengths of each actor involved.  Stallone is involved in a scene that will conjure up images of “Cliffhanger”.  Snipes and Statham do most of their damage with knives and martial arts techniques similar to their “Transporter” and “Blade” films.  Joining the team for this installment, Antonio Banderas engages in two fisted acrobatic gun play that will instantly remind of his gun toting Mariachi in “Desperado”.  Finally, it should come as no surprise that Rousey finishes a fight with an enemy soldier by way of her signature arm bar.  These types of scenes certainly have merit, but as a whole you may dismiss the film as if it were merely a rerun on television.  The series has run its course and it’s doubtful the new younger members of the cast could carry the franchise to another level.  Considering this is the third installment, the cast and filmmakers have done an admirable job and likely had a lot of fun doing it, but for most of these guys, the end has come.  GRADE: C