Here’s my CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review of THE EXPENDABLES 3, up now at cinemaknifefight.com, your place to read about movies, where you’ll find new movie content posted every day by L.L. Soares, myself, and a very talented staff of writers.
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CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)
Review by Michael Arruda
(THE SCENE: A heavily fortified movie theater, surrounded by armed guards, military vehicles, and tanks. A helicopter lands out front, and MICHAEL ARRUDA steps from the copter followed by four young people, most likely in their twenties. They approach the theater just as a man dressed in military fatigues steps from the building to confront them.)
DICTATOR: Hey, Arruda, it’s about time you showed up. But you’re a little late. Your buddy L.L. SOARES is our prisoner.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: You can have him. I didn’t come for L.L. I came to see a movie.
DICTATOR: So did he, and look where that got him! You’ll never get by me, Arruda!
MA: We’ll see about that. I’ve brought some help.
DICTATOR (looks at the young people behind MA): Who are they? Your kindergarten class?
MA: Meet the new team. The next generation of Cinema Knife Fighters.
(Camera pans quickly over the four young faces, just as a missile zooms in and explodes, reducing them to a puff of smoke.)
MA: Or not.
You know, if the new team in today’s movie had met the same fate, I would have liked it better.
DICTATOR: Huh? Listen, Arruda, enough talking! Take a look around you, at our defenses. They’re impenetrable.
MA: Really? Because I have looked them over, and frankly, I’m not impressed. In fact, I give your defenses 0 knives.
DICTATOR (huffs): Really? Are you kidding me? Do you know how hard I worked on this?
MA: It’s obviously all CGI. Very fake looking. Nobody you have with you has anything worthwhile to say. Sorry, but it’s all very boring.
DICTATOR: Dammit! I need to find me a better writer!
MA: And L.L. obviously made it inside, too, didn’t he? Where is he?
DICTATOR: He’s inside watching another movie. Damn you guys! (Stomps off in a hissy fit.)
MA: Okay, now that that’s over with, we can get on with today’s review. Welcome to CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT. I’m Michael Arruda, and today I’m reviewing THE EXPENDABLES 3, the latest movie in Sylvester Stallone’s all-star action series. I’m doing this one solo because my buddy L.L. Soares is inside this theater watching another movie which he’ll be reviewing for CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT this weekend as well.
THE EXPENDABLES 3 is the third film in THE EXPENDABLES series, a series which chronicles the adventures of The Expendables, a group of ruthless soldiers and assassins who are called on by the U.S. government to handle its dirtiest jobs.
In this film, the leader of the group Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) discovers that his one-time friend-turned villain Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a man he thought he had killed, is still alive. Ross wants Stonebanks dead, but he’s informed by his new operator Drummer (Harrison Ford) that they want Stonebanks alive to stand trial.
Seeing Stonebanks as a formidable opponent, Ross decides that his team is too old to handle him, and so he tells his team, which includes Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Doc (Wesley Snipes), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll Road (Randy Couture) that he’s retiring the group. They balk at this of course, but Ross makes his intentions clear: they’re done.
Ross then hooks up with an old friend Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) who he employs to help him find a new team, a group of younger fighters, in effect the next generation of The Expendables. And so they compile a group of newbies which includes Thorn (Glen Powell), Mars (Victor Ortiz), Luna (Ronda Rousey), and Smilee (Kellan Lutz).
Seriously? I found this plot point very difficult to believe. Why in the world would Ross want to go to battle with these infants instead of Jason Statham and friends is beyond me? There’s just no comparison, and calling these guys “old” based upon the way they look in the movie is ridiculous. They still look as bad-ass as ever.
Anyway, Stonebanks quickly makes mincemeat out of this diaper-clad team, which means it’s up to Jason Statham and his buddies to help Stallone get his newbies out of this mess. Of course, Stonebanks has an entire army at his disposal, and so even more help is needed, which is why Drummer also brings in Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Yin Yang (Jet Li) to help out.
Plus there’s Galgo (Antonio Banderas) who throughout the film has been desperate to join Ross’ team, and finally gets his chance when Ross needs all the help he can get. This all leads to the testosterone filled conclusion where Ross and his Expendables battle Stonebanks and his entire army.
This might have been fun if it all wasn’t so stupid.
(MA enters the lobby of the movie theater, surrounded by all sorts of military action: machine gun fire, grenade explosions, hand-to- hand combat.)
MA (looks at camera): I guess it all fits in with the theme of today’s movie. Excuse me while I order some popcorn. (To cinema worker). I’ll have a small popcorn with butter, please.
CINEMA WORKER: Sure. (As he turns to make popcorn, machine gun fire riddles the area, and he slumps to the ground.)
MA: Hmm. I’ll just come back for that later. Back to the review.
By far, THE EXPENDABLES 3 is the worst film in the series. I liked the first THE EXPENDABLES (2010) well enough, and I really enjoyed the sequel THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012) which had a better plot and gave all the veteran action stars quality screen time with good action scenes and some memorable lines, and the climactic battle between Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme was a keeper. I really felt like I got my money’s worth.
Not so with this installment.
First of all, there’s something very sloppy about the direction. Director Patrick Hughes gives us a flat opening segment where Stallone and his team rescue Wesley Snipes from his imprisonment on a moving armored train. The action here is sloppily handled. The camera fails to get in close and seems to cover things from a distance, and it also cuts away from characters when they’re speaking, and so it was difficult to catch what people were saying.
Then, once the rescue is completed, it cuts to the main title THE EXPENDABLES 3, flashed on the screen for about a millisecond and then it’s back to the movie. It was just a weird opening, a precursor for all that was going to follow.
Director Hughes also doesn’t give his action stars flashy or memorable first appearances. Stallone is first seen in the opening segment flying a helicopter in loud surroundings in which you can’t hear what he’s saying. I don’t think I understood anything Stallone said in this entire segment. Schwarzenegger’s grand entrance has him casually strolling up behind Stallone in a hospital and speaking softly to him. How’s that for compelling drama?
The screenplay by Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rotherberger, and Katrin Benedikt tells a mediocre story that doesn’t always makes sense, and features unimpressive dialogue and very little if any character development. The story of Ross assembling a new team of youngsters to take on an old enemy makes little sense when his old team is still so menacing.
And while Mel Gibson does make for a decent villain, at least in terms of his performance, the character Gibson plays, Stonebanks, is never shown being villainous. Why is he such a bad ass? We hear characters like Ross and Drummer saying what a bad guy he is, but we never see him do anything. What’s his agenda? He sells arms to dictators and other undesirables, and we do see him do this in one scene, but do really we need The Expendables to take him out?
Just once, I’d like to see a plot worthy of The Expendables team. These guys are supposed to be sent in to handle the jobs that the CIA and U.S. military want no part of, yet in all three films, we haven’t really seen them on these kinds of missions.
The dialogue is also subpar. You’ve got Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Statham, Snipes, and Ford, guys who can really chew up the scenery, and yet there’s hardly a memorable line among them.
(Schwarzenegger enters the lobby and makes quick work of several enemy soldiers, cracking their heads and breaking their limbs with ease.)
SCHWARZENEGGER: Next time silence your cell phones. (to MA) I work part-time as cinema security. If you make noise in the theater, you answer to me. (Checks his smart phone.) Someone is texting in theater three. I’ll be back. (Exits)
MA: That’s the Arnold I wanted to see.
Only Mel Gibson as the villain Stonebanks gets lines worthy of his pedigree, yet he has nothing much to do other than taunt Stallone and his buddies. In fact, there are several scenes of Stonebanks buying art, walking up a staircase, entering a building, where that’s all he does. I mean, these scenes don’t lead to anything else. Stonebanks is a villain with too much time on his hands, and THE EXPENDABLES 3 is an action movie in need of a crisper script and tighter direction.
Now, if you’re like me, you see an EXPENDABLES movie because you want to see Stallone, Statham, Schwarzenegger and their friends on screen kicking butt and churning out one-liners. You don’t see it because you want to watch a bunch of newbies take over. I’m sorry, but I didn’t buy a ticket to THE EXPENDABLES: THE NEXT GENERATON, and so I had little interest in scenes of Stallone compiling his new team, while his old team, Statham and company, sit home with nothing to do, and yes we actually see scenes of these guys at home twiddling their thumbs bored. We don’t even get to see them try their hands at new jobs— I want to see Dolph Lundgren try to work in a department store, for example. Realistically speaking, you’d think these guys would sign on with someone else. I mean, Stallone’s Ross can’t be the only game in town.
And the newbies don’t have a chance. They’re each introduced in quick brief scenes, and then as the film goes on we hardly get to know them, which was fine with me since I didn’t care about them, but you know what? I might have changed my mind had I actually gotten to know them and had the writing been better.
Sadly, THE EXPENDABLES 3 plays like the third film in a series, old and tired.
Speaking of which, one of the themes running through this movie is that Stallone and his buddies are getting too old for this sort of thing, and the sad part is in this movie some of them did look old. For the first time in this series, I found it difficult to believe that Stallone and Schwarzenegger could do the things they were doing. They looked a little long in the tooth. Harrison Ford looked like he could barely walk. In the film’s climax Ford is flying a helicopter performing all these stunts. Yeah, right. The only stunt he seemed capable of performing was crashing.
I like Sylvester Stallone, and when he’s on screen, I liked him here. The trouble is the dialogue is so bad, that his character Ross just isn’t that enjoyable this time around.
Of the original team, Jason Statham fares the best, because he still looks the part, like he could single-handedly take out a mob of assassins, but his screen time is diminished here.
Like Stallone, Schwarzenegger begins to show his age in this movie, and his one-liners are pretty much nonexistent. Looking even older than both Stallone and Schwarzenegger is Harrison Ford, who was filling in for Bruce Willis who left this movie over a contract dispute. Ford plays a different character, but like Willis, he’s the guy who hires The Expendables. I missed Willis’ shady persona. Ford seemed like an aged Jack Ryan.
(Harrison Ford enters.)
FORD: Did you just call me old?
MA: I said you looked old in the movie.
FORD: I ought to kick your ass.
MA: I’d settle for an autograph.
FORD: Autograph? After you just insulted me in my own theater?
MA: Your theater? Are you working cinema security too?
FORD: No, I run this place. I’m the manager!
MA: That’s a role I could see you playing.
FORD: You call me old again I’m sending Schwarzenegger after you!
MA: I guess he’s getting sensitive in his old a— eh hem. Moving right along.
Wesley Snipes isn’t bad, and he’s in a bunch of scenes, but like the rest of the cast he definitely would have benefitted from a better script. Dolph Lundgren doesn’t need a good script as he just can stand there and look menacing, which he does again here to great effect. Randy Couture also fares pretty well, but Terry Crews’ screen time is greatly reduced. Kelsey Grammer lumbers through a throwaway role as Bonaparte, the man who assembles Stallone’s new team.
Mel Gibson gets the best lines in the movie, and he chews up the scenery as the main baddie, although sadly, he’s not given much to do other than get in Stallone’s face and tell him all the awful things he’s going to do to him. But the thing is, when Gibson says all these menacing lines, he’s damned believable. If only his character Stonebanks had been worthy of his performance.
Antonio Banderas as Galgo is supposed to be the comic relief in the movie. The running gag is that no one wants Galgo on their team because he never stops talking, but this is hardly funny. Banderas seems to be having a great time throughout, but it’s such a strange role, I just never got it. It would have made more sense had the character been one of the newbies. Why would Ross be interested in an older agent who obviously couldn’t make it on a team when he was shunning his own proven team of veterans? Banderas’ goofy personality just doesn’t fit in with the tone of the rest of the movie.
The newbies were so underdeveloped they’re hardly worth mentioning. Kellan Lutz [from the TWILIGHT movies and THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (2014)] probably made the biggest impression as Smilee, the man who sees himself as Ross’ possible successor. Glen Powell as Thorn and Victor Ortiz as Mars are pretty much interchangeable and they do very little. Ronda Rousey stands out as Luna, since she’s the only woman on the team, and she’s certainly an eye full, but when even she doesn’t make much of an impression, that tells you how weak this movie is.
THE EXPENDABLES 3 also features a completely ludicrous third act. When the cavalry arrives to rescue Stallone’s captured newbies, they find themselves taking on an entire army, which Mel Gibson’s Stonebanks has at his disposal. And so we’re supposed to believe that this small group can outgun and outlast an army? I don’t think so.
And unlike in THE EXPENDABLES 2 which featured a climactic bout between Stallone and Van Damme that was worth the price of admission on its own, the climactic showdown here between Stallone and Gibson is somewhat of a dud. I expected much, much more.
This is also the first movie in the series to be rated PG-13, as the first two were rated R, which means people in this movie get to be shot, blown up, and beaten without shedding a single drop of blood. Some may argue that this is a step up from fake looking CGI blood.
Yet, in spite of all these problems, it’s difficult for me to hate a movie featuring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, and Wesley Snipes, and so no I didn’t hate this one. These guys can still entertain, even in a bad movie, and THE EXPENDABLES 3, sorry to say, is a bad movie. It’s lifted by its star power, which is the only reason I’m giving this one more than one knife.
I give it a lackluster two knives.
Well, that’s it for now. I’m off to see another movie.
(A grenade lands at his feet.)
(There is a huge explosion, and when the dust clears, MA is still standing there.)
MA: This is one time I’m happy about a fake looking CGI effect.
(MA exits into the movie theater.)