“The Expendables 3” isn’t in the “it is what it is” category. It is in the “what the hell are they thinking” category. This movie actually manages to be boring while firing off about 84 explosions and using 3,000 shells of ammunition. What kind of movie suddenly plops Jet Li, one of the greatest martial arts action stars ever, into the mix and does not have him actually, y’know, use those martial art skills?
The actual plot of “The Expendables 3” has a decent setup for something that is essentially a tribute to 1980s action movies. Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his gang of Expendables are after an arms dealer that is selling deadly weapons to several completely fictional evil governments from countries that have names that all end in “stan” or “ibad”. This is done to not lay blame at a real country and also so that the names sound scary.
Before the gang can go after this evil dude, they need to break one of the original Expendables out of a black site prison in yet another made up place. The first 15 minutes of the movie are a preposterous train chase featuring Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and Toll Road (Randy Couture) hanging from a helicopter with Barney piloting it.
Their pal is Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes), who gets to deliver one of the few memorable action one line zingers in “The Expendables 3”. When asked why he was imprisoned, Doc’s answer is two words that should bring the entire house down: “Tax evasion”.
That is genius. However, the rest of the movie is not. Once Barney cuts bait on his old team of, well, old guys and introduces a new, young team, the movie falls to pieces. Not only does it ruin the entire reason for watching this movie (seeing old dudes be funny and be in crazy action sequences), the young actors are so face-palmingly bad.
Ronda Rousey is so horrendous that eye balls could pop out of heads due to over excessive rolling.
Thankfully, a few familiar faces save certain sections of the movie. Kelsey Grammar’s Bonaparte is smugly funny and way more entertaining in a much smaller amount of screen time than he had in the most recent “Transformers” debacle. Harrison Ford pops up, takes a shot at the now absent Bruce Willis, and growls and grumbles a few zingers as Barney’s new CIA handler.
If there was a movie just about Mel Gibson’s evil arms dealer Stonebanks, it would be better than “The Expendables 3”. Gibson has always been great as an anti-hero type, but he puts on his villain pants here and really excels. No matter what you may think of his real persona, there can’t be an argument that he commands a movie screen and his charisma and charm just pour out.
Is there a reason why Sly Stallone isn’t directing these last two movies? The first “Expendables” was actually silly fun and entertaining, mostly because it went all out on violence and didn’t shy away from an R rating. This watered down, non-profanity laced PG-13 debacle is not only cartoonish, but completely unrealistic. Are we supposed to believe that these big burly testosterone laden men aren’t using the F-word on a regular basis?
Director Patrick Hughes is clearly not ready for the big time. Whether it’s his direction or the choppy editing, this is yet another action movie in which it is impossible to tell the landscape of the action. People are falling through floors, jumping from buildings, running all over the place, but you just have no idea where they are or if the laws of physics apply on this alternate Earth reality that “The Expendables 3” has created.
Not only is it overstuffed with characters, it is 126 minutes long. “The Expendables 3” could have just inserted the regular Expendables crew instead of all the annoying young folks, knocked that runtime down about 20 minutes or so, and been a fun, if not stupid, action B-movie homage.
However, if you have $10 to blow on a movie, “The Expendables 3” may be worth it just for three seconds of brilliance. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in all his non-shaven glory, shouts out one of the most beloved (or mocked?) lines that he has ever delivered in a movie. It’s not that it is funny as much as seeing the pure joy on Arnold’s face as he says it.
But one line does not a movie make. “The Expendables 3” is pretty bad. Things blow up, men say manly things then cut each other down in attempts at what normal people call “humor”, then they all laugh and fist bump each other. In fact, this movie should have been called “Bump It: The Movie”.