The Expendables 3.
Having rescued a former member of the team from a heavily guarded train, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and the Expendables move onto their next mission, but there is far more awaiting them than they expected. Sent to knock off an international arms dealer, Barney is stunned to find out who the dealer actually is. His name is Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a former member of the Expendables and a co-founder of the group with Barney who's long been believed dead after going rogue from the group. The team is all shot up and not in a good place to go after Stonebanks, but Barney wants nothing more than revenge on his former partner turned lunatic enemy. He sees the writing on the wall though and doesn't want to see his fellow mercenaries get killed in the process. Instead of going forward, Barney disbands the group and assembles a younger group of fiery mercenaries looking to prove themselves. Can they get the job done and not get killed in the process?
The first two Expendables movies are far from perfect, but the second one was definitely better than the first. Things were allowed to breathe a little bit and some fun characters were added to the mix. This third entry struggled at the box office, some attributing that to a PG-13 rating instead of an R-rating while others pointed to a bootleg getting a release weeks before the wide release. You know what? WHO CARES?!? These are movies meant for action-hungry fans who love over the top shootouts, a ridiculously cool cast, one-liner one after another, and villains you just love to hate. Nothing groundbreaking for director Patrick Hughes' film, but it is most assuredly not trying to break any new ground. Having written the screenplay for the first two, Stallone again handles that department and doesn't disappoint.
Stallone will never be accused of writing anything Shakespearean or all-time classic, but who the f*** cares? The man knows how to write a good, old-fashioned shoot 'em up, dammit! He tried to accomplish a lot with the first two flicks, but here? Here?!? It's like he challenged himself to amp things up to even more ridiculous levels. Much of the cast returns with quite a few BIG names joining the mix. It's a longer movie than its predecessors (126 minutes) and features a ton of action from the word 'Go.' It isn't a great movie, but 'Expendables' is damn entertaining. I watched it with a smile on my face and thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. All Stallone wants to do is to put something out there that audiences WANT to see, and I love him for it. About as good as a movie like this can get.
The ensemble and action out of this world star power is at an all-time action high, but the guts of the movie remains that men on a mission, mercenary tough guy mindset. It starts of course with Stallone's Barney and Statham's Lee, bitching and moaning at each other like an old married couple. Those scenes provide some good laughs while also offering some background about the history of the Expendables. Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews and Randy Couture are back too with Jet Li only appearing in the final 20 minutes in nothing more than an extended cameo. I still feel like people were surprised by how well the Expendables movies did in theaters. For years before the movies there were rumors of all the 1980s/1990s action stars who were interested in starring only to drop out. Since then, a long list of stars have made appearances leaving Lundgren, Crews, Couture and Li with little to nothing to do. Oh, that Arnold Schwarzenegger fella is around too, chomping on cigars and even yelling "Get to the chopper!" How can you lose with that happening?
So Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme weren't enough, huh? The casting gets taken to crazy levels here. Gibson is a great addition to the series, his Stonebanks a perfectly evil, sinister, growling villain, injecting a ton of energy. I need more! Replacing Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford is an easy cool as Drummer, the team's CIA holder of sorts. Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas join the Expendables too because...well, why the hell not? Both look to be having a lot of fun in parts that let them ham it up some (or for Banderas, A LOT). As for the new, fresh Expendables, there's Kellan Lutz (former Marine, favors a motorcycle), Ronda Rousey (hand-to-hand specialist), Glen Powell (tech) and Victor Ortiz (weapons). The younger group isn't as interesting, but their inclusion to the story is more of a means to an end. Kelsey Grammer plays Bonaparte, Barney's mercenary recruiter, the recruiting scene something right out of The Magnificent Seven or countless other men on a mission movies.
Look, there's no point in analyzing the action. It's good, but obviously not as bloody or as graphic as an R-rated version would have been. Blood or not, the body count that piles up is downright gratuitous. The finale alone is ridiculous with every action cliche ever invented seemingly on display. Stallone vs. Gibson, thousands of bullets flying, Lutz doing his best Steve McQueen/Great Escape impression, Ford flying overhead in a helicopter with Schwarzenegger as his machine gunner, and that's just the start. As an action fan, it's almost too much....eh, not really. It's awesome and just a blast to watch. From the action to the cast, the mercenaries busting each other and seeing who's the best, the old vs. new school, the great villain, it is a hell of a lot of fun. An easy-going mess of a movie that I loved throughout. Here's a closing thought to process.
Late in the movie, a helicopter is loaded with some of the most iconic action heroes ever. We're talking Rambo/Rocky, Han Solo/Indiana Jones, the Terminator, Blade, the Transporter, Ivan Drago, and Desperado all flying along. Oh, and Braveheart is below chasing after them. It's just too much to take in! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!
The Expendables 3 (2014): *** 1/2 /****