The good news for the Expendables series is this third installment marks the first to closely resemble a real movie. The two previous films felt more akin to a live telethon with their cavalcade of celebrities performing bit-parts, slapdash and stilted dialogue. There’s character motivation, passable action sequences and an actual reason for the eponymous […]
The good news for the Expendables series is this third installment marks the first to closely resemble a real movie. The two previous films felt more akin to a live telethon with their cavalcade of celebrities performing bit-parts, slapdash and stilted dialogue. There’s character motivation, passable action sequences and an actual reason for the eponymous mercenaries to lay siege to the barren third-world locale of its finale (here named Azmanistan, whose initial pronunciation made me believe it to be the first country ever named after a license plate from Seinfeld). Even so, it closely resembles a bad movie – which, while a step up from the truly dire first two entries in this series, makes this passable only to less-discerning action aficionados out there.
There are people trying here, which is more than you could say of the ensemble previously. Newly introduced to the series, Wesley Snipes, Kelsey Grammer and Antonio Banderas (who appears to be playing some sort of Charles Bronson by way of Looney Tunes hybrid and is the best thing the film has to offer by a wide margin) all acquit themselves nicely and give a game effort in the name of gleeful nonsense. Mel Gibson also does nice work as the film’s heavy (with a character name like Conrad Stonebanks, how could he not be?), reminding us of his capabilities as an actor when he’s engaged with the material instead of spewing racial epithets. Less fortunate is Harrison Ford’s turn in the role vacated by Bruce Willis before filming, a performance that actually made me cringe at several points, none more so than when he bellows “Drummer in the house!” in a standard action movie bit of cutaway-quipppery, a bit of embarrassment akin to the comedy trope of a hip, rapping grandma.
The plot is standard issue, with Stallone’s leader dropping his previous Expendables to hire new, young Expendables to go after a former Expendable. It seems silly for a man whose occupation’s glib approach to death is highlighted right in its very name to suddenly develop fears of mortality for the rest of his crew, but it’s something, a claim that could not be applied to his character development previously. The youngsters who comprise his new squad of killers are almost uniformly bland (the only standout is Glen Powell, with UFC star Ronda Rousey’s inability to approximate humanity with her line deliveries as Luna, making Cynthia Rothrock look like Laurence Olivier by comparison). The action is cleanly captured by new Director Patrick Hughes, although there still isn’t much in the way of memorable set pieces that will leave you buzzing, just decent stunt work and decipherable geography (what a difference understanding where characters are in relation to one another makes!), but this ever-so-slight step forward in quality suggests we finally might get the orgiastic ’80s action celebration we’ve been promised by this series sometime around the release of Ex10dables.