Monday, August 18, 2014
FILM REVIEW: The Expendables 3 (2014)
I'm pretty sure everyone my age is still caught up in the new TMNT flick and Guardians of the Galaxy, because my fiance and I sat in the back row of an empty theater Saturday, the only other people in the whole showing were five or six people who were all geriatric. I would be lying if I said that I expected much from this installment in the Expendables series, but I'm at the very least pleased that it's better then the dreadful 2012 sequel. You have to understand who these films are aimed at in order to truly appreciate them. If you still have a knack for 80's cheesy action motion pictures (the way that I do with 80's horror) with a cliche plot full of no story and tends to be overly loud, then the good news is that you'll more than likely "dig" this. So when watching, try to put on your 'I have to remember to forgive all these flaws I'm about to see because it's a senseless action flick' glasses (that they don't give you with your ticket purchase), so you can take it in properly. Unfortunately, I left my glasses at home...
The Expendables 3 takes no time getting into the action, and introduces us to the first of many new faces, Wesley Snipes. Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team of missionaries hijack a prisoner transport to rescue Doctor (Doc) Death (Snipes), a long-lost team member and friend to Barney who's been imprisoned after a botched political assassination years ago. And rather than take Doc home and let him relax and breathe some fresh air, they take him straight onto a job stopping an arms deal in Somalia. Putting it short and sweet, the mission doesn't go as planned, and on top of Caesar (Terry Crews) getting fatally wounded, it's revealed that the rich and cocky arms dealer is Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a man Barney had thought he killed some time ago. After Caesar gets hospitalized, Barney (out of guilt) decides to break up the Expendables team due to all of them pushing the age limit of mastering their craft. CIA Operative, Drummer (Harrison Ford) finds Stonebanks' location (Romania) and gives Barney one more chance to catch him. So, Barney seeks the help of Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer), who uses his connections to find and recruit a new team of younger mercenaries consisting of Luna (Ronda Rousey), a bouncer at a nightclub with unprecedented hand to hand combat skills, Smilee (Kellan Lutz), a rebel who's an ex-Marine, Mars (Victor Ortiz), a weapons master, and Thorn (Glen Powell), a computer tech with top notch hacking skills. They're all badasses, however, due to the new recruits being somewhat inexperienced, they all get captured in Barney's second attempt at taking down Stonebanks. This is when we learn that Stonebanks was once a fellow brother to Barney, and an Expendable who was removed for becoming too dark in his ways. Barney decides to go after Stonebanks and rescue his new crew by himself in a vigilante mission, but the new character Galgo (Antonio Banderas), practically begs to help despite being turned down upon their first meeting with Bonaparte. We get some backstory on him and learn that he's a tortured soul who's incredibly lonely. As the two set out to go after Stonebanks one final time, the old timers and fellow Expendables (from the first two films) who were currently booted by Barney, insist on joining the mission as well in an attempt to bail Barney out of his current predicament. Add to that, Drummer, Trench (Schwarzenegger), and Ying Yang (Jet Li) join the fight as well. The last 20 minutes straight is nothing but balls to the wall action. Once the newer team members are rescued, they find themselves lead into a building rigged to blow up, but they can't leave because a small army under the orders of Stonebanks surround the building and begin the climatic war. I'd love to see if one day someone can count how many rounds are fired throughout this scene, because there's so much gun usage it's crazy. That's not all though, because there are helicopters, motor bikes, knives, and straight up brawls, and army tanks involved as well. As expected, the final bout of violence comes from Barney and Stonebanks' inevitable face-off, in which Barney wins (of course). The film ends with all of the Expendables at a bar, drinking and chatting, in an attempt to end on a relaxing note after the hellish fight they've all just survived.
Unlike the second movie in this series, I liked the action scenes a lot. Especially at the end when Smilee is driving the motor bike while facing off in combat. The way he weaves in and out of danger is nothing less than impressive, and very good on the eyes. I'd even use the word "thrilling". There's better action in this film than in the previous two installments, it's obvious. And, I'd be a liar if I said that I didn't like that. It's a very fun and senseless flick that's an easy watch if you're in the mood to let your brain relax while being entertained. My favorite part of the whole film, is by far Mel Gibson's character of Conrad Stonebanks. I feel that he's the only actor that actually really tried, and I applaud him for that. Even though it's a no sense action movie, Gibson brought a performance that none of the other actors could even attempt to match. He simply dominates the screen. The scene in the helicopter when he's captured by the new recruits is the first and only scene in the movie where I felt real danger, and he's handcuffed! The intensity behind his menacing (yet cool) performance and the delivery of his threatening dialogue really takes the movie to a new level. Stonebanks sitting there defenseless was more entertaining to me than all of the explosions and firepower combined, because I felt a promising imminence with his character. He's definitely to The Expendables 3 what Micky Rourke was to the first one. Most notably, I was relieved that Conrad Stonebanks was a good villain and got decent screen time, and wasn't wasted like Jean-Claude Van Damme's character in the sequel. It really sucks that the performances by Mel Gibson and Micky Rourke stand out like sore thumbs in this series, because it almost makes their acting a wasted effort.
Unfortunately, there's a lot about this movie that I don't like, such as the acting. I only laughed once at Antonio Banderas, and found him to be annoying. I didn't like the character too much. And, we all know that Stallone and Jason Statham are the same characters in every movie they're in, and the same can be said for Schwarzenegger for the most part too. Not to mention that the rest of the cast aren't very convincing either, though Wesley Snipes is pretty decent and does a better job than most. Wesley Snipes joins the story right before Terry Crews gets taken out (due to being shot and all), so I find it funny and ironic that the only African American on the entire team gets taken out and replaced with another. Crews has always been my favorite character in these movies, so I was a bit bummed to see him out of action in this one. Ronda Rousey's acting mostly relied on facial expressions, and when she talks it's borderline painful. She's new to the acting gig, so I can't slam her too hard for it, but I'm not going to lie and praise her either. The typical one-liners from everyone don't do much for me either, and cheapens the cinematic experience. However, Schwarzenegger does say his signature "get to da choppa!" line, and I forgive that one because it's classic (laugh). But aside from the acting and one-liners, what really bugs me the most is the lack of threat this movie and it's predecessors provide. A friggin' bomb goes off two feet away from the entire team and they walk away with some cuts and bruises. They don't so much as have their arm hair singed, it's completely unbelievable and it angers me, because there is potential in these flicks. Can you imagine if Barney or Christmas were to get seriously disfigured? It'd make for a very compelling revenge story that people could buy into. I'm just over the whole invincibility thing. The fact that audiences know everyone is safe does not help the movie one iota. Quite frankly it's lame, and prevents me from buying into most scenes of intensity, because I know that the good guys will live, yadda yadda yadda, (yawn). Not one member of the major cast or crew die, they don't even get injured outside of Caesar. If these movies were to be taken more seriously like the newest 007 flicks and other action thrillers like The Bourne Identity, I think they'd go over far better. As it is now they're kinda stupid, and full of stuff we've seen before. Having a long list of known names as the cast doesn't count for much if the plot is something you've seen a dozen times and there's nothing new or innovative about anything else at all. I don't know about other people, but I'm not going to bow down and be grateful just for the fact that these stars are on a the big screen. I still expect them to act and show me something worth my ticket admission. And lastly, I'm appalled that this movie got a PG-13 rating, but not because the first two were rated R. Yeah, PG-13 films of this caliber generally are idiotic, but the real travesty is that countless people die, and I mean countless. For this to be given a PG-13 rating when there's so many on screen deaths and murders is complete BS. Gore or not, when you watch tons of people killed via guns, knives, bombs, or whatever, it crosses the line and needs to be rated R. It's the same case with Taken 2. No gore can only get you so far, and when there are (what seems like) hundreds of people being killed, it should no longer be a PG-13 flick. That's way too much death and violence for younger crowds to see, and I find it offensive that this got a PG-13 rating and yet Clerks almost got an X rating just for language. However, that's an issue to take up with the MPAA, I can't blame this movie for the rating some idiots gave it. But that doesn't mean that it's a worthy or fitting rating, because this is an R rated picture, even without blood. This is the first film in recent memory that has a rating that I dislike more than the actual movie.
I'm conflicted when weighing the pros and cons of this movie and those before it, because I understand who it's aimed at, I just don't buy into it. I wish I could sit back and just pretend that explosions and loud noises are all it takes to entertain me, but I expect and want more. I'm not so easily satisfied. And after seeing the lack of acting (and effort to even try) for a third time in a row, I can't say that I'll be seeing the fourth one. I think it's time to officially cut this lose (dead) end and move on. I can say that I wholeheartedly tried to like this series and gave it a fair shot, but it's just not for me. I see the appeal in it, and I wish I could enjoy it, but it's not going to happen. I'll never be able to not pick apart virtually everything about them, including continuity errors and lack of storytelling. I'm all for the action, but it doesn't work for me in a plot a child could have written. Seeing the Expendables has become somewhat of a tradition on my birthday, because they're always released mid August. Two years ago, I saw the sequel opening weekend, which was also the weekend of my birthday. Same thing goes for last weekend. So it's a shame that I have to pull the plug on this tradition, because I like the idea of having an annual sequel I see on or around my birthday. But I've gotta cut my losses and move on, I guess. If I do see the next one, it will be a cheap rental at a Redbox because I'm done with spending serious money on tickets for this series (as it seems everyone else is too since it only made $16 million this weekend and opened in fourth place. Ouch). For those out there who get into these flicks, I commend you and would recommend this, I just wish I could enjoy them too. I really want to, I just can't.