(Scored out of ten; below 5 = not worth seeing, 6 = OK, 7 = good, 8 = great, 9 = fantastic, 10 = next to perfect)
The third installment in The Expendables franchise brings the same bombast and humor as its predecessors. Unfortunately, that means it also brings the same faults along as well. An overcrowded cast and a redundant, paper thin story line once again bog down what could be a great time at the theater.
The story follows a similar path as its predecessors but does add a nice twist here and there to try and differentiate it at least in part. The film opens to an intense action sequence where Stallone and his band of 80’s action stars breaks a former Expendable out of a mobile train prison. The prisoner in question happens to be Wesley Snipes, a combat medic with a penchant for one liners. Snipes brings a ton of personality to an admittedly tired cast. With quips left and right, his unique brand of action and a few jokes at his real life misadventures, Snipes is one of the best parts of this aged franchise.
Once they manage to release Wesley an old friend of Stallone’s, Stonebags (played by Mel Gibson), manages to critically injure the team causing Stallone to question whether or not his group of over the hill mercenaries still has what it takes to get the job done. After he forces his squad into retirement (and sending a freshly released Snipes to the sidelines) he seeks out a recruiter (Kelsey Grammar) to aid him in his search for young blood and complete his revenge quest on old Stonebags. Grammar adds some fresh sarcasm into the mix but the only scenes he is in are exposition heavy and clunkily handled. Its 20 minutes of ham-fisted introductions to the newest members of the team, for a film meant to be action heavy and fast paced this slows things down quite a bit and loses a majority of the momentum it built with the train sequence.
The newcomers themselves are nothing to write home about either. With so much time dedicated to bringing them into the fold you would figure they would play an important role, instead they just add bodies to the already stacked cast. The new recruits, Ronda Rousey, Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell, are set up as the next generation of Expendables but they never get any development time and tend to blend in with the rest of the cast once the explosions start going off. However, there is one new recruit that stands out above the rest. It just so happens that this recruit is just as old as the original Expendables.
Antonio Banderas plays a washed up merc that can’t find a purpose in life outside of killing people. He is hilariously talkative and brings a sense of youth the youngest members of the team ironically lack. Banderas is nimble, quick and more than likely afflicted with ADHD but is a shining beacon in an ensemble full of flickering candles. Had he been more of a focus he, alongside Snipes, would have provided a consistently funny action film worthy of what this franchise symbolizes.
Mel Gibson, the final new face worth noting, plays a deliciously sadistic villain. a former Expendable turned crime lord, Stonebags relishes in punishing his former team and doesn’t even blink when it comes to killing someone, even a member of his own group. Its a shame that he is in so little of the film. Appearing once at the beginning of the film, once at the middle and finally at the end to throw-down with Stallone. His standout sequence comes after he is captured by Barney and the new guys. This isn’t an intense physical scene but the way Gibson gets across how deranged he is and how logical his line of thinking is goes a long way in making the character interesting and believable. After this monologue the script turns him into a cackling psychopath that watches monitors until its time to fight in the finale. Had they chosen to trim down the fat and stick to the characters with relevance The Expendables 3 would have been all the better for it.
All the nit picks aside the film still offers a decent time. Like the previous films it’s cool to see these old action heroes tearing it up once again. The novelty of the idea is getting old but the nostalgia factor hasn’t completely withered. With cameos by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Harrison Ford, a plethora of nods to 80’s actioners and interesting set pieces at the beginning and end of the film The Expendables 3 is far from the worst thing at the theater, it just could have been so much more.
Stallone will have to look further than adding a bunch of kids to spice up this franchise in future installments but The Expendables aren’t completely out of gas. New additions like Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas add a flare that the series desperately needed, more attention to characters like them will keep this film series relevant with audiences. But for now, we will have to do with an all too similar, yet still enjoyable set up.
Overall I give this film a 6\10