Film and TV

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
The Expendables 3

Title: The Expendables 3: The Snipening

Best One-Liner That Actually Might Have Come From an '80s Action Movie: "I *am* the Hague."

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two Roger Murtaughs out of five:

Brief Plot Synopsis: Elite mercenary team hunt rogue arms dealer that used to be one of their own.

Tagline: "New team. New attitude. New mission."

Better Tagline: "Thanks to HGH, Viagra, and Just for Men, you're *never* too old for this shit."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: When venerable mercenary Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) led his team to take down an a vicious warlord, he had *no idea* it would end up being ex-Expendable Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). Now a billionaire arms dealer, Stonebanks poses such a threat that Ross disbands his old team -- including Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes), an original member freed in the opening sequence -- and seeks fresh meat young blood, including troubled ex-SEAL Smilee (Kellen Lutz), former soldiers Thorn (Glen Powell) and Mars (Victor Ortiz), and ... night club bouncer Luna (Ronda Rousey). Of course, when things go awry, Ross is forced to rely on both old teammates and new allies to get Stonebanks once and for all.

"Critical" Analysis: The first Expendables was an understandable (to a certain subset of the population anyway) exercise: reunite some of the greatest action movie heroes of yore (and some other guys) for one last spin. The result was sloppy yet occasionally gratifying. Expendables 2 upped the original's ante, bringing in more aging talent. Some argued adding Chuck Norris, who insisted on bringing the movie's rating down to PG-13, was a mistake. This is America, after all, and Americans like to say "fuck."

I'm not sure that sort of thing matters when we're looking at a body count on the order of the Battle of Verdun in each of these movies, but take it up with the MPAA.

Of greater concern is the fact these movies look unbelievably cheap. Expendables 3 was made for $90 million, which sounds like a lot except for the fact every (Western) action star from the last 30 years is in it (except that greedy Bruce Willis). Bad CGI and cheap-ass pyrotechnics -- including the same shot of the same tank shell hitting the same building at least four times -- are the price you pay.

And at times, the sheer tonnage of actors crammed in to the third installment (including Schwarzenegger again and Harrison Ford as CIA officer/helicopter pilot Max Drummer) and the very nostalgia for the glory days Stallone counts on ends up working against it, forcing your mind to wander back to previous Sly pairings. Some good (Demolition Man), some not (Assassins), and some GREAT (Rocky IV).

Even more unforgivable is the relative paucity of action. After the initial firefight, nearly an hour goes by before the violence resumes. In the interim, we're introduced to what amounts to Expendables: The Next Generation. Admittedly, boxer Ortiz and MMA fighter Rousey do show sparks of personality, while Lutz continues the imitation of an animated heavy bag we came to know and love in that Hercules movie. No, the other one.

Gibson is one of the lone bright spots, and I kind of hate that I'm saying that. Stallone's eyes, as they've been for years, are predictably dead. Gibson's, on the other hand, practically glitter with reptilian glee as he revels in a career resurgence that looks like it's going to be a decade-long heel turn. And fortunately, Stallone's script (with help from the folks who wrote Olympus Has Fallen, woo hoo) gives him multiple opportunities to explain his evil plan.

It soon becomes apparent who Stallone's favorites are (and you can infer it pretty easily from the movie poster): Statham (returning as Lee Christmas, presumably no relation to Lloyd), Snipes, and Rousey, still the lone female Expendable after three movies. I was worried for a bit that Rousey wouldn't get to show her stuff, but she doesn't disappoint, and her prowess make the inevitable Stallone/Gibson wrinkle-off look like two scrotums being banged together. Snipes, perhaps unsurprisingly, appears to be having the most fun of all subbing for Hale Caesar (Terry Crews). I guess they're only allowed one black guy per mission. I also don't get the point of including Jet Li and Randy Couture if all you're going to let them do is shoot guns.

Other than that, everything you were expecting is here: Stallone's veins, Ford's glower, Statham's ... Stathamness. Arnie does get to say, "Lets get to the choppah!", and there's a mildly amusing bit where Drummer pretends(?) not to be able to understand Christmas' British accent. Oh, and Kelsey Grammer is here as well, earning a college fund for his 6th kid. That may be enough to earn your money, but honestly, after three movies I was hoping for something a little less ... expectable?

The Expendables 3 is in theaters today. Yes, that is Neil Young's "Old Man" playing in the final scene. Apparently Stallone is still managing his own soundtracks.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar