The Expendables 3 (2014) Movie Review: Flawed Yet Entertaining

Movie buffs (including yours truly) who grew up watching Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis amongst other stars had always wished for that one great action movie which would see all these stars in one single frame.  Sylvester Stallone knew this would be a great idea and he came up with The Expendables franchise – the ultimate action film one hoped for which saw Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Dolph Lundgren amongst a host of other action stars sharing screen space.  It also used the nostalgia trump card in its favour and gave the aforementioned stars (most of who by then were past their glory days at the box office) a chance for a comeback. The Expendables movies so far have had a common plot line – a group of mercenaries doing dirty jobs for CIA who take on a common villain and walk away in style after saving the day.

expThe Expendables 3 too has a similar plot point. Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team have a new member this time Doc (Wesley Snipes) besides the old members such as Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll Road (Randy Couture).  After a failed mission to take down Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) an arms dealer in Somalia and an old member of the Expendables team who was presumed dead, Ross is forced to reconsider his priorities. The CIA boss Max Drummer (Harrison Ford) gives Ross a final chance to apprehend Stonebanks.  Ross appoints a bunch of youngsters in the team to bring down Stonebanks as he feels the existing members are not capable enough anymore to achieve this task. The plot culmination that follows thereafter should not be tough to predict.

Like the first two parts, The Expendables 3 sees the inclusion of new members in the cast.  Prominent among them are Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas as new members of the Expendables team and Mel Gibson as the bad guy. The opening scene which sees the Expendables team rescue Snipes from a high security prison is well done and sets the tone for the rest of the film. Snipes is quite a scene stealer in the initial scenes as the weird and funny Doc but doesn’t have much to do as the film progresses.  As an individual who is desperate to join the Expendables team, Banderas shows some great comic timing and is a welcome addition to this old school team, although he goes overboard in a few scenes.

The young members of the Expendables team which includes Mars (Victor Ortiz), a computer hacker named Thorn (Glen Powell), a martial artist named Luna (Ronda Rousey) and Smilee (Kellan Lutz) are listless to say the least. Despite showing great agility in the actions scenes, they fail to create any impact.  A substantial 20 minutes of the film is dedicated to Stallone scouting for these young recruits and the introductory scenes of these new characters, which unnecessarily prolongs the film.

In my opinion, The Expendables 2 was almost the perfect action film we all longed for.  Much credit for that went to director Simon West who ensured that the film had a right mix of action, self deprecating humour and adequate screen time for most of the actors.

Much like the earlier films, the film is peppered with action and self deprecating humour which makes the film largely enjoyable.  Director Patrick Hughes however fails to give ample screen space to many of the actors in the film. I fail to understand that why has Jet Li been given a raw deal in all the 3 movies so far? This time even Arnold appears in very few scenes throughout the film.

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One understands that The Expendables movie franchise is the brainchild of Sylvester Stallone.  Understandably, all the Expendables movies so far have given him top billing with Statham amongst others giving him adequate support.  The goodwill of Stallone has also perhaps ensured inclusion of all the stars in the Expendables movies so far.  While Stallone still shows great agility and is in top form, it still becomes quite tiresome to watch Stallone largely dominate the proceedings while the other actors are given rather unequal footage.  Remember this is supposed to be a multistarrer action movie and not a one man action vehicle?

The intent to attain a PG-13 rating (which has become the bane of many action films in recent times) is also visible and robs the action scenes of its grittiness including the final fight between Stallone and Gibson which is a disappointing to say the least.

As the villain, Mel Gibson seems to be enjoying himself and gives a good performance as the sinister ex-member of the Expendables team. Harrison Ford who comes in place of Bruce Willis (who apparently ditched the third installment on being denied a fatter paycheck) as the CIA Boss gets his moment of glory in the action packed finale.

Despite the shortcomings, The Expendables 3 is an entertaining action fare which remains faithful to the overall idea of the franchise. However, if a fourth part is being planned, some freshness and innovative ideas need to be brought into the franchise to retain its charm.

Quite a lot of stars are still there, who can be a welcome addition to the franchise such as Kurt Russell, John Travolta, Nicholas Cage, Ray Liotta and Dwayne Johnson amongst others. However giving them adequate footage and justifying their presence is one herculean task and one hopes the franchise ready to live up to this challenge in its next offering.

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