The Expendables 3 – 2014

Director Patrick Hughes
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Kelsey Grammer, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Robert Davi, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Screenplay by Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Sylvester Stallone

The first two episodes of this series went down the toilet bowl. The first was a decent attempt at creating a story with some bad dialogue and some (mainly Rourke’s) good. The second one was so horrible, I thought it was a vengeful stab at the Amurica (read: Michael Bay fans). There were no plans to even watch this film. Until I stared at the cover and I saw Harrison Ford. Then Mel Gibson – playing the bad guy, no less. I had to see if, at the very least, their moments were worth watching, like Rourke’s had been.

What I discovered was a genuine surprise. There is an actual competent story here, and it’s executed with some skill. The acting, on the whole, is the best of the series, with the standouts being the aforementioned Ford, Gibson and Kelsey Grammer as well. The new team is actually fun to watch, too, especially Lutz and Powell.

The actual intent of the series has always been presented as a bunch of action legends having some fun on the screen. That is all well and good, but Burt Reynolds and his friends were having some fun on the Cannonball Run films and Sandler and his pals too, in the Grown Ups series. Those movies suck because no one really gives a crap about a story or even competent camera work. Stallone’s first two Expendables were the same kinds of crapfests. It’s one thing to make a movie that’s really a paid vacation for your cast and crew. It’s another thing to make that vacation an agonizing labor for your audience.

The basic premise is the main team, (meaning the one with guys over 40, including Statham, Lundgren and Snipes) has a bad outing, almost getting Crews killed. Stallone’s Barney decides after all of these dangerous missions, this one, where he goes up against his old Expendables partner Conrad Stonebanks (played up by a scenery chewing Gibson) is too dangerous for his buddies, so he puts them on the shelf. Then he goes to visit Grammer to recruit a new team, because…inexperience helps?

The new team actually captures Gibson, but before one can say “tracking device” the tables have turned. Barney escapes, shoots a few bad guys with his tiny gun, and then he begins the process of preparing to save the new guys, when lo and behold, the old team shows up to help bail him out. Dumb as it seems, Hughes direction is so crisp the movie actually works.

The action scenes are almost entirely thought out with a thread of logic to them. There are several Gimli / Legolas back and forths that are well done and add personality to all the fighting. Seeing Lutz on a motorbike taking on tanks works better than you’d imagine.

It also helps that the dialogue is not terrible, for once. Or maybe it is, but Grammer, Ford, Gibson and even Banderas have such personal cache, it feels smoother. Stallone doesn’t even bug me, and we get not one, but two “Choppa” references out of Schwarzeneggar.  Even one complete “Get to the choppa!” What took them so long?

As for the film being PG-13, it’s done well enough that it doesn’t even matter. Sure, no trip wire decapitating for all the guys on top of the train at first, but I’d rather have dialogue approaching reality than more blood.

If you don’t like action, don’t see this. It won’t change your mind on the genre. If you have, like me, been generally disappointed with the first two films in the series, but like many of the actors contained herein, give this one a shot. I think you’ll like it.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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