“The Expendables 3” is surprisingly watchable. Considering the picture was preceded by two lackluster installments, I’d say that’s the highest praise a movie called “The Expendables 3” can get.
The problem with the overall concept of the “Expendables” franchise — started back in 2010 — is that you can’t gather the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham and practically every other ‘80s and ‘90s action star and a few from the 2000s and expect a good movie to just materialize around them.
To no one’s surprise, without a good script and good direction, it’s not all that fun to watch a bunch of aging action figures try to fight bad guys and tiredly spout cliché dialogue to one another.
“The Expendables 3” is still better than both of its predecessors, but that still doesn’t make it great or even that good. The main reason it does somewhat work are the new additions to the cast who pop in and out of the movie: A common game to play during an “Expendables” picture is “Guess that Actor” — it takes your mind off the boring, laborious attempts at plot.
The main theme running through the entire “Expendables” franchise is that the old guys still got it. In this one, however, Expendables leader, Barney (Stallone), thinks that his current team — made up of Statham, Lundgren, retired UFC fighter Randy Couture — is too old to take on ex-Expendable and current villain, Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). So he recruits a newer, younger team.
The main problem with “The Expendables 3”: The “in with the new, out with the old” plot is just one big, tedious contrivance. The whippersnappers will get captured and then Stallone will need to get the old team back together.
To make things worse, director Patrick Hughes and writers Creighton Rothenberger, Stallone and Katrin Benedikt try to add too much weight to it. There’s a lengthy montage showing the recently expelled Expendables looking sad in bars or hotel rooms.
As the main character of the franchise, the aging “Rocky” and “Rambo” star is easily the most boring member of the team. In fact all, of the core members of the team are bores to watch. And to make things even worse we’re subjected to a 15-to 20-minute sequence in which the young recruits are hastily introduced.
But then there are those new cast members. Some like Kelsey Grammer are amusing to watch, but once they’re off the screen, you completely forget about them.
Then there are the great ones, like Wesley Snipes. From the minute he comes on screen, he embraces the campy spirit of the franchise that a majority of the actors don’t. His pronunciation of the phrase “Dang-a-lang” and his arrogant confidence are fantastic to watch.
Antonio Banderas also excels as a chatty, annoying, older mercenary, while Gibson — playing his second cartoony villain in a row — chews plenty of scenery.
And then there’s Harrison Ford. In some scenes, he looks tired and not happy to be there — almost like a production assistant is holding his script off-screen so he can read it. But during the massive climactic battle in a ruined city, he manages to have some fun.
The screenplay is still full of tired, cliché dialogue, and even on the third outing, the cast just doesn’t have the banter-y chemistry they should have. (For great action movie chemistry, watch David Ayers’ “Sabotage” from earlier this year.) “The Expendables 3” isn’t the horrible experience you’d expect it to be — the new additions to the cast — sans the whippersnappers — are to be thanked for that.