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The Expendables 3

tn_ex3THE EXPENDABLES 3 is another Expendables movie, like any other. It’s got a cast that indicates it should be the ultimate action movie, but ends up being penultimate at best. It’s a weird mix of satisfying appearance of favorite faces and tropes and disappointing execution of these elements. I call that feeling satisppointment, or expendablation. Just like the others I enjoyed it, but with a nagging feeling that this should be something actually great.

But the first stretch had me thinking it might blow the other ones out of the water. It opens mid-mission as our old Expendapals Barney (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll Road (Randy Couture) are in a chopper chasing after a Russian prison transfer train to bust out an original team member who’s been locked up for 8 years. That prisoner is none other than Wesley The Daywalker Snipes as “Doctor Death,” and it’s an excellent welcome home party for the man. He’s got a crazy beard and hair and a spaced out look in his eye, and instead of going with the rescue party he runs across the train, does a slide and a bunch of acrobatics, kills a bunch of his captors and causes the train to crash into the bastard in charge.

mp_ex3Snipes is funny and crazy and on their next mission his stunt double does a bunch of parkour and he does some Blade type moves and impresses everybody. Wesley is back!

And then immediately after Barney has rehired him as an Expendable he decides to fire all the Expendables because it’s too dangerous and he doesn’t want them to die. Kind of a touching moment, but it means these guys get sidelined for the middle of the movie except to be like Come on Barney, we still want to do it and he’s like No guys and then toward the end they show up again with all their gear and he’s like Okay fine guys what the hell get on the plane. But by that point the movie has forgotten it was exciting to have Wesley and doesn’t give him much to do. In fact, he plays dead for a good chunk of the climactic action sequence.

This is the overall problem with the movie. It keeps getting on the right track to do something really good, but seems to lose interest before sealing the deal. It keeps getting part way to greatness.

Another example is the other big new addition to the cast, Mel Gibson as Stonebanks. When Barney spots their arms dealer target he realizes it’s this guy he knows, who he thought he killed, and he yells “STONEBAAANKS!” Beautiful. A little later there’s a scene where they’ve captured Stonebanks, they have him tied up and they’re talking to him. He’s sarcastic and funny and then he absolutely flips out on Barney, furious about something from their past, and channeling that insane anger that has gotten Gibson into so much trouble in the real world. Mel is back too!

Except then he spends most of the rest of the movie standing in a room watching things on a screen. When he finally decides he has to take care of shit himself, goes to fight Barney in the water and throws his guns aside it is a thrilling moment, but then he doesn’t make due on his promise of one of them snapping the other’s spine, and his (SPOILER) death definitely suffers from a PG-13 lack of blood. Thank God Stallone sends him off with an A+ one-liner that pays homage to his past movies but in a clever and ridiculous way.

That’s the important change from part 2, there are only a couple dialogue references to the actor’s previous movies and real lives and none of them made me embarrassed for them. The tone is just right. They still joke around with each other, but the story feels more serious. When the dangers of their vocation are illustrated by a mostly empty plane and a jingling row of hanging dogtags from deceased team members it actually feels pretty heavy.

In the other ones they bicker back and forth with each other, here they try the conceit of having one spastic character who never shuts up (Antonio Banderas) while all the rest of them are grim and silent. A friend of mine compares Banderas’s intentionally obnoxious character to Jar Jar Binks (the senator from Naboo). I don’t agree, I thought this dynamic was pretty amusing. But my friend also told me heard that was the character that Nic Cage was supposed to play at one time, and when you put it that way yeah, it could’ve been alot funnier.

IMDb trivia claims the part Cage was considered for was Kelsey Grammer’s, which would’ve been a huge waste of his talents. Hopefully he can still play a mega-acting villain in one of these things.

Yeah, Kelsey Grammer is in this one, it’s true.

grammer

But they’re not trying to pretend he’s Rambo. He plays kind of a mercenary scout, the guy Barney goes to for help in putting together a new team. He’s in one sequence where they go from location to location meeting each of the new recruits and he explains who they are (one of the better sequences of action movie tradition in this installment). Grammer is fine for the role, there’s nothing laughable about it, we never see him fire a bazooka or rappel down a building or anything.

I say that in defense of the movie, but actually I would probly prefer if he was more miscast. Seeing Frasier jump off a building onto the pontoon of a helicopter would be pretty good.

Harrison Ford is also in it.

Not wanting to endanger his old friends on a revenge mission, Barney instead hires a new team of younger mercenaries. The only really exciting one is UFC welterweight women’s champion Ronda Rousey as Luna. She gets the most hand-to-hand of anybody in the movie and although it’s filmed too much inside the fight (I’m looking at you second unit director Dan “Paul Greengrass movies and QUANTUM OF SOLACE” Bradley) it’s clear enough to see some good exaggerated grappling moves. The fight choreographer/stunt coordinator is JJ Perry (UNDISPUTED 2, HAYWIRE, BLOOD AND BONE).

Kellan Lutz (THE LEGEND OF RENNY HARLIN’S HERCULES) is the only other Expendayouth that makes an impression at all. He has a pretty charming moment when he sees attackers on motorcycles and smiles because he knows he’s gonna steal one. His character actually gets most of the highlights of the big action finale, my favorite being when he does a huge motorcycle jump and then grabs onto a pole on the side of a building, hangs from one arm and fires a machine gun with the other. Overall the movie needs more of that type of ridiculousness.

More than that though they need to really take a look at each character, make sure to establish what that character’s skill set is, and then make extra sure to work that skill set into the later action scenes in a way that they are all working together as a team to make shit happen. It pains me to say this but they actually should look at a well done team super hero movie like THE AVENGERS or some of the X-MENs to see how this can be done. Or the Thai movie BORN TO FIGHT, the one where a group of athletes use their sports talents to fight off terrorists (they should be watching that shit for inspiration anyway).

When we hear that Expendables co-founder Stonebanks has his own team you might picture an all star group of evil Expendables (potential members: Lance Henriksen, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Chuck Liddell, Robert Davi [he’s actually in this movie but does basically nothing in his one scene so he might as well have this other hypothetical role instead], Jean-Claude Van Damme [as twin brother of Jean Vilain], Ric Flair, Gary Busey). But there’s already too many characters for this movie to handle so you could argue that it’s for the best that he just has generic, faceless thugs who I couldn’t even describe to you right now.

Still, I believe that you could have all these characters and do more with them. I am not some asshole that is gonna expect or even want you to turn them all into fully fleshed out three dimensional human beings, but what is the point of having a team of 13 action heroes if most of them are just gonna fire machine guns? Especially when you made the business decision to go PG-13 and not show any of the bullet wounds.

Speaking of wounds, did they ever have a scene in an EXPENDABLES where they all go back to Mickey Rourke’s tattoo shop and do bullet removal surgery on themselves and each other and they have a metal plate in the middle and they just plunk plunk plunk all the slugs down until there’s a pile as big as Scarface’s cocaine stack? If not there should be.

Rousey and Lutz are able to use their specialties (beating up dudes, riding motorcycles) and there is a hacker guy (Glen Powell, who played “Long-fingered Boy” in that great Stallone picture SPY KIDS 3-D: GAME OVER) that uses a computer in one part. And I’m sure there are some things I’m forgetting, but I don’t remember Dolph using his chemical engineering knowledge from previous installments, Statham doesn’t really get to fight except for against a guy that we see is really huge when he first walks in and then we don’t see him clearly again, the boxing champ Victor Ortiz doesn’t do much if any punching, Banderas barely uses the parkour skills his stunt double showed off in his introduction. Most criminally, Jet Li (who is reintroduced late enough that I actually was excited to see him again) never does a single kick or punch. He just fires a machine gun from a helicopter. When he slides down a rope to clear a rooftop you think “okay, here we go,” but no, no martial arts for him in this one.

Couture doesn’t get to fight much either, but at least one of his skills is standing around looking menacing, so any shot is improved by having him standing in the background. Dolph performs a similar job, but at least he gets one funny bit and got to be a major focus in the other chapters.These things cannot be said for poor Jet.

Arnold gets to be Arnold, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and smoking a cigar, but he seems kind of tired and shabby in this one. His five o’clock shadow looks ragged, his eyes look watery. I won’t consider it a sign that he’s losing it, because he’s great in movies as recent as SABOTAGE and ESCAPE PLAN. I feel like maybe he hadn’t adjusted to the time zone or something.

(Explain to me, someone: did they reveal what I thought they revealed about Arnold and Jet’s characters? Or was that just a joke about them being best buds?)

As for Barney, I’m not even sure what his fighting specialty is supposed to be, but he always gets to fist fight the main villain. But I think he’s improved in this one, not as distinct of a character as Rambo or BULLET TO THE HEAD, but he’s got more of a gravelly voice and seen-it-all demeanor, is allowed to talk less and communicate more. Also he looks better without facial hair but we can tell it’s still Barney because of the beret and the ridiculously tacky oversized skull ring.

From what I’ve read today this one’s already been declared a bomb. I hope it’s more popular in the rest of the world because I want to keep seeing these guys on the big screen and this series was the only thing they had that was making money. But I think it shows how misguided some of their approach is on this one. It reminds me of when legendary rappers from the ’90s were making albums years after their peak and they would have a bunch of younger guest stars and switch their style up to try to copy whatever was popular at the time, and it just sounded forced. There must’ve been some soul-less business creep somewhere crunching the numbers to prove why this was the way to go, but of course all the fans of their great music just put the album away in a box after a couple disappointed listens, and the masses of record buying youths they were courting never materialized. It was just embarrassing for everybody involved.

THE EXPENDABLES 3 isn’t embarrassing, but it has a bit of that desperation. Sorry Sly, but if young people don’t give a shit about your movies that’s not gonna change, and it doesn’t matter. Be like Clint. Make grown ass Stallone movies. Or appeal to the youth by making the type of awesome movies you made when their parents were the youth you were appealing to. I don’t think anybody outside of those offices is surprised that making a PG-13 movie starring Dolph Lundgren and Mel Gibson did not draw in a parade of under 17, unaccompanied by a parent or guardian converts.

Director Patrick Hughes does a competent job, and early on I felt like he got to make the movie breathe a little. He has a quiet overhead shot of the Expendables walking to their helicopter! No guitars or anything. But any attempt to make it distinctive gets away from him. It definitely doesn’t have the tension or atmosphere of his thriller RED HILL, and it doesn’t make a convincing argument that we should be more open minded toward the English language remake of THE RAID he’s attached to.

I know this is pissing in the wind here, but in the unlikely event of EXPENDABLES 4EVER I fucking implore Millennium Films and Sylvester Stallone to throw caution to the (piss stained) wind and try that one thing they have been trying to avoid for these: hiring a director of great action movies. I mean that’s if you can’t get a smartypants A-lister who is great with non-actors, ensembles and action scenes (Soderbergh only does cable TV now), or one of the directors of the classics these guys come from (McTiernan would be an obvious choice), or a really good Hong Kong guy (is that what we gotta do to get Chow Yun Fat as an Expendable?). If you can’t do any of those things then for god’s sake why can’t you get Isaac Florentine? This is a director who has worked with these producers many times, going back to 1993 when he was martial arts choreographer for Boaz Davidson’s directorial work AMERICAN CYBORG: STEEL WARRIOR. He’s worked in Bulgaria many times, he’s directed various EXPENDABLES cast members (Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins, Gary Daniels), he second unit directed for the Kellan Lutz HERCULES, he’s worked with J.J. Perry. He’s known for pushing older action stars to do more and younger ones to take it to the next level. He gets great action and style on a nothing budget. He works fast and cheap and has tons of experience not just directing dozens of action movies but also hundreds of Power Rangers fight sequences. He’s a martial artist himself!

He’s so much more qualified than anybody they would get, and from what I’ve been told when quizzing people in the know, it’s only a political decision. They see direct-to-video directors as not being as good as theatrical directors, even when they consistently make better movies.

Yeah, and PG-13 movies always do better than R.

If you guys haven’t tried to get him on one of these YOU ARE INSANE. If Stallone’s the one that’s not on board, get him on board. Have Dolph talk to him. Send him the UNDISPUTED blu-rays. Something.

Oh, I give up.

Until they announce they’re really making a part 4, then I’m hooked again.

I’m dealing in alot of negativity here, so I should repeat that I’ve enjoyed each of these movies. It’s just that they’re designed to remind you of all your favorite movies while not giving the impression that they ever tried to be as good as those. Each of them has their advantages and disadvantages. Part 1 might be my least favorite, but it seems the most sincere, it puts the most thought into who fights who, and Mickey Rourke’s tearful monologue is probly the only truly transcendent scene in the trilogy. Part 2 has clearer action, the best villain and the most Bruce and Arnold, but easily the worst humor and most intrusive cameos. Part 3 has maybe a little less clear action but better than part 1 and definitely an improved tone over part 2. It has the second best villain but the only one that doesn’t have a badass henchman like Steve Austin or Scott Adkins.

Anyway, welcome back Daywalker. That’s the important thing. Woody Harrelson for part 4 villain please.

acr_ex3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FUN QUIZ: Expendable or Texas Chain Saw Massacrer?

1. Yin Yang
2. The Cook
3. Chop Top
4. Toll Road
5. Goran Vogner
6. Smilee
7. Tinker “Tink” Sawyer
8. Vilmer Slaughter
9. Trench Mauser
10. Jean Vilain
11. Lefty Enright
12. Tea Lady Hewitt
13. Bonaparte
14. Thorn
15. Mars

(answers: 1. Expendable. 2. Chain Saw. 3. Chain Saw. 4. Expendable. 5. Expendable. 6. Expendable. 7. Chain Saw. 8. Chain Saw. 9. Expendable. 10. Expendable. 11. Chain Saw. 12. Chain Saw. 13. Expendable. 14. Expendable. 15. Expendable.)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, August 18th, 2014 at 1:26 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

107 Responses to “The Expendables 3”

  1. Beyond the bland characters, the boring action, the stilted lifeless dialogue and the endless in-jokes and references and winking, my main beef with this movie, and all of these movies, is that they go against the initial core mission statement, of making a successful throwback to the 80’s action heyday that created many of these guy’s careers. What’s the key difference between those films and the Expendables? In those films, it was One Guy versus an army. In The Expendables, it’s an Army of those One Guys versus Tons of Nameless Ethnics.

    It’s weird. There’s no tension because you know none of our heroes are going to perish, whereas Die Hard, the cream of the action crop, had serious stakes. Ignore the fact that these movies have fallen back on some of the shitter flashcutty action bullshit that now infects most American action films: could any of the action work if we don’t really care about these characters? It’s also creepy because what the Expendables represents is how the rest of the world sees the American military, and the worst of America in general. Here are a bunch of big guys travelling the world throwing their muscle around and getting into unwinnable wars, swinging their dicks around and talking machismo bravado. It’s no longer a single guy in the wrong place at the wrong time fighting for his life, it’s a bunch of dickheads going around murdering lots and lots of people. Why should we care if one of them gets injured in a fight where they all massacre hundreds of nameless ethnics? Expendables 3 treats that idiotic moment so seriously, it’s like in your great Garfield review where the film expects us to feel for the garbage cat after it’s been such a shit to everyone.

    The Republican plebs have this idiotic party line where they think the world looks at Obama and thinks that America is weak. They’ve got it completely the opposite – the world looks at Obama and respects him, and what he stands for, and is overwhelmingly relieved that Dubya is painting dogs or whatever the hell he’s doing now. Not waging wars. The Expendables comes off as this nasty Republican fantasy, about how we need the military and everyone else is a pussy and fear the other, kind of like Bay’s ghastly Transformers films. I reckon Stallone is better than it.

  2. The Undefeated Gaul

    August 18th, 2014 at 2:10 am

    I actually would like Stallone to direct another one of these, especially now that he’s realized again that he’s never gonna get that mainstream success anymore and that the only people still sincerely respecting him are his fans from the old days. He was in the same frame of mind I think when he made Rambo 4 and Rocky 6. He made those for himself, to go out with some dignity, and look how good they turned out.

    But he got close to real success again and he started pandering, trying to get even closer, making everything so that it would appeal to the biggest possible crowd, and of course that approach is exactly what made it all slip through his fingers again.

  3. I’m convinced Millenium Films is incapable of making a movie that doesn’t look cheap and DTV. Even all the problems we’ve already discussed aside, these movies (and all of their stuff) just looks so fucking ugly and generic from a cinematography standpoint. It’s like a worse version of the Marvel movies. Those tend to look like shit too, but at least their CG is usually competent. These Millenium movies, this one in particular, have so many egregiously bad CGI cutaways, CGI explosions, bad CGI insert shots and exteriors, and even awful low-res stock footage on occasion.
    This isn’t The Asylum guys, you’ve got an 80 million budget, how the hell is this acceptable?

  4. I’m convinced Millenium Films is incapable of making a movie that doesn’t look cheap and DTV. Even all the problems we’ve already discussed aside, these movies (and all of their stuff) just look so fucking ugly and generic from a cinematography standpoint. It’s like a worse version of the Marvel movies. Those tend to look like shit too, but at least their CG is usually competent. These Millenium movies, this one in particular, have so many egregiously bad CGI cutaways, CGI explosions, bad CGI insert shots and exteriors, and even awful low-res stock footage on occasion.
    This isn’t The Asylum guys, you’ve got an 80 million budget, how the hell is this acceptable?

  5. You and many mention Florentine, and I also hear John Hyams come up a lot, but how about Ben Ramsey? He doesn’t have an extensive amount of sweet action scenes under his belt, but he’s very competent there and his storytelling and character skills are much stronger than the other guys.

    Though I suppose with Hyams and Ramsey I’d much rather see them do their own projects. No clue what those guys are up to.

    I saw it Thursday and barely remember it, sadly. What was Stallone’s punchline after he beats Mel?

    I may have made this up, but I recall Jet Li showing up and saying a line like “I’m here too.” That was my favorite meta joke in the film. If it happened.

    And yeah…not sure how else to read the scene with Jet and Arnold.

    I think these films work best if you think of them as side projects, like when rappers put out mixtapes or albums showcasing their label mates, or supergroup albums (213, The Firm, Watch the Throne, etc). We aren’t too critical of those and enjoy them for what they are, knowing that they aren’t really even “canon.” Problem is, in pop culture these films are the biggest films for the actors, so it is hard to view it as such. But for everyone aside from Sly these are very much side projects.

    But still. Should be better.

  6. Hopefully the series goes DTV now and we get a prequel starring Steve Austin and Gary Daniels which ends in Eric Roberts asking “How’d you boys like to make some real money?” and one for Vilain and Scott Adkins in the French foreign legion.

    Eventually I’ll kickstarter my dream John Hyams directed part 4, set 20 years after 3, Lee Christmas is the last known surviving Expendable. He’s older, his life is in shambles, he’s a drunk, he has predeceased his son and Lacy walked out on him a long time ago. One day out of the blue, he gets black bagged and taken to a mansion. There he finds Mr. Church on his deathbed, in bed with an IV drip in his arm. He tells Christmas that Munroe, Vilain and Stonebanks where all under the command of Achilles Dracos, a rogue ex-CIA assassin, hand to hand expert and tactical genius who became overly critical of the agency during the late 80’s/early 90’s and finally went off grid during the late 90’s during an early attempt to assassinate Jean Vilain.

    Church’s protégé, Agent Barca had learned that a civil war erupted in South East asia, by separatists known as the Asian Dawn Movement, led by Hēi’àn de fùqīn and his four man squad of enforcers are actually a front by Dracos in order to goad U.S. intervention into the area leaving it susceptible to Dracos’ plans of domestic terror attacks. However, when Barca went to the jungles of Thailand to investigate, he disappeared. Christmas is teamed with Phil, the adopted son of Trench Mauser and Ying Yang, Hadrian Caeser, brother of the dead or missing Hale Caesar, retired secret service agent MIKE BANNING and Agent Dillon a hard ass CIA liason to neutralise the Asian Dawn Movement, extract or execute Agent Barca and terminate the command of Achilles Dracos.

    Starring

    Jason Statham as Lee Christmas
    Dwayne Johnson as Phil Mauser
    Gerard Butler as MIKE BANNING
    Michael Jai White as Hadrian Caesar
    Gina Carano as Agent Dillon
    Vin Diesel as Agent Barca
    Jackie Chan as Hēi’àn de fùqīn
    Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Tiger Chen and Cung Le as the Asian Dawn Movement higher ups.
    Daniel Bernhardt as The Point Man, a CIA agent who went missing with Barca
    Also Bruce Willis as Mr. Church
    With Michelle Rodriguez as Opi’a, a mysterious woman the team continually encounters

    And Steven Seagal IS Achilles Dracos.

  7. I’m surprised that there was no mention on the indian motive wardrobe of Stallone in the recruiting scenes . Since Steven Seagal never made a broken wrist-ing appearence , his mystic clothing style was used to turn into a “we want you on the next one” statement ?

  8. They of course should plunk plunk plunk their removed slugs into glasses of booze.
    Come on Vern you’re slipping lol.

  9. Stallone’s special ability has been used in each movie, someone even went to trouble of uploading just it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdsAR8Zwqso
    I really liked it in the first because given the 2,438 special abilities already taken in action films you dun see many creative new ones anymore, yet I thought grand, they came up with a newie and it’s so obvious I dun know why no one thought of it before.

    Dolph’s chemical engineer special ability was used in 2 when they were all in the cave and he made the explosive from clay/stone to get them all out.

  10. I really liked Rhonda Rousey in this. I think she has the potential to headline her own film given the right material.

  11. I’ve made no secret of my negativity concerning this series. I am on record as considering Part 2 the worst action film ever made. I stand by that. Others are more incompetent, but none are as disrespectful to the past, present, and future of this genre I love so much. It’s not merely bad, it’s toxic.

    Yet I keep coming back, because I want to believe. I want there to be an enjoyable film starring all these guys.

  12. I’ve made no secret of my negativity concerning this series. I am on record as considering Part 2 the worst action film ever made. I stand by that. Others are more incompetent, but none are as disrespectful to the past, present, and future of this genre I love so much. It’s not merely bad, it’s toxic.

    Yet I keep coming back, because I want to believe. I want there to be an enjoyable film starring all these guys.

    Gentlemen, this is it. It’s not perfect, but it made me smile all the way through. I think they finally got the characters to a point where they’re fun to spend time with. And the action, while hampered by the rating, is more exciting and involving than the other films, because it dares to tell a story through a sequence of events. One thing happens, it leads to another, the character reacts, solves the problem in a badass way, there is a funny button on the scene, we move on. Compare this to Part 2’s endless nightmare loop of stationary gunfire and embarrassing quips. I liked the multi-tier battle and the different methods of attacking it. It would have been better with blood, but I know better than to expect perfection. Two steps forward one step back is still a step in the right direction.

    Maggie brought up the idea that it’s sad that I had to give up on my dream of the most badass action movie ever and settle for a decent one with some good character scenes. But the cast is really this movie’s main strength, so I’m cool with it being a cavalcade of guests stars with Sly as the straight man, especially since it’s in service or a “putting the team together” plot, an old favorite of mine. Everybody has their little moment to shine, and I didn’t mind that the main cast got sidelined a bunch. Made me miss them for a change. I think the secret this time was that they hired actual great actors, not just strong presences. The original Expendables are all awesome, but in their other movies they are usually the quiet center of the storm, with better actors surrounding them, making them look good. Put them in a room together and they seem kind of lost. That’s not a problem with Snipes, Banderas, Gibson, and Grammer, who are all great actors who can carry a dialogue scene on their own. The difference is night and day. On a scene by scene basis, the movie sustains interest because the casts can convey drama and humor. I’d rather have that than a few more squibs.

    I never thought I’d be the only one who really liked this movie, especially after complaining so bitterly about it for so long. But I’m glad I do. It feels like some small crack in my heart has finally been sealed.

  13. I think waiting for DVD and watching it as if it were a DTV film is the way to go.

  14. Nailed it, Vern. An undeniable improvement, and yet it still tantalizes you with the movie it should’ve been. But it is better than the last two for sure. Feels like a ‘real’ movie. It felt to me like they finished the job Expendables 2 started – Ex2 was good for about an hour and then a cat. 5 tornado of terrible references tore through the film. Ex3 takes its characters and story seriously all the way through, and the action is solid. I was satisfied and entertained.

    It niggles at me that after 3 movies Sly still doesn’t understand that we want to see him persevering over the Twerp Squad, not teaming up with them. Show us The Expendables, aging and not what they used to be, and show us the antagonist group of new kids who seem impossibly athletic, energetic, ruthless, intelligent, etc., and make us really believe they are better in every way than our favorite crusty old guys, maybe by way of an early in the film assbeating. And then send The Expendables on an impossible mission against them. When the Expendables pull out the win by the skin of their teeth it’ll be because of grit, experience, and a few guys making the ultimate sacrifice at the right moment, and it’ll be awesome.

    You could’ve done that in this movie without much work. Starting in the van scene, Mel Gibson tells the kids he’ll give them a million apiece if they kill Barney and free him. We already know he’s a billionaire, and that they’re hungry and down for anything, and we know Barney’s been keeping them in the dark and feeding them shit. It’d make sense for them to accept. Barney barely makes it out alive, and has to go back to the boys and mend some fences before recruiting them for one last glorious mission: beat the shit out of some hateable young people and Mel Gibson. Everyone will be down as hell, of course. I hated how Barney threw the old gang aside because he supposedly didn’t want to get them killed (this didn’t really play for me – it’s such a weird sentiment for the character to have, and he looks like an even bigger asshole for recruiting cannon fodder in their stead – it also came off like he originally wanted to discard them just for getting old on him, but you know Sly hates to look like a bad guy so it had to be covered up with this weird motivation), and I equally hated how they all just appeared on the runway to join up with him, saving Barney the hard work of actually growing as a character and sacking up and talking to them.

    (I don’t know where to put this observation: Sly looked like George Hamilton in the scene where he recruits the hacker kid. Also the kid’s parachute popping open right when he falls was a cheeseball moment on par with the rocket boots from STAR TREK V.)

    I think I’ve decided that the problem with the movies is Sly believes he and the boys are just as good as they ever were. That’s why he keeps mingling the young people in with the Expendables instead of truly pitting them against each other. There’s finally some sops to their age in this one, but it’s not really dramatized or deeply felt (when he’s talking shit about how they’re in the past after the opening mission, none of them really react like it’s something that’s resonating with them – it’s not hurting them, or making them angry, or anything). They’re laughing and bantering* and hooting during battle, they drink like they’re in college, they don’t dress their age… these guys should be more worn down and jaded, the adrenaline dumps stopped happening years ago, at this point they’re just in it for lack of anything else to do & the prospect of a good death, or perhaps even a final redemptive gesture that they long thought was out of reach for their kind. And they shouldn’t be physical beasts anymore, maybe you get flashes of it here and there but they’re breaking down.

    *I’m not saying they can’t be good humored, as the chemistry between the guys is my favorite thing about the series

    Let us get to know those guys and have them defend some Uyghur village in China (they can’t really afford the Expendables, but after seeing their situation the Expendables decide they can’t afford not to help them) from Blackwater types who work for I dunno, a Foxconn factory or a company building a dam or something. They get to know the villagers as they recruit the guys they need, build up defenses and traps, and ruminate on their lives. Maybe Randy Couture falls in love with a peasant woman. At the end of the movie Sly looks at the hill most of them died on and wonders if they really won. Okay I just took The Seven Samurai and changed the nouns but I bet it’d be cool.

    They did do some good things with the new kids though. The moment at the end when they’re singing and Sly and Statham exchange looks is really good. Sly going “30 years ago I’d have been scared of you” was good, they knew better than to go there. Rousey can’t act but she seems to have some potential as a spunky asskicking screen presence… kinda like a grumpier Cynthia Rothrock.

  15. The Expendables series is as disappointing as they come. Part1 was underwhelming, part 2 completely lost me with the terrible non stop references to movies I wished I was watching instead. Now comes part 3 and its wasted potential. I saw red hill and liked it before Patrick Hughes was announced as the director. Even though I liked it there was nothing in it to suggest Hughes would be a great action director. I thought they brought him in to make an Expendables movie that was more tense and actually felt like there was something at stake. I was wrong, nothing about this movie felt tense. Instead it felt as paint by numbers as they come. The opening sequence with Wesley Snipes showing he’s still a force on the screen was better then both the first 2 movies and anything that came afterward in this one. It got me excited that they may have finally gotten it right. Boy was I wrong. Everything after that opening sequence is mostly downhill. How do you introduce Snipes like that then give him nothing for the rest of the movie? Who had the bright idea to leave the main team out for a huge chunk of the movie. The new team is so generic they belong in a CW tv show. Rhonda Rousey can fight but her acting was basically limited to scowling and stiff line reads. The entire,very long, sequence of Sly getting the new team together took all the life out of the movie and it never recovered for me. It may have even been a mistake for the movie to start with such a charismatic performance from Snipes because it made me expect more of that and instead I never got it again. Mel Gibson has one decent scene where we see some of that Mel Gibson fire, other then that one scene his character could have been . Played by anybody. In fact Robert Davi(who is only in the movie so fans of the older movies can say they know who Robert Davi is) was playing that character in his sleep in the 80’s and 90’s. Yet another letdown for me.

  16. The Undefeated Gaul

    August 18th, 2014 at 7:50 am

    Thinking about it now, story wise it would have been a big improvement if the reason for the original Expendables breaking up was different. Barney should have done something to risk the lives of this team members just to get personal revenge on Gibson or something like that, resulting in Terry getting hurt being entirely his fault. Then the other guys could have left him, forcing Sly to go after Gibson with a new team. You know, create some fucking conflict for a change. And then in the end they would’ve come back and helped him anyway, cause he’s family, and it would’ve warmed all our little hearts.

    Another thing is that the real Conrad Stonebanks would have fucking killed those newbies and left their corpses for Barney & friends to find in the building, make them suffer a bit before blowing them up. Bit out of character for him to let the newbies live and not even hurt them a tiny little bit. I mean, is this guy a crazy sadistic asshole or what?

  17. Spot on review, Vern. Though the film was far from perfect, I enjoyed it more than the first two – (most of) the elements finally clicked here. It was better looking than parts 1 and 2 and, dodgy cgi aside, didn’t look as cheap. I’m glad they mostly put a stop to the awkward Stallone – Statham banter too. I keep thinking about the speech Gibson gave to the newbies when they were strung up – that scene alone elevated the film I thought, because it suddenly made me question the motives of a character I’ve spent two movies with – which is good stuff for this kind of film. I also missed Sly’s final line to Mel…

  18. What they need to do with these films is to make them more focus. I actually think when they brough in Arnie, Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris at the end of the second film it broke the film, it just too many characters. In this film the problem is a lot bigger. It takes 45 minute to focus on different set of characters, and give the regulars a “sad” montage. This film finally gave a little time to breath with is 2 hours running time but it didn’t use it on the character we care about.

    They should focus on 5-6 Expendables, have a good villain and right hand, bring in a couple of supporting character that is not doing any action. But keep the main Expandables to 6, and not more then 6 important supporting characters. Give each of the Expendables a mini-story for themselves, and give them each unique talent. In 2010 there came out of Team-action films, The A-Team, The Losers, Red and even Inception, and they all more distinct characters and skillset. Look at an old film like the western The Proffesionals with Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster, on the back of the cover they are described what they do, Lee Marvin is the tactical and weapon expert, Burt Lancaster is explosive expert (and the womanizer), Robert Ryan is the horse rangler (the vehicle guy) and Woody Strode is the long range and pathfinder expert. They all have distinctive personality and a skill set.

    In the first Expendables they tried to give them unique speciallity and personality, Barney Ross was the leader who like to use pistols like a motherfucking cowboy, Lee Christmas was the knife expert and the heartrobe (always having women trouble), Ying Yang was martial expert who always tried to get more money, Hale Cesar liked shotguns, but I think when they took away his Taco place from the script they took away something from him, so I guess he is the comic relief, the token black guy, and Randy Couture was the muscle, he was the hardass who also was an intellectual, even thought he has problem putting together a coherent sentence (which I also has), and of course Gunnar Jensen was addict, asshole that was out of control, I think he was a sniper in the original script, but they dropped it, and just made him a maniac. Of course a lot of this when out the window in the second film, and specially the third. They don’t really much have a distinct role in the team, or when they are not in action.

    There almost no scenes where they have to use there speical skills. I think the good thing that Fast Five and Furious Six does is that it pair the character, and gives them unique things to do. One of the action scenes in Furious Six doesn’t have any Vin Diesel, Paul Walker or The Rock, it just Gina Carron, Michelle Rodriguez, Gal Cadot, the Korean guy (Sung Kang?, Han Solo?) and Tyrese chasing and fighting Michelle Rodriguez and the guy from The Raid.

    I think there are several good idea in the films, I wish the hiring montage was in the first film, kinda like the Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai, and that film could be a really good inspiration for an Expendables, film, it was an inspiration for the Dolph Lundgren film Men of War from 1994-95ish. I also like the Heist like scenes that we usually sees in The A-Team or Mission Impossible, because it gives everyone in the team something to do, unfortunatly he didn’t have regular guys.

    There are so many good Team-action films too look at and see how they are done well, even Blade 2 has the House of Pain scene where everyone get something to do. Get every character something to do, and not just in the first act and third act, but in the rest of the film.

  19. As bad as the series Carl Weathers still must be kicking himself right now. He made a HUGE mistake by asking to be paid a lot of money in order for for them to use footage of Apollo in ROCKY BALBOA(which they ended up not doing). That really pissed Sly off from the sounds of an AMA interview from fans he did at Ain’t It Cool News back when he was promoting the movie and now he’s nowhere to be seen in these movies. Sly called him “Apollo Greed”. Instead it’s the Russian guy who kills him that’s on the team!

  20. I have finally decided that, yeah, I liked it. Mostly.

    Better than pt 2 (apart from the opening sequence and JCVD’s marvellously mad performance notwithstanding), not quite as good as the directors cut of pt 1, it felt like the one that almost made it, the one Sly was aiming for all along.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens next, now that the box office figures are indicating it’s a flop.

    If it is indeed the end of the road what will the Expendables trilogy true legacy be?

    Did it reinvigorate American action cinema? Did it help banish shaky cam? Did it remind cinema audiences that yes, you can have films where most of the cast are 40, 50, 60 plus? Or will it just be that this was the first film – and franchise – killed stone dead by illegal downloading?

    I’ll miss the anticipation of a new Expendables film perhaps even moreso than the film itself. I’ll miss reading people’s comments on here as we discuss what it should be about, who should be in it, direct it, etc.

    Even more than that, I’ll miss thinking Jackie Chan and/or Steven Seagal is going to be in it until they pull out at the last minute.

  21. Did Sly call him “Sugar Tits”?

  22. Yep, this worked for me. It was a good idea to play it less jokey (except for Arnie yelling CHOPPAH! all the time and Ford saying that Willis is “out of the picture”).

    Part 2 is still my favourite, though. Mainly because it had the best villain (and performance) of the series.

    This one had a much better team dynamic, and Mel is always good, but the plot doesn’t stray much from what we saw in the second one.

    I watched the first one again a little while ago, and was actually surprised at how well some of the action was choreographed. Sure, we all moaned about the shaky-cam (which isn’t nearly as bad as I remembered), but that first film might just have the best action set pieces of the series. Never thought I would have said that until recently.

    Anyway, I hope they give it a break for a few years or so and then make another one. They seriously need to make a change in locations and visual aesthetic, though. I vote the desert for part 4.

  23. “Harrison Ford is also in it.”

    Not impressed by that, I take it? I was pretty surprised at how much he was in it and how much effort he seemed to be putting into it. The only negative, was the cringe-worthy “Drummer in the house” line.

    I agree Jet Li not doing kung fu was a disappointment, but it could have worked if they’d made that into a funny joke, like it seems like he’s about to take on a bunch of guys armed with machetes, only to just pull out a gun and shoot them instead.

  24. Don’t be silly, Knox Harrington. Part 4’s primary location needs to be the Moon.

    THE EXPENDABLES: ONE GIANT LEAP 4 MANKIND

  25. Nah, KingNewbs.

    I don’t think this series needs any more similarities to MACHETE KILLS.

  26. “When we hear that Expendables co-founder Stonebanks has his own team you might picture an all star group of evil Expendables (potential members: Lance Henriksen, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Chuck Liddell, Robert Davi [he’s actually in this movie but does basically nothing in his one scene so he might as well have this other hypothetical role instead], Jean-Claude Van Damme [as twin brother of Jean Vilain], Ric Flair, Gary Busey).”

    Oh, shit.

  27. The Original Paul

    August 18th, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Again, I won’t see this movie. I think Vern accidentally quoted me almost word-for-word, from one of the “Expendables 2” trailer threads, with this:

    “More than that though they need to really take a look at each character, make sure to establish what that character’s skill set is, and then make extra sure to work that skill set into the later action scenes in a way that they are all working together as a team to make shit happen.”

    See, if this is what they did, I’d absolutely go see another “Expendables” movie. Doesn’t sound like this one is “it” though.

    And I absolutely agree with the substance of Dr Thomas’ first post.

    Finally, going back to Vern:

    “You could argue that it’s for the best that he just has generic, faceless thugs who I couldn’t even describe to you right now.”

    Yeah… that’s never for the best, is it? I mentioned Sully from “Commando” in another thread as an example of this. The fact is, I think back to all of those action movies that the stars of “The Expendables” made their names with, and basically none of them have “generic faceless thugs” as their main bad guys. Those movies that did have mostly been forgotten, I think. Meanwhile genuinely excellent Arnie movies like “Predator” and “Total Recall” share with sillier movies like “Commando” and “The Running Man” the trait that just about every single speaking character is memorable for some reason. I mean, “The Running Man”, as much as it’s a pleasure of mine, is not one of Arnie’s greatest, that’s for certain. And yet even the villain’s bodyguard, who’s mute for most of the movie, gets his moment to shine at the end.

    Anyway… another one to avoid. Thanks for the warnings, guys, not that they were particularly needed in this case.

  28. One Guy from Andromeda

    August 18th, 2014 at 11:10 am

    I cannot understand the negativity towards this one. The first one bored me to tears, haven’t even finished it because it was so pointless and small. The second one started off fun with the opening raid and the young guy who makes the “i wanna get out and live happily with my french girlfriend” speech that expertly sets up his getting a knife kicked through his heart. But then it degenerated quickly into the worst piece of bullshit i have ever seen. Walker Texas Ranger coming out of nowhere for no reason all the time (why is he there?!) and the scenes of Arnold and Bruce together that just make me want to slit someone’s wrists. That airport battle must have been the worst comedy scene i have EVER seen. It sure as hell wasn’t an action scene…

    Number 3 was the first one i saw from beginning to end and found enjoyable. The final battle could have been better that’s true, but it was still a lot of fun – Dolph driving the tank, the guy on the motorcycle, Harrison Ford having fun in a role for a change and of course “I AM THE HAGUE” – brilliant!
    And to see Mel Gibson again in a big movie! That scene in the truck where he just spits bile for 5 minutes – what’s not to like?
    Compared to the first two movies and also compared to a lot of the movies that came before it (how is this less entertaining than Commando or Cobra?) i gotta say this one pulls its weight.

    I also liked that Arnold and Jet Li are a gay couple now…

  29. The Original Paul

    August 18th, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Oh yeah.

    Currently top-billing at my local cinema:

    “Expendables 3”.
    “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
    “The Nut Job”.
    “Planes: Fire and Rescue”.
    “The Inbetweeners 2”.
    “Hector and the Search for Happiness”.
    And, of course, “Boyhood.”

    Seriously, did I accidentally anger the movie Gods at some point? This shitstorm started before my insomniac rant on Captain America, right? Apart from “Boyhood” – which I couldn’t even hate, I got so little of substance from it – the only movie on that list which has had anything close to a positive reception is “Guardians of the Galaxy”. And as optimistic as I try to be… it’s a freaking Marvel movie. It’s not going to be for me. I don’t usually think of myself as “picky”, but I mean, come on. Give me something here. Something like one of the several interesting-sounding movies that Vern’s reviewed that haven’t so much as been trailed over here yet…

  30. SPOILER FOR ENDING AND MY FAVORITE ONE-LINER: To those who were wondering, the line I was referring to as an A+ one-liner was when Barney has shot Stonebanks, who he had been assigned to capture to bring to trial for war crimes. Stonebanks says something like “What happened to the Hague?” and Barney says “I am the Hague!”

    Yes, it refers back to the JUDGE DREDD line, but it works organically as a menacing thing to say which also acknowledges the international system of justice and positions Barney not only as a judge/jury/executioner combo like JUDGE DREDD or a “cure” for a “disease” like in COBRA, but as one who specializes in killing international war criminals. I know it was referred to as a bad line elsewhere in the thread, but I loved it.

  31. That line was amazing, but I think my favorite wisecrack in the movie was Wesley referring to himself as “The knife before Christmas.” It works on so many levels!

  32. “More than that though they need to really take a look at each character, make sure to establish what that character’s skill set is, and then make extra sure to work that skill set into the later action scenes in a way that they are all working together as a team to make shit happen.”

    Watch THE LOSERS.

  33. The Undefeated Gaul

    August 18th, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    Those two articles seem only to mention that the script was written with an R Rating in mind, not whether any of those bloody scenes being described (Statham cutting people in half) were actually filmed so they can be put back on the blu. In the collider interview Hughes says something about only slightly having to change his cut to get a PG 13… doesn’t sound promising.

    It would be something though if for the first time ever a promised “harder cut” on blu actually delivered the goods. That would fix at least one of the main issues of the film.

  34. You’re right, Gaul – It’s vague as to whether or not the Statham Knife scene was indeed shot or not.

    My mind boggles at the 3 1/2 hr “assembly cut” Hughes mentions.

  35. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    August 18th, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    I really enjoyed Mel in this one. Great to see him chewing up some scenery. I was a bit sad to see Arnold looking all smudged though. Vern nailed it with the watery eyes comment, I felt really sad to see him bumbling around like that. He seemed in really good form in Escape Plan.

    I didn’t realise it was a PG13, I think it’s a 15 in the UK.

    Still, not a bad film at all. I’d still like to see half of them die at the hands of an evil Expendables, but not bad at all.

  36. An assembly cut is just a rough first cut. Almost literally just putting the shots and scenes in a very rudimentary chronological order. It’s pretty standard for a film to have an assembly cut that’s almost twice the final running time.

  37. Yeah Vern, watch THE LOSERS, instead of BLADE II again. Just this once.

  38. I really like THE LOSERS, but every time I think about it disappointed they didn’t use Tom Petty’s ‘Even the Losers’ for the closing credits. It woulda been perfect.

    I’m surprised that Vern never got around to reviewing that, actually. It’s in his wheelhouse, even though I bet he’d have mixed feelings about it.

  39. THE LOSERS is a shoe-in for the Summer Movie Flashback series in 2020.

  40. The Undefeated Gaul

    August 19th, 2014 at 12:31 am

    Surprising that everyone here seems to like THE LOSERS so much. I thought it was intensely mediocre and forgettable. The only things I can remember is Chris Evans shooting people with his fingers like Sly in Ex2, and Jason Patric just being weird the whole time.

  41. Henry Swanson's my name

    August 19th, 2014 at 12:55 am

    I don’t remember where I read it, but I think Sly (or the director) said that every death was essentailly cut short by ‘x’ number of frames… which explains the slightly weird editing and choppiness here and there.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this review and all the comments. It’s reassuring to know there are so many guys out there (well, maybe just you guys) who want these films to be better and also have some excellent suggestions on how to do so.

    Like a few have said here, I think Sly’s changes to the script (in regards to him wanting to be portrayed in a positive way) really hurt the possibility for drama and tension. Like one of you said, he should have been the reason the team left him, rather than him leaving them. But Sly can’t handle being that guy, which is a bummer. I wonder if the original script made way more sense?

  42. I actually watched THE LOSERS a while ago and it was decent but I kinda forgot about it before writing it up. And I feel bad about it because you guys ask me to review that one all the time. Maybe it’s really ME that’s the loser.

  43. One Guy from Andromeda

    August 19th, 2014 at 2:51 am

    Apart from the fake looking CGI blood missing i can’t see how this was less violent than the other Expendables movies. The body count must be something like 2000.

  44. Honestly thought this was the worst one yet. I mean the first one one wasn’t good but it kinda got by on the nostalgia thing, and the second one had Jean Claude Van Damme camping up like a mothafucka, but this? This is nothing. There is none of that 1987 recess playground fantasy here, but lots and lots of “character” “plot”, delivered with blunt force acting and clumsy dialog, asking us to believe any of these macho ancient slabs of meat and cartoon homoeroticism can represent humanity. Its a complex, chatty fuckin’ movie, and about as fun to watch as glaciers moving. I know Vern says he loved the first half, but seriously, NOTHING HAPPENS for the first half of this stupidly long 126-minute movie. NOTHING. The characters are phony, the sets are phony, the dramatic stakes are non-existent, with one bad line of dialog/delivery after another(except for Banderas and Gibson, they seem to be having a good time).

    This might all be forgivable if the action was even a tiny bit exciting, but we can’t even get that! Not just because the characters are never in any danger and their motivations don’t even feel real, but the actual action itself is dull and flat. Busy handheld cameras rolling around mixed with lazy, lazy cross cutting. The finale is a mess that sacrifices any sense of individual stakes or clarity, just hoping you’ll be entertaining by the “EVERYBODY IS EVERYWHERE WOOO” chaos.

    This is shit, absolute 100% pure shit. A desperate needless sequel thats almost unfathomably ill-executed and tedious for practically the entire running time. A sad waste of time and money trying to appeal to…well IDK, cuz the PG-13 rating says its for the kids but they even old enough to remember Cliffhanger? If you have any love in your heart for the actors who star in this film, don’t watch this, don’t support this with your money. Go watch Predator, Rambo, Demolition Man, Blade 2, Lethal Weapon 2, Desperado, Crank and Raiders of the Lost Ark again.

    This is the Ellis of action cinema, quite frankly. A slimy little bottomfeeder trying to fuck your wife and desperately appealing to your base instincts in the most incompetent way possible. Don’t give your money to Ellis.

  45. Harsh. But yeah, i was pretty disappointed by this.

  46. I had a great time watching this film. I thought it had all the right ingredients but my main beef is the balance between scenes and characters seemed off to me.

    The recruiting scene is way too long, mel gibson is just not in it enough.
    Snipes is everywhere at the beginning yet nowhere in the end.
    And so on.

    If everything was just little more balanced i think it would have been great.

  47. Hmm…this may have been appropriate for a gay porn tie-in called The Extendables, but I don’t know if that information is gonna help this series. It really seems like they are grasping to appeal to as many demographics as possible. Pretty sad really.

  48. The Fogdaughter: Part, Too

    August 19th, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Damn, yes! Nic Cage for the villain in Expendables 4! Actually, Nic Cage for *4* villains in Expendables 4! He could have 3 surprise returns in the climax, like all the evil Turkish Spidermen in “3 Dev Adam”!

  49. Ya, this 3rd one really sucks. I’ll take Ex 2 any day of the week over this one, and Ex 1 is probably the best of the 3. I dunno, the action genre as we know and loved it is dead is my takeaway (at least in American productions), noone understands pacing, stakes, build and geography, it’s all just noise and chaos, and it’s all boring.

    I’m baffled by how modern action directors (or the producers actually calling the shots) seem to not even understand the most basic fundamentals. Like how an action scene needs to have a clear goal and objective at each point in the scene to be exciting. Show me a hallway Stallone needs to get through, then show me the bad guys coming in, then show me how he navigates this situation to achieve his goal. This isn’t rocket science. It’s not like we haven’t had 80 years of genre film history showing us how to execute this most basic of setups. And yet they are utterly incapable of doing even this simple thing.

  50. Now I get the reference, I agree “I am The Hague!” is a cool line. Stallone did ‘an audience with …’ in London back in January (one of these on-stage interviews / Q and A’s that a few big actors have been doing recently) and when he spoke about Rambo 2008, he made a big point of saying how proud he was of that film which I thought was cool because I fucking adore it. I think that was the thing I felt let down most about when I saw Expendables part one – going from Rambo (fast, cinematic)to Expendables (clunky, TV movie-ish) felt like a huge step back. I did plan to ask what he thought of the new Dredd film but the Q and A wrapped up before my turn so apologies for the non-anecdote. Anyway, I’m looking forward to No Country For Old John Rambo, now that it finally seems to be happening

  51. I enjoyed this one as well. However, it feels like an underachievement. It flirts with being something special and gives you hope that it might stick the landing and deliver an action classic worthy of the names on the marque but just like every instalment of this franchise it never reaches its true potential. This time they ditched most of the corny self-referential comedy, and there are some good character beats in the film, but it drags in the middle and it spends too much time introducing Grammer and the new younger Expendables in a film that already barely has enough time for its crowded cast. In addition while I liked the new team members they all lacked the screen presence of the older stars and Expendables members. None of them were bad, but none of them were very dynamic either (with the exception of Rousey). Most of the action is exciting and well-presented, but something about it feels restrained, and not in a PG13 versus R way. It is not just the violence that seems restrained, the spectacle of the action feels muted as well. I love the bit where the guy rides the motorcycle up the crashed helicopter but there isn’t enough of that type of spectacle in the film. These films should be turned up to 11 at all times, but 3X feels like it is operating at an 8 or 9 most of the time and every once and awhile they turn it up to 10.

    In reading through everybody’s posts it doesn’t surprise me there is a much longer cut of this film. I hope they give it a Blu ray release.

  52. “I think these films work best if you think of them as side projects, like when rappers put out mixtapes or albums showcasing their label mates, or supergroup albums…”

    “…watching it as if it were a DTV film is the way to go.”

    I feel like you guys have the right idea.

  53. I dunno, generally speaking I’m not fond of overly-winky junk, and yet I enjoy Expendables 2 more than the other two. I guess it’s because they didn’t go overboard and still had enough respect for the actors and the legacies–it was sincere, if nothing else, even if it did sometimes tread on mimicking an outsider’s view of a Cannon movie or something.

    That said, I guess there’s some value in what 3 is up to: it’s course correcting some of that stuff from part 2 but isn’t exactly carrying itself as deathly seriously as the first one did at times. I respect that even if it didn’t work out all that well for me. It has its moments, to be sure, like SNIPES totally reasserting himself, and I love how heartfelt his reintroduction was. Vern’s criticism that the movie’s always halfway approaching greatness is spot on and symptomatic of the franchise at large: it’s got so many good, working parts, but, for whatever reason, they won’t go all-out. For the life of me, I don’t even know why they won’t go get even a Renny Harlin (well, I guess he’s got bad blood with Sly, or at least he did). Hughes seems like he’s going to be okay, but I feel like The Expendables demands someone behind the camera who can match the stature of the guys in front of it. I think Woo even expressed interest at some point–what were they thinking by not making that happen?

    As always, I’ll still hope for a part four, if only because I think they might crack it at some point. Plus, there’s still plenty of guys (and gals) who can drop in. I would also love to see an all-star team of villains for once.

  54. What’s the budget for this? Can’t be that high right?

  55. Did anyone else notice Grammer’s line calling Hail Cesaer “One of the good ones?”

    Also… Gibson is an arms dealer whose primary skill is creating infighting and strife amongst all other people. And he has a line about the heroes having blood on their hands, eternally.

    I really loved Gibson in this one and think it played off of his public persona in a fascinating manner. He’s very nearly playing a character based on the attributes described in his famed drunken rant. And honestly, I have no problem with that.

  56. Here is how you fix this movie –

    In the opening action scene, instead of climaxing with Stallone randomly running out from his hidden perch and botching the mission for no discernable reason, the character has a stroke right at the pivotal kill point. Then, the rest of the team backs off, telling Stallone that they won’t allow him to kill himself. For the rest of the movie, Stallone has the underdog edge as a character. We care about him because he’s no longer the uber Stallone – he’s all too human in a very scary way. Even without the blood and guts, the threat and discomfort of a stroke would grant impact and gravitas to the proceedings.

    The rest of the crew takes Stallone somewhere for Rehab. Maybe one or two of them even stay behind to stand guard. But Stallone goes Rambo and finds a way to escape. Maybe he even has to fight one of the other Expendables in order to get out.

    Filled with a need for revenge, the weakened Stallone recruits a new team of young guns, possibly with the help of Arnold. But these kids aren’t the best of the best, they’re just the only people he can find. And he has to do it quick because the other former members are chasing after him, trying to stop Stallone from going on what is sure to be a suicide mission. What none of the others understand is that the Stroke has taught Stallone something – He WANTS a suicide mission. He is an aging Ronan, looking for a ‘good death.’

    Stallone and his new team need to get to his biplane, but the Other Expendables are there waiting. So, Stallone sends one of the youngin’s to try and distract the old guys while the rest get to the biplane. Stallone and the new crew are successful, but the distraction guy is caught.

    The other expendables interrogate the youngin, who explains Stallone’s plan of action. We see the plan coming together as the youngin spills the beans. Then, one of the old guys says, ‘But what about…’ and we cut to Stallone and the youngin’s just as the known-unknown comes into play, decimating the team.

    The youngin’s are captured. At least one of them dies. Back in the US, the team goes to Grammer/Ford/Arnold/Willis for help getting to Stallone’s location. G/F/A/W says no. Stallone made his own bed, now he can lie in it. The team puts up the whole of their collective payday for the mission (collecting Gibson) in exchange for G/F/A/W’s assistance with getting a new plane/weapons/entry into wartornistan.

    Meanwhile, our writer/star escapes from captivity overseas (in a scene paralleling his rehab escape, which in turn fits in with The Great Escape, or something) and goes Rambo/Die Hard inside the villain’s compound. Maybe he gains some respect for the kids who do survive.

    In the climax, both teams are united and fight against the army using the old men’s brute strength and the youngin’s tech savvy to save the day.

    You could perhaps add in a Bay-style double-climax wherein Stallone kills Gibson before the new team ever arrives, but then it turns out that G/F/A/W has set them up. He wanted them to take Gibson to The Hague. But not just to capture Gibson. Rather, he wanted them to go to the Hague where they will *all* end up on trial for warcrimes because of their various US-state-sactioned mercenary actions. Once they are labeled as war criminals, it doesn’t matter if they reveal any secret information; no one will listen. But, with Gibson already dead, G/F/A/W decides it’s best to just kill them all here and now. It’s a war zone, no one will look to close at where the bodies came from.

    Then everyone works together to defeat G/F/A/W. They win, but now they’ve killed a higher up in the US Gov’t and are forced to be not just Expendables, but also Ex-Patriots. This establishes a new paradigm for part 4 and so on.

    Also: Grammer, Arnold and Ford should probably all be the same character and probably played by Bruce Willis.

    Also, Also: Cesar doesn’t die.

  57. On a different note, since I don´t know where to post this; the adventures of Remo Williams actually DO continue? WIth Shane Black onboard? Hmm. http://filmcombatsyndicate.blogspot.se/2014/08/shane-black-lines-up-to-direct-williams.html?m=1

  58. Something must be wrong with me because even though I liked this one and it’s easily the best “film” of the series, I would totally prefer watching the Hudson Hawk-ish nuttiness of Part 2 over this any day. Sure the ridiculous CGI blood in 2 is over the top and distracting, but I think the action was shot more like the old school violence in 80s movies like Commando – Part 3 goes back to shakycam confusion and it may be only slightly better than the muddled action scenes in 1.

    I actually didn’t mind the new team at all, and was pleasantly surprised that they weren’t portrayed as incompetent idiots. (I was seriously expecting their high-tech heist plan to go south just to prove Sly’s “kick down the door and start shooting” approach was superior, but it never happened and they were captured through no real fault of their own). I’m also kind of glad none of them died/turned bad, since I like the theme of Sly being their proud father-figure at the end. (Even though it was barely alluded to). I like the series ends w/ Statham and Stallone having a heart to heart, considering Statham used to be a main character and he’s barely in this one. I like the gay couple twist, and the Major Payne-esque “Wesley can’t adjust to normal life” montage. There’s plenty to like.

    Banderas was fun even though I didn’t quite understand his backstory – was he sad that his whole team died except for him? Because wasn’t that already Lutz’s backstory? Maybe that’s the point that they all have survivor’s guilt, even though they strangely live in a universe where they’re practically invincible and nobody gets a scratch while they joke through the action scenes. Gibson was so good he seems like he’s in another movie, but Ford – hoo boy, he seemed like he actually had trouble delivering his lines, probably because he just read them a few minutes prior. It’s an incredibly bad performance.

  59. Clearly, Banderas should have been a rat. His team died and he lived because he was the one who talked. And now he can’t stop talking, trying desperately to hide the one thing he really wants to say. And this mission is a way for him to redeem himself… By dying

  60. I enjoyed it for the most part but really hated the young bucks. They were out of place and threw the focus completely off. If they make another one which they probably won’t because of poor box office I think a must will be killing off expendables old and young indiscriminately. Live up to the name expendable for a change.

  61. Finally saw this, and really liked it. I like the first two as well, so that’s no surprise. Gibson, Snipes and especially Banderas handled were Nice additions. But I have to give my “award” to Stallone. This time he knew excactly what he wanted and hit the note perfectly. Bodes well for the new Rambo movie.

  62. Advanced Lucifer Radio

    August 31st, 2014 at 12:38 am

    This movie’s poor box office showing indicates that there probably won’t be many more entries in this series unless something drastic happens to kick it up the arse. Someone tweeted recently (think it was Harry Knowles but I apologise if it was you Vern) that the next instalment should be Expendables Vs. Predator. Gotta say, the idea made my mouth water.

  63. I saw. I liked. I smiled like Majestyk did through a lot of this. Got a kick out of Snipes on the cannon at the front of the train. I liked the ‘spook’ quip between him and Sly. I liked that Snipes joked about being locked up for tax evasion. Paul, you are too hard on Wesley, he was pretty great in this.

    In fact, the first half hour of this was great. And then I fuckin nodded off for the entire middle section. Not because the movie was boring mind you. I came off a night-shift, went to the midday session, ate an ice-cream and a bag of green frogs, my blood sugar must have spiked, then I went in to a semi-coma for a bit. Thank god I can do re-watches down the track on dvd at home.

    So I woke up as Banderas was being recruited by Sly and wished I had stayed asleep. Here we go, I thought, fuckin Mariachi loverboy schtick. But I was wrong, and pegsman, I apologize for being so harsh on him, but Banderas sorta won me over in this. He had the right mix of looney toon and desperado wannabe badass. It worked for me.

    I also thought the final action scenes were good. Yeah, it was a mostly bloodless affair, but it made me think that a potential R rated version might seal the deal and make it better.

  64. You know who could be a good main villain in an EXPENDABLES? Tom Cruise. Make him this uber slick, modern, elitist sort of character, maybe the owner of a PMC that’s got a clean public rep but is secretly involved in some atrocities that the team finds out about, and it prompts cruise to frame the Expendables for it(I’m surprised they haven’t went with this route before given how shady and not exactly legal Barney’s operation seems to be). I could just imagine a scene where his character Jack Something is mocking the Expendables as fossils, while he’s a 52 year old who looks like he’s still in his mid thirties and who doesn’t spend his free time getting drunk in a shitty bar, but climbing the world’s tallest mountains and buildings. Also, halfway through the movie he should pilot a fighter jet that shoots down Barney’s aircraft.

  65. They had a James Bond villain this time around. If there’s a fourth movie we need to see some 007 – anyone would do.

  66. Current Worldwide Box Office Numbers – $153,229,936

    It bombed in the US. But it looks like overseas audiences in Asia still stood by Sly. He really should thank them for their loyal support.

    My guess this will reach $180-$190 million in the end. Not too shabby.

  67. They are releasing an extended cut on Blu. Fingers crossed the longer cut features more character moments and strengths the film, but my guess it is just a slightly more violent cut of the film that was put together before trimming it to get a PG13 rating.

  68. I watched the extended cut of 3X, and I would have to go back and rewatch the theatrical cut to really give an accurate comparison of the two but there doesn’t seem to be any major differences in the film. Some actions scenes are slightly different, but this is not like the Extended cut of the first Expendables films that was a drastically different cut of the film compared to the theatrical release. (SPOILERS) One slight change in 3X that sticks out in my head is during the climax when Arnold and Jet clear the roof so the Expendables can make their getaway. In the theatrical cut we only see brief clips of them doing this presented in quick cuts between various other action beats of the team trying to make it to the roof. In the extended cut their actions are presented in a much longer scene without cutting away to other action. The scene is still not very long but it features some nice gun play with Arnie and Jet and it is a better use of the two then their minimal screen time in the theatrical cut. Other than that I can’t really think of any other significant changes. I am not sure it is even that more violent and/or bloody then the theatrical cut.

  69. Well, DUH! http://www.comingsoon.net/movies/news/385813-sylvester-stallone-calls-the-expendables-3s-pg-13-rating-a-horrible-miscalculation#/slide/1

    (Although to be honest, I think it was also a case of “Won’t get fooled again”, although many viewers seemed to enjoy the first two anyway.)

  70. Hopefully this proves to everyone that PG-13 doesn´t necessarily bring in a larger audience. Since I´m not an american resident,correct me if I am wrong, but even if a movie has an R-rating younger audiences can still be admitted if they´re in the company of an adult,right? If that is the case then for every ticket sold then there has to be another one bought. Of course this is down to whether or not the parent think it´s OK for his/her son/daughter to be exposed to awesome amounts of violence for that other ticket to be bought in the first place, but still. So an R-rated movie could, depending of the subject, potentially be more successful than a PG-13?

  71. I don’t know if this still holds true, but when I was under 17 a million years again, an adult just had to be there for the purchasing of the ticket so the theater knew you had permission. But maybe they’ve really cracked down since then.

  72. Got the blu-ray last night, watched it. Yep, this is a good one. This is when I think Sly got it just right. The story works, the action works despite the PG-13 rating and the new guest star appearances makes this one the best EXPENDABLES.

    *I like the story and how it plays out. It is very basic, but much better structured than previous installments.

    * The banter between the Expendables have become much more relaxed and natural. In the first one it felt awkward and forced but now that they have worked together for a number of films you can tell that
    they have grown a better report.

    * Wesley Goddamn Snipes gels just right into the team. He gets to to some good shit in this film and you can tell he revels in the opportunity.

    *Gibson makes a great villain. I expected his goofy performance from MACHETE KILLS. But here he plays it with a menace and nastiness which underlines the performance perfectly. For me he was the star of the show.

    *Banderas character is surprisingly well written. There is a pathos behind his constant babbling that works, although I can understand why people find him annoying. But I really liked him in this.

    *Harrison Ford also has a lot of fun in this, I can tell. I love how he says “You didn´t get him to Haag”. Great comedic delivery.

    *The action and how it is shot is perhaps the biggest surprise. This time they got it right mix of the kinetic energy of the first EXPENDABLES and the clarity of the second. If anyone would complain about shaky cam, that is only in individual shots. I think the way the film is edited it works really well.

    *The PG-13 rating does hinder the enjoyment a little bit. The action is not as visceral as it could have been with a hard R. A few exploding heads and some gory shootings in the mix would have amped the film up to a modern classic. Too bad really.

    Now that all the pieces are in place I am really looking forward to part 4 in this saga.

  73. What bugs me when people complain about this movie is that the film focuses on young Expendables´, which is not true. They are simply a plot device for Sly to realize that he belongs with his friends and that they bleed and die together as a family.

  74. I’ve liked them all, but this certainly is the best one. A lot of the action in the first half reminds me of the stuff we get in a good episode of STRIKE BACK. And that ain’t a bad thing. I like Banderas here too. He supposed to be annoying, and then turn out to be a real badass.

  75. I also like that Banderas actually gets one of the movie’s only moments of actual pathos. His happiness that Barney remembered the names from his stories is actually kind of touching, both in idea and execution.

  76. The Undefeated Gaul

    January 9th, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Gotta disagree with you guys, part 3 is the worst of the series imo. About 50% is ruined by the PG 13 rating. There may be less shaky cam than in the first one but having to avoid any real violence on screen at all times still forces the editing to seem hectic and unnatural. The action in part 1 (excluding the Dolph vs Jet Li fight) is way better. It’s nice and rough, it’s got energy and it gets the blood pumping. Nothing in part 3 had the same effect on me, it was all sanitized, unoriginal, uninteresting.

    The other 50% is ruined by the story. You could say the young guys are just a plot device to make Sly realize his old bro’s are where it’s really at, but they simply take up way too much time and nobody watching a goddamn Expendables film paid for a ticket to see those guys. Especially when you’ve got the brilliant additions of Snipes and Banderas, spend some damn time with them! Then in the end it’s like 17 heroes fighting so in the big battle they all get maybe 30 seconds of screen time all interspersed with each other, so it’s all chaos and nonsense and nobody gets a chance to shine (except Banderas maybe). Statham especially has nothing to do in the whole film, except get his accent ridiculed by Harrison Ford. To think he almost died on set for that…

    I will say Banderas, Snipes and Gibson were great in this and I did enjoy the more mature, smoother and better written banter between the characters. Sadly all that was not enough to save this for me.

  77. I saw the unrated version and enjoyed it a lot.It’s about ten minutes longer and I have no idea what was added (well, I’m guessing Snipes’ “motherfucker” was one thing) but nothing seemed particularly superfluous, so maybe the extra stuff really helped. The violence did seem a little bloodless, but then you could say much the same about FIRST BLOOD PART 2

  78. Gotta love Stallone! He makes it happen and still # 1 .

    Hey Sly – please check out my new ACTION TRAILER HERE!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lm5A6G_NeoU&feature=youtu.be

    thanks!

    [IMG]http://i59.tinypic.com/a1l5ib.jpg[/IMG]

  79. You know, I´d like to see a spinoff-movie of Snipes character. THE EXPENDABLES ORIGINS: WHAT´S UP DOC?

  80. So earlier today I saw an episode of CASTLE (That Nathan Fillion crime show), that surprised me in its respectful depiction of action icons. The murder victim was an 80s B-action star (with a rumored black ops background!) and at one point his 80s action icon buddies (plus a young female martial arts star), who were shooting a movie called THE INDESTRUCTABLES together, decided to break into the bad guy’s office Mission: Impossible style, to help solve the case.
    That sounds more badass than it actually was (Remember: Network crime show with middle aged target audience), but like I said, they were surprisingly respectful and despite some jokes about the cheesiness of their fictional movies, it came across as a love letter. When one character even made a joke about how THE INDESTRUCTABLES is about some old farts, his partner tells him to shut up.
    Unfortunately they didn’t put some real action film actors in it, but to my own surprise, Ted McGinley had the aged action star look down! I didn’t recognize him until I saw his name listed as guest star, but now would totally cast him as machine gun swinging, cigar chewing special unit leader in my DTV movie!

    (In case anybody here is interested, it’s episode 7.9 and is called…wait for it…LAST ACTION HERO. Yes, they really went there.)

  81. Stallone has, for the time being, at least, walked away from the franchise:

    Sylvester Stallone Departs ‘The Expendables’ Franchise

    EXCLUSIVE: In a crushing blow to fans of The Expendables, Sylvester Stallone has washed his hands of the franchise. He has withdrawn from taking part in the fourth installment, even though, sources…

  82. In a perfect world they’d get Clint (no pun) but that’s unrealistic.

  83. Have we already reached the part of the decade where Stallone pretends to have integrity? Man, how the time flies.

  84. I wonder if the argument was whether or not to hire a director and DP that can calm the damn camera down. Seriously the directing in all three movies fucking sucks.

  85. Yeah, I’m not gonna cry about it if this means the end of the franchise. Nobody ever seemed to care enough to make it as good in execution as it was in theory.

  86. I mean, Stallone obviously cared enough to literally break his fucking back doing the stunts, but not enough to write a story worthy of that degree of dedication.

  87. You guys have to understand what Millenium/NU Image is. To put it in perspective, my former employers refused to reach out to the company to help me find a job there because there is a patina of criminality to the company. They operate in a very questionable ethical area and bullshit their budgets. A lot

  88. The argument is about Avi Lerner demanding that the film use his own Bulgarian effects house for the film, instead of putting out bids to get better effects for cheaper. The conflict of interest should be obvious.

  89. It’s a Cannon offshoot. I would expect no less.

  90. For the record: I LIKE Millenium/NU Image, as you may gather from my desire to work there. So, my discussion of their perceived status in Hollywood should be taken as info on how people talk about them, not as an attack on them.

  91. The terrible CGI blood pretty much ruined the original EXPENDABLES for me, so I don’t blame Sly for wanting better effects.

  92. It’s not just about better effects.

    overspending on one budget line-item has a cascading effect that could cut into shoot days. Fewer days to shoot means you are more likely to run past 12 hours on set, which adds to overtime pay, which further stretches the budget and necessitates cutting corners… like practical squibs. Now you’re further relying on an effects house that didn’t have to compete for the job, exacerbating everything further.

    It’s hard to explain the intricacies of union contracts but basically, after 15-hours each hour of shooting costs the same as the union member’s base dayrate. And considering how few days they actually had all the stars together on set, you know that shit was happening.

    does that make sense?

  93. Also, Expendibles 1.0 was definitely shot with an eye toward a possible PG-13 version. They probably only decided to go R after test screening two different cuts.

    The CG squibs definitely help that awkward situation. You don’t have to shoot two wildly different versions of the money shots.

  94. It still sucks though, what sucks sucks, regardless of the excuses.

    I was very disappointed in the first EXPENDABLES, there were only a handful of moments I liked, so I never bothered with the sequels even though I’m told they’re better.

    And looking them up I’m shocked by how few movies Millennium/Nu Image has actually produced, that kind of smells of something sketchy to me.

  95. These movies were wasted potential anyway. They never delivered on their promises, and even though two and three were slightly better than the first, they were still kind of crappy. The best thing we got out of this movie was a nice turn by JCVD as a villain in the second.

  96. I’ve made my peace with this series. It was never what it could have been (or even what Sly told us it would be) but it had its moments. I’m not even that mad at the second one anymore, provided I skip all the Chuck Norris scenes. If they felt like doing one more where they finally fuckin’ expend somebody (preferably EVERYBODY, in a blaze of glory the likes of which mankind has never seen) then sure, go ahead. Let the series go out with a bang. But if not, that’s fine, too. This franchise was always too beautiful a dream to become reality. Time to wake up.

    That said, I’m also fine with Millennium/NU Image being shady. That’s part of the appeal of the schlock action genre. If it wasn’t for dodgy business practices, we’d have to admit that a lot of our favorite action stars just aren’t that great at making movies. And who wants that? Better to have a readymade bad guy like a money-laundering producer or penny-pinching studio exec to blame it on. We all sleep easier that way, and then years later we’ll get a raft of hilarious behind-the-scenes stories. Everybody wins.

  97. I have to agree with Batty here. These films are an odd mixture of intentional and unintentional self-parody. The series looks cheap, it’s tonally all over the place, and it’s too overstuffed with characters and wink-wink cameos to invest in. A half-serious buddy movie with Statham and Stallone could have worked pretty well. There were a handful of fun moments and ideas (I think I enjoyed Mickey Rourke and JCVD more than any of the regulars), and I moderately enjoyed part 2, but this series is a huge wasted opportunity, period.

  98. I saw the first one after watching all the Dolph Lundgren films in a row, and in the modus I was in then I really liked it. And the third one is just aces!

  99. For all the issues I had with the movies only one thing ever truly boiled my blood was how they gave Chuck Norris THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY theme in part 2. So damn disrespectful and I don’t really mind Chuck like that but give me a fuckin’ break bro. If they couldn’t get Clint they should’ve just dropped that idea altogether.

  100. Pegsman, in chronological order?

  101. Oh, you meant the Dolph movies! My brain haven’t quite woken yet. Yes, pretty much. There was a couple that were hard to find and I had to watch them later, but basically I watched him age.

  102. So are they really going to move forward with another EX film without Sly? Is there any real demand for another EX film? This franchise has been a mixed bag of groan inducing self referential humor, missed opportunities, and unmet expectations that has always seemed to deliver just enough fan service and nostalgia fuled action sequences to keep fans coming back for more in hopes they might finally deliver on the promise of the premise. I just don’t see the demand for another installment at this point. Maybe without Sly, they cut the budget and turn the series into a DTV franchise. They could retain a few cast members like Statham, Dolph, and Crews then fill out the rest of the team with DTV and international action stars like MJW, Marco Zaro, Tony Jaa, Wu Jing, and Andrei Arlovski. The series might actually be better served by abandoning its unfullid promise of being the home for action icons of the 80’s and 90’s, and just focused on trying to make good ensemble action pictures.

  103. Sorry unfulfilled not unfullid.

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