Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It Came From The Cineplex: The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3 was written by Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt and Sylvester Stallone. It was directed by Patrick Hughes (who's mostly directed commercials and short films).

I didn't care much for the first Expendables film. Let's face it, the casting is the real star of these movies, and even though Sly tried to get every 1980s action hero to star in the film, he didn't quite succeed and had to fill in the slots with wrestlers and other lesser luminaries. The blink-and-you'll miss 'em cameos by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger were disappointing as well.

The Expendables 2 was a big improvement, fixing most of the problems of the first and greatly expanding Schwarzenegger's screen time. It was much more fun than the first outing as well.

The Expendables 3 tries to shake up the formula a bit by throwing a group of younger mercenaries into the mix. It's better than the first, but not quite as good as the second. I'm thinking this might be a good time to retire the franchise.


The Plot:
After a disastrous mission, Barney Ross (played by Sylvester Stallone), the leader of the Expendables, believes his team is getting too long in the tooth to be an effective fighting force. He tells them their services are no longer needed and recruits a team of younger, tech-savvy mercenaries. 

The new team is easily captured by evil arms trader Conrad Stonebanks (played by Mel Gibson). Stonebanks co-founded the Expendables (which is news to fans of the franchise), but betrayed the team for profit. Stonebanks knows Barney will try to rescue the new team and sets up a trap for him.

In the end, the old school Expendables join Barney to help rescue the youngins. Lots of bullets fly and lots of things explode.

• Is Stallone secretly a fan of the G.I. Joe cartoon? Listen to these character names: Lee Christmas, Doctor Death, Gunner, Toll Road, Hale Caesar, Luna, Thorn, Mars, Drummer, Trench and Yin Yang. If those aren't Joe names, I don't know what are.

• At my screening, 99% of the audience was at least 50 years old. It makes me sad, but it appears that younger audiences just don't care about these "mature" action heroes.

• Jason Statham narrowly avoided injury during filming when the brakes failed on the truck he was driving and it plunged into the Black Sea. Statham's skills as an ex-Olympic diver reportedly saved his life.

• For the first time in this franchise, Barney doesn't sport a mustache and goatee. Maybe Sly got tired of coloring it black every morning and just shaved it all off? What? Don't look at me like that! The guy's 68! Every hair on his body's gray by now. It happens to the best of us.

• Wondering why Caesar gets sidelined early in the film and disappears? Because actor Terry Crews is currently starring in the TV series Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

• There are several pretty obvious in-jokes peppered throughout the film. After rescuing Doctor Death (played by Wesley Snipes), the other Expendables ask why he was in prison. Doc glowers at them and hisses, "Tax evasion." In real life Snipes recently served three years in prison for that very crime.

Later Barney walks outside a bar and approaches several men, saying, "I'm looking for a guy named Church." CIA operative Max Drummer (played by Harrison Ford) then appears and says, "Church is out of the picture."

Bruce Willis played Church in the first two films. Stallone offered Willis $3 million dollars (for four days' work) to reprise his role but Willis balked, demanding $4 million. Stallone responded by writing him out of the film.

In the final act Drummer flies the copter that rescues the Expendables from an exploding building. In real life Harrison Ford is a skilled helicopter pilot and has participated in many search and rescue operations.

• The whole point of these films is that they're packed full of old school action stars. So of course it only makes sense that Kelsey Grammer would be in the picture. Remember all those great 1980s action films he was in? No? Yeah, neither do I.

Nicholas Cage was offered the role of Bonaparte but turned it down, prompting Grammer to accept.

• Egos ahoy! Stallone wanted to cast Jackie Chan in the film, but he refused because he wanted to be the star. Steven Seagal was also offered a part, but turned it down (too busy being a lawman?).

• The previous two films were rated R, but this one was PG-13. Obviously this was done in an effort to reach a wider audience and punch up the box office, but it seems to have backfired. To date the film has grossed less than $50 million.

• As in the previous two films, there are a ton of cast reunions here. Stallone starred with Dolph Lungren in Rocky IV, and with Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man. Jason Statham and Jet Li were both in The One. Mel Gibson and Jet Li were in Lethal Weapon 4. Stallone starred with Antonio Banderas in Assassins. Banderas and Mel Gibson were both in Machete Kills. Stallone and Terry Crews both starred in The 6th Day. And Stallone and Schwarzenegger were both recently in Escape Plan.

• Just like last time, Trench (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) spouts a couple of his famous one liners. Near the end of the film he shouts, "Get to da choppa!", which of course is from Predator. He also says, "I lied," which he said in Commando.

• Drummer tells Barney to capture Stonebanks alive, so he can stand trial at the Hague. Of course at the end of the film Barney and Stonebanks have an intense one-on-one battle. The fight is pretty much a draw until Barney manages to grab a weapon. Stonebanks taunts Barney, saying he can't kill him because he has to deliver him to the Hague.

Barney then shouts, "I AM THE HAGUE!" Was that a shout out to Judge Dredd, where Stallone bellowed, "I AM THE LAW!"?

• After lots of shots of stuntmen, er, I mean the two actors punching one another, Barney dispatches Stonebanks and kills him. He then escapes in the nick of time before the building explodes. I have to admit I was totally expecting Stonebanks to somehow rise from the rubble in a post credits scene, but alas, it didn't happen.

• Right before the building they're in explodes, the entire cast piles into the escape chopper. By my count there are thirteen people crammed in there. Is that possible? Just how much weight can a helicopter carry?

• In the obligatory "Winding Down At The Bar" scene at the end of the film, Barney is talking to Trench and his pal Yin Yang (played by Jet Li). Barney notices the two of them seem particularly chummy, and jokingly says, "You guys want to get a room?" Trench coyly giggles, "We don't need a room!" as he and Yang appear to snuggle.

The way the scene is shot I honestly can't tell if Trench is just yanking Barney's chain (so to speak), or if we're supposed to believe he and Yang are a gay couple. I could practically hear the brains of Schwarzenegger fans exploding all over the theater.

It's like the filmmakers wanted to be progressive here but were afraid of offending anyone. By being vague they can have it both ways. 
You can't play it that way, guys. Trench is gay or he's not. And playing someone's sexuality for laughs– are we still doing that? Didn't such things go out a long time ago?

The Expendables 3 once again trots out its old school action heroes for "one last mission," with mixed results. It's better than the first one, but not as good as the second. I give it a B-.

1 comment:

  1. The film's sporadic set pieces simply aren't captivating enough to forgive all the movie's other faults.


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