By Bert Schrijvers (Belgium)
The Expendables 3 really only has one thing going for it: Mel Gibson gives an amazing performance as the villain. He makes this movie much better than it has any right to be. Every other aspect is pretty much as lazy as can get, but lightning strikes whenever Gibson is on screen. Apparently he wrote most of his own scenes. If he had just written the whole thing, this movie could have had a fighting chance.
Much like in the previous installment, The Expendables 3 revolves around a basic revenge plot. This time around they’re avenging Hale Caesar (Terry Crews, blessed with the worst character name in a movie that also features ‘Lee Christmas’ and ‘Trench Mouse’), who gets shot by Gibson in a very emotional (***cough***) scene. For some reason, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) suddenly realises this whole mercenary thing is dangerous and is tired of putting his crew in harm’s way. Then he gets a new, younger crew. I really don’t get how getting twenty-somethings killed is any better than getting ‘old’ guys killed, but I guess it makes sense in the screenwriter’s head.
In all fairness, I did like the idea of bringing in new characters. The problem is: these aren’t really characters. Because of later events in the movie, you’re supposed to care about them. This is hard to do when they have generic characterizations like ‘hacker’ and ‘tough woman’. While the opening half hour was at least entertaining, the movie just sinks like a brick when these newcomers show up and do their mission. In fact, you could erase this part altogether and get a fairly enjoyable, compact action movie that runs about 90 minutes. Honestly, who really needs a movie in this franchise to go over two hours? There’s got to be a simpler way to get from A to B.
While The Expendables 2 featured some great action set pieces, this movie relies mostly on quick cuts and extreme close-ups to make all the fights ‘work’. It doesn’t help that this movie is rated PG-13 while the previous ones were rated R. If you’re going to make a homage to action movies from the 1980s, you need to go over the top. Our two knife experts (Wesley Snipes comes in as competition for Jason Statham) are so amazing they can stab bad guys without drawing a single drop of blood. It all just comes off as pretty tame. The Expendables 3 feels too much like the type of modern action movie they don’t want to be associated with in the first place.
Even the big showdown between Stallone and Gibson is essentially a dud, particularly when you remember the epic finale with Jean-Claude Van Damme in the previous installment. Much like the rest of the movie, it’s just a matter of going through the motions. It’s pretty obvious why we never got an Expendables 4. Most of the performers just seem tired of this stuff and have trouble hiding it. The Expendables 3 is by far the weakest part of the trilogy.