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Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Expendables 3 2014 * * Stars

The Expendables 3Director: Patrick Hughes
Year: 2014
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren

Do you remember when the month of May rolled around and that meant another Star Wars movie? Or when October came (falling leaves and all) and that meant another Saw movie? Or when Thanksgiving was in our midst and that meant another Twilight monstrosity? Well here we are in the dog days of August and that means one thing: It's Expendables time! You know, the series of films where Sylvester Stallone hires a director, persuades a bunch of his action star buds to jump on board, gives the audience a chance to see tons of cardboard villains bite the dust, and revels in countless excuses to you know, blow stuff up. Yeah, that's the mindless, late summer ticket. Or is it? Whereas the first couple of Expendables flicks were gory and rated R, this new one holds back on the blood and guts department to garner a PG-13 rating. Was this a ploy to bring in a wider audience? I guess so. But I just saw "3's" box office take and it looks to bomb out in ticket receipts. A PG-13 marketing technique garnered to make money hasn't worked (in the past) and probably will never work (an example would be the debunked Terminator Salvation). The first two rated R installments of Sly's pet project grossed over $500 million worldwide. This new one might possibly just break even. What a shame.

With a plot that is as thin skinned as a hairless cat, a soundtrack straight out of a Michael Bay vehicle (oh no!), camera angles that remind you of a bad B movie, and a cameo by Jet Li that registers so much as a gesundheit, The Expendables 3 basically involves a conflict between the protagonist (Sylvester "droopy" Stallone) and the antagonist (Mel "darn I got phone tapped" Gibson). Mel Gibson plays Conrad Stonebanks. He's a arms dealer and former founder of the Expendables team. Stallone plays the other founder (and current leader) of the Expendables in Barney Ross. On a job with his cohorts consisting of intercepting bombs that are going to Somalia, Ross spots Stonebanks who he supposedly killed a long time age. It turns out that Stonebanks is the conspirator behind this treacherous weapons deal. What ensues is a huge gunfight with one of Barney's men becoming severely wounded (Terry Crews playing Hale Caesar, guns specialist). To get revenge on Stonebanks by hunting him down, Ross drops his old Expendables team and quote unquote "reloads" with a new one.

So what entices the average moviegoer to see these movies? Well it's the cast I tell you and it's comprised of Sly's peers, old school co-stars, and assorted UFC fighters (Wesley Snipes from Demolition Man, Antonio Banderus from Assassins, good old Dolph Lundgren from Rocky IV, fetching Ronda Rousey, and Kelsey Grammer). Harrison Ford, a newbie in the franchise playing CIA pilot Max Drummer, gives a substantial performance but his line readings seem a little too serious for the material. Then we have Mel Gibson who's less uptight as madman Conrad Stonebanks. His turn is the best of the bunch even though his role is a little neutered and underwritten. That leaves storyteller and screenwriter of "3" being Sylvester Stallone. Stallone's acting has definitely gotten worse over the years. As Barney Ross, he reluctantly picks up another lucrative paycheck. His current routine in every film is to be closed off or moody while virtually mumbling his lines off of cue cards. He's kind of like the Adam Sandler of action movies because he makes fun of or thinks he's above every other character around him.

Now with a huge cavalcade of a cast consisting of macho, bullet-happy butt kickers, you have to ask yourself this question: Is this 3rd Expendables film action oriented? Sure it is. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it's main purpose was to parody action films or just plain make fun of them. After the final credits rolled, I reverted back to my childhood when I found myself watching 1984's Missing In Action or episodes of The A-Team. The Expendables 3 copies off this in that the villains get shot up with virtual ease while the heroes (or hero) come(s) out of the whole debacle with not so much as a neosporin scratch. If "Expendables 4" is in the works (and it probably is), I was trying to figure out what action hero from the past (or present day) could join Stallone's relatively has-been posse. Liam Neeson perhaps? Gosh I hope not. If somehow Neeson gets contacted and gets the proverbial peer pressure from Sly, I'm praying that he does what was reiterated in the 80's and "just says no!".

All in all, this 2 hour slop has PG-13 induced violence (lots of people die with machine guns and knives but you only see little smidgens of blood a la red food dye corn syrup), a minimal plot, mostly inane dialogue, and momentously phoned in performances. In layman's terms, The Expendables 3 is an action flick that is indeed uninspired and just plain empty. It's pretty much "expendable" unto itself.

Of note: (Spoiler alerts) The Expendables 3 concludes with a much anticipated, long awaited showdown between Gibson and Stallone. Basically it's a pedestrian fistfight that lasts about 1 minute (I'm not kidding). Oh and co-star Wesley Snipes states that his character just got out of prison for quote unquote "tax evasion." Way to state the obvious there Wes. Finally, at the end of the two hour running time, we see an elaborate bar moment where almost every cast member gets together to down some brewskies. Of course the Terry Crews character who was shot up earlier and looked like he was an inch away from death, somehow appears untouched and unscathed. He joins the crew for spirits and it's as if nothing ever happened to him. Sheer nonsense!

Written by Jesse Burleson

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