‘The Expendables 3′ Is a Retirement Home for Action Stars
This move is as turgid as Sylvester Stallone’s neck
The CIA knows the world is a dangerous place full of merciless terrorists bent on global domination. Sometimes, it needs a team to do its dirty work. Sometimes, it needs a team that ain’t afraid of blood and explosions. Sometimes, it needs The Expendables.
The Expendables 3 is a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster straight out of the 1980s. It’s got most of your favorite action stars—Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Jet Li, Jason Statham. The idea of that many action icons in the same movie makes the 13-year-old inside me jump for joy.
I am no longer 13.
Halfway through the movie, Stallone lays out a plan for his troops. They scoff. He asks them what’s wrong. “It’s a great plan,” Luna—the female team member—says. “If this was 1985.”
Amen. It’s not 1985. Movies—even action films—have come a long way since then. Nostalgia can be fun … when it’s good. When it’s bad, it highlights all the flaws and misery of bygone era.
Expendables 3 is the bad kind of nostalgia.
Movies require a suspension of disbelief. Audiences know alien robots don’t roam Earth disguised as cars. We know that turtles wallowing in radioactive ooze don’t morph into teenage ninjas. We know that bodies absorb only so many bullets. But we play along with these concepts because, in return, the movie will entertain us.
Suspension of disbelief is a privilege audiences grant to filmmakers. Sometimes they abuse that privilege. Too many ridiculous situations and not enough fun can destroy an audience’s credulity. The Expendables 3 beat my suspension of disbelief to death.
I urge you not to watch this movie. But if you must, please consider:
Why does Stallone blow up the helicopter after rescuing Wesley Snipes? Couldn’t they have taken it all the way home?
Gibson is a billionaire arms dealer with an international clientele. The CIA hasn’t been able to find him for a decade. He’s been “living off the grid” … in a gigantic mansion filled with millions in artwork he legally purchased. That’s not living off the grid. That’s screaming you’re an illegal arms dealer at the top of your lungs.
The Expendables need to get to Gibson while he’s conducting a deal in Romania. They enter the country via a complicated high-altitude parachute jump. Romania is a perfectly pleasant country. Why didn’t they just drive in?
Stallone fires the old Expendables team because he thinks going after Gibson is a suicide mission. He doesn’t want his friends to die. He then recruits a whole new team out of young mercenaries with their whole lives ahead of them. Stallone’s curious morality doesn’t allow him to see this as a blatant hypocrisy.
Why all these events happen is easy enough answer. Exploding helicopters look cool. Parachutes look cool. Audiences are more prone to hating the opulently wealthy than a miserable man in hiding. And Stallone needed a reason to put new characters in his ailing franchise. Firing the old team to make way for the new team was the best the lazy screenwriters could come up with.
In The Expendables 3, the plot serves the set-pieces. Which would be fine if the set-pieces were interesting. The actors are charming enough. They’re professionals. Snipes acts crazy, Statham grins, and Dolph Lundgren is just happy he’s not in a direct-to-video flick.
The dialogue is all one-liners, bad jokes and call-backs to better movies. At one point, Swarzanegger urges the team to “get to the choppa!”
It’s the action that’s terrible. The one thing this movie needed to be a success just isn’t there. The action scenes are dull. Has Stallone even seen The Raid: The Redemption?
Audiences expect more than explosions tossing the protagonists around. They deserve better than Antonia Banderas goofily falling through a window and slamming into the bad guys. In The Raid, Rama beat back machete-wielding maniacs bare-handed. We can’t go back.
The Expendables 3 is every action movie cliche audiences are not nostalgic for. The color palette is orange and blue. The final act takes place in a fake, vaguely Soviet shit-hole country. All the bad guys wear masks or leather jackets. Stallone tosses around shallow aphorisms about family. Motorcycles defeat tanks on the battlefield.
It’s two hours of tired men doing tired things because they don’t know how to do anything else. It’s Stallone’s retirement plan for aging action stars.
And here’s the worst part. It’s working. Everyone one these turd movies has made money. At least the first two were fun.
The Expendables 3 will turn a profit. The first two were rated R. This one is PG-13. Instant, washed out, lowest-common-denominator success. There’s going to be more of these things. Millennium Films already has teased a film about an all-woman team called the ExpendaBelles.
As Gibson said during his villainous, PG-13 soliloquy, “I don’t give a fart.”