Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
The Expendables have returned to our screens to wage war against a villainous arms dealer, with whom they harbour a personal vendetta. Along for the ride with the mercenaries for hire are some welcome veterans of the action genre and a group of younger recruits who end up being a not quite so welcome addition to the franchise. This third installment in The Expendables film series manages to pack in enough thrills and explosions to be an entertaining cinema going experience. While the pacing is at times a little inconsistent, particularly in the middle, the adrenaline fueled first and final acts are enough to redeem its mistakes.
As the story begins, the team are on a mission that results in their rescue of a fellow mercenary, played by yet another action icon. The entire sequence, involving a helicopter, a train and plenty of gun fire and explosions, is an extremely enjoyable and visually impressive set piece that serves as the perfect introduction to an Expendables movie.
Events continue to charge along following the opening titles as the team proceed straight onto their next mission. The pace throughout the first act is fast, the action is excellent and the banther between the characters is as genuinely funny as it is delightfully cheesy. Unfortunately though, events begins to lag considerably during the middle portion of the story. The main problem lies with the amount of focus that is put on a group of new and younger characters that Stallone’s Barney Ross sets out to recruit.
I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all, people who go to see The Expendables do so for the thrill of seeing their favourite action heroes ham it up together on the big screen and fire big guns. That was, as I’m given to understand, the point of this franchise in the first place. It’s baffling then that for a long stretch of The Expendables 3 the established team and the various other veterans of the genre who appear are sidelined in favour of focusing on a group of younger newcomers.
The action sequences that involve just Ross and his new recruits don’t manage to be particularly exciting because you just don’t care about these characters. When you have a cast that includes Schwarzenegger, Snipes, Ford, Gibson, Statham, Lundgren and Banderas, I don’t think anyone is interested in watching a group of largely unfamiliar fresh faces for very long.
Thankfully, this extended focus on the younger characters is overshadowed by a tremendously enjoyable and prolonged final act. It features all of the stars you actually paid to see grouping together to spout out ridiculous one liners, wield unnecessarily oversized weapons and cause enough fiery mayhem to blow a hole in the side of the planet. It is enough to redeem the slow pace of the middle and features some of the best and most over the top action I’ve borne witness to at the cinema in a long time.
And while the younger cast members prove to be largely interchangeable and monotonous, The Expendables 3 features some of the franchise’s best and most enjoyable performances by its headline stars.
Stallone gives his most intense performance yet as Barney Ross. This time around he’s haunted by how his past failures could have devastating consequences for his own future and that of those around him. Stallone sells Ross’s turmoil well and during the stretch focusing on the young recruits, he manages to carry the movie on his own back.
Barney Ross is perhaps at his best though when he’s trading quips with his number two man, Jason Statham’s Lee Christmas. Stallone and Statham have demonstrated throughout these movies that they have excellent on screen chemistry together, it’s only a pity that they don’t get more time to flaunt it here. Statham for his part though has succeeded in crafting Christmas into a very likable character over the course of the series.
Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Randy Couture and Terry Crews are unfortunately rather under-utilised as the remainder of the original team line-up. Although that doesn’t mean there’s any fault in their performances. Lundgren and Couture in particular have some funny and enjoyable moments.
Then, of course, there’s Stallone’s fellow titan of the action genre – the great Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. You really have to respect Arnie as a performer. He certainly is not shy about paying homage to the roots of his career and clearly thoroughly enjoys himself while doing so. Reprising his role of Trench Mauser, Schwarzenegger plays a substantial part and is as entertaining as ever. He even gets to deliver another of his most famous past lines which results in one of the best moments of the movie.
The renowned action stars who are franchise newcomers all give great performances and seem at home in the world of The Expendables. Harrison Ford slips seamlessly into the void left by Bruce Willis as CIA representative/cocky pilot, Max Drummer. Mel Gibson is suitably nutty as villain Conrad Stonebanks and was an inspired choice to portray an Expendables big bad.
However, it’s Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas who more often than not steal the show as Doctor Death and Galgo, respectively. Snipes is an excellent new addition to Ross’s team and gives an incredibly impressive performance, showcasing that he still has much to offer the world of cinema. Banderas on the other hand is fantastic as fast talking Expendable wannabe Galgo, delivering plenty of laugh out loud material.
Overall, The Expendables 3 is a highly entertaining and enjoyable action movie. While it does lag in the middle when the focus is on the younger cast, its pulse pounding, action packed opening and closing acts coupled with the fun and engaging performances of its cast of action behemoths are more than adequate to redeem it. There are enough ludicrous set pieces, ridiculously cheesy dialogue and revered Hollywood legends blowing things up to make it a worthy entry in The Expendables franchise.
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