These days, 60 is apparently the new 30 and what better what to celebrate such an inappropriate consideration than to see a bunch of old dudes try to remain relevant in an industry that seems ready to show many of them the front door? This is The Expendables 3, a measurably better experience than previous entries, but still of little value beyond mindless action apathy.
With a smaller team, Barney (Sylvester Stallone) and his friends (Jason Staitham, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, and Dolph Lungren) raid a prison train to liberate the maniac Doc (Wesley Snipes) for what he calls 'tax evasion.' But soon the team is caught in a deadly shootout with Barney's former Expendable buddy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), whose love of gunpowder and large-scale death is equally only by his love for fine art. When a teammate goes down, Barney decides to protect his friends by hiring a younger crew (Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz, and Glen Powell) that get themselves captured. Using his contacts including standby Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the mysterious CIA man Drummer (Harrison Ford), and a talkative new recruit (Antonio Banderas), Barney heads to a final bloody showdown with Stonebanks, a fight which only one can survive.
It's not that Expendables is terrible, but even though I knew what I was getting before the lights dimmed, the result is decidedly taxing in many parts. The CGI makes The Legend of Hercules look like The Hobbit, a cornucopia of ridiculous helicopter maneuvers and poorly-lit green-screened night scenes. Actors speak in the most cliched manner possible, with Schwarzenegger reduced to uttering lines from his previous movies to remain relevant. And then there's the clown-car of elder 'heroes,' each of whom looks more ready for a fishing trip than taking on an entire army. Some emerge just long enough to keep our interest, then climb under their rock (or cryo chamber) before they're called upon again by Director Patrick Hughes. A newcomer to big Summer affairs, one can Hughes' mistakes all over the digital canvas, from overly-choreographed fight scenes to overly-simplistic camera angles that look no better than an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
With so many of them potentially collecting Social Security, it's hard to fathom why Stallone and company don't fade away to the semi-quiet convention circuit, signing autographs and sitting in panels while competent replacements help to forge the next chapter in action films. Like a former star quarterback who can't see that retirement is their next likely move, Stallone and Schwarzenegger's resistance to leave is actually complicating that needed transition. Violence for the sake of it is a 20th Century convention, and with more intelligent alternatives like The Bourne series already proving Hollywood's potential, The Expendables as a franchise feels like it's 20 years too late.
It's no secret that Expendables has become the victim of Internet piracy, as a DVD-quality copy of the film has now been downloaded more than 200,000 times just as its theatrical version is set to premiere. That will no doubt affect domestic ticket sales, which were considered low-hanging fruit at best and Hollywood pipe dream at worst. Such a situation reminds us that the Hollywood model of clinging to old habits does result in slow painful deaths. You can make three Expendables movies with mindless violence to boot, but talk of a Deadpool flick somehow makes studio heads queasy.
The Expendables 3 is rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language and has a runtime of 126 minutes.
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