The Expendables films have been reliable for a bit of fun, old school action in the midst of a world dominated by superheroes and CGI. There was always something fun about them and they've always been enjoyable. They haven't always been great, though. In fact, while good, they haven't truly lived up to there potential. There was always something missing. Whether it was the lower budget of the original that led to some disappointing action or the fact that the second was just too jam packed with over-the-hill action stars things never came together as well as they should. Expendables 3 fixes that, adds in a dose of nostalgia and delightfully cheesy screenplay and delivers the best film in the franchise.
If you missed the first two you'll most likely be OK. The Expendables are a team of good guy mercenaries made up of older tough guys. A few folks from the previous films are back: Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone); Lee Christmas (Jason Statham); Tranch (Arnold Schwarzenegger); Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren); Toll Road (Randy Couture); Caeser (Terry Crewes); Yin Yang (Jet Li). We find some of the team on a mission where Barney discovers that his old teammate, Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) from the original Expendables he formed when was young is alive and well and doing evil things. Unfortunately he starts feeling bad about all the people that have died and so he disbands the team and heads out on a suicide mission to kill Stonebanks with a group of young guys and Antonio Banderas (as Spanaird Galgo). Things then blow up.
While plot isn't really a big selling point for these films Expendables 3 easily has the most enjoyable and cohesive of the trilogy.Stallone's co-writers are able to reign in his bromance stuff and dial up the one-liners and humor far better. It makes for a movie that keeps its story dumb, but fun and its action coming. It's also a bit smarter with its nostalgia than the previous films. While the others definitely played off the old factor they never referenced actor's past works as wonderfully as this does. It just seems like they were having more fun this time with the screenplay and that leads to a more entertaining movie. Even better is that the screenplay was clearly rewritten after Bruce Willis dropped out to insult his character as much as possible. It's possibly the most passive aggressive action film ever made.
We've wasted an entire paragraph on words in a review of an Expendables movie. That's almost blasphemous. Expendables 3 action is far and beyond some of the better blow-em-up action I've seen this summer. Ditching fancy technology for simple explosions and some fantastically edited together fist fights the movie feels old school, but not tired with its action. Its concluding action sequence, which runs for about a third of the film is impressive in its ability to weave together about 6 different action sequences at once while still building tension and keeping you following what's going on. It's amazing what a competent action director can do with some of the oldest names in the business.
It helps a lot that all the actors brought in this time around actually played a role and could actually act. While it was great seeing so many stars in Expendables 2, the movie was bloated and started feeling like cameos for cameos sake. This time around characters fit. The addition of Wesley Snipes is perfect and both Mel Gibson and Antonio Banderas are legitimately good actors. Banderas is especially enjoyable as the non-stop talking character he plays, while Gibson can do smarmy evil better than anyone on earth. Toss in a little Harrison Ford, who looks like he's having fun unlike Willis who just moped, and you've got a cocktail of quality action actors that lend something more to the action.
The Expendables 3 is the kind of old school action you've always wanted from the series. Whereas the first two films had that great old school feeling, this third one makes it fresh. Instead of feeling a bit stale, it's all fun. by the time the last massive explosion rocks the screen you'll probably have had your fill of dumb one-liners and bullets flying, but like any meal that isn't good for you you'll have had a blast while you took it in.