In 2010 Sylvester Stallone put together "The Expendables." It was a movie that not only brought together many of the action heroes many of us grew up with, but also some recent action heroes It also put together Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the screen for the first time ever! This was when Schwarzenegger was still governor of California! The movie was a throw back to the R-rated action movies of the 80s, just mindless bloody fun. The movie was a success and spawned a sequel two years later which saw even more action stars of yesteryear join the cast for more wall to wall big time action. Today, Aug. 15 brings us the third edition of the series, "The Expendables 3." However, the main staple of the first two movies is missing in this new outing.
"The Expendables 3" finds Barney Ross (Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and the rest of the Expendables team on a routine mission which, of course, turns out to be anything but that. While on the mission they run into Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a founding member of the Expendables thought to be dead. This gives the team their most difficult mission yet, to go get Stonebanks and bring him in... alive! It may take a few new members of the team to accomplish this one.
If you have seen the commercials for the movie there is one part of the advertisement that sticks out that shows this movie will not be like the other two, it's rated PG-13. Watching "The Expendables 3" is like watching what it would have looked like when it gets broadcast on network TV. Part of what made the first two movies fun was the care-free gratuitous violence that went along with them. Movies today certainly don't need to be that bloody and violent to be entertaining for us, but that was what the Expendables movies were selling and we bought it. There is very little bloodletting in this movie. Many of the bad guys are shot off screen. Even if someone was shot in a car from a distance, where you would see blood splatter on a broken window in the past movies, results in a clean window in this outing. A movie series can drop in rating and still be good like how the fourth edition in the Die Hard movies was, but this movie feels like it was watered-down in order to attract a wider audience and suffers for it.
The brightest feature in "The Expendables 3" are the new veteran actors who make their first appearance in the series. Harrison Ford takes over the role Bruce Willis used to occupy as Barney's new contact, Drummer. Of all the new editions his is the best! Ford appears to be having the time of his life playing the role of Drummer and it makes all the scenes he is involved with that much more fun. Antonio Banderas is one of the new Expendables and he is downright hilarious and kicks some ass to boot. Kelsey Grammer may not have a heavy action movie resume, but he still is a welcome addition to the cast. Last and certainly not least, Wesley Snipes joins the cast as Doc. He and Stallone were adversaries in "Demolition Man" and it's just great to see Snipes on the big screen again. None of the actors mind taking pot shots at themselves either, so it is refreshing to see no egos came on set.
Mel Gibson does not stand out as well as the others, but that is not all the actors fault. It's the way his character is written. Mel Gibson is a pretty darn big name when it comes to action films of the past and he is the perfect fit for "The Expendables 3" much like how Van Damme fit well in "The Expendables 2." Stonebanks is a character audiences should be able to connect with, but they are never really given a chance. There is an old adage about screenwriting that states, "Show, don't tell." Translated it means that since you are writing for a visual medium that you should show something rather than have someone just tell it. There is a scene in this movie where Gibson's character talks about his and Barney's past. This is one of those moments where a flashback could have worked out great for the movie if the audience could just see what really went down between these two men. Obviously to shoot such a scene would mean more money added to the budget, but they were already saving money on gunshot squibs so it could have been added in, but they filmmakers opted for the telling route instead. If they had gone the other way, they could have ended up with one great villain.
Mel Gibson's character is not the only one that disappoints. "The Expendables 3" features a number of new and young Expendables that includes Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Kellan Lutz and MMA fighter Ronda Rousey. All four fail to make any impression at all in this movie. Unlike original members of the team like Dolph Lundgren and Terry Crews who could make you laugh or let you know exactly what their character is thinking with the slightest facial tick, these newcomers do not allow the audience to connect with them and if one of their characters were to die we would not care in the least. A great deal of attention is put on Rousey's character as if they wanted to make her into another Scarlett Johansson. Despite how good a fighter Ronda Rousey is in real life, her future as a female action star or even an actor is in serious doubt.
Some of this blame has to fall in the lap of the movie's inexperienced director, Patrick Hughes. He has a few shorts under his belt and the feature film, "Red Hill" a rated R action movie, so maybe an executive thought he could work some magic on this project. He doesn't! In a scene where Barney is putting together weapons for a big fight, you can tell it is a moment where you are really supposed to be getting into it, like when Schwarzenegger had a similar scene back in "Commando", but Hughes lacks the know how on pulling something like that off. Finally in any scene where characters are trying to have a one on one moment with another character or when Stallone is supposed to be giving a rallying speech, all those fall flat and are sometimes laughable.
Not all the actions scenes in "The Expendables 3" are bad. Some are entertaining, but they always feel like there is an ingredient missing. Hollywood is a business and with a lower MPAA rating you allow more people to see your product without a parent or guardian present. However, your previous movies both made huge profits and by taking away the formula that help bring you those mighty dollars, you risk hurting your franchise. IMDb lists that a Part 4 could be in the future. It would not be surprising if that movie returns to its R-rated roots. In the meantime, moviegoers will have to endure this water-downed edition. It is rated PG-13 for violence and language.