Is it possible for the past to come back to haunt you at the worst possible time? Will you be able to ask for help to face it or try to go it alone with deadly results? That's part of the premise behind the new movie "The Expendables 3," which had the familiar cast forced to confront their demons internally and externally. Sure, the movie had some of the charm of the earlier films, but it lacked a cohesive script to tie the multiple plots together instead of focusing on one or two main ones.
"The Expendables 3" followed Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team of mercenaries as they seemed to be poised on entering another dangerous mission to rescue a prisoner of mysterious origins who was locked away for 8 years due to one mistake. The prisoner was named Doc (Wesley Snipes) who turned out to be a former Expendable that Barney needed to help complete a mission. Doc immediately clashed with Ross' right hand man Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) as they tried to outmatch each other when it came to their knife fighting skills. Unfortunately, that battle had to wait when Ross came face-to-face with a familiar face that he thought was long dead: his former friend/Expendable co-founder Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) that he thought was dead. Stonebanks managed to get the upper hand on the team and shot Caesar (Terry Crewes) in retaliation for Ross' betrayal years ago. The CIA had a new power player in charge of helping the team in Drummer (Harrison Ford) who wanted Stonebanks to pay for his crimes as an arms dealer who sold weapons to people who committed horrific crimes with them. Instead of using the team to help, Ross lets them all go to find a younger crew that he won't get attached to in case the mission went bad. During the process of finding new team members, he found John Smilee (Kellan Lutz) who was a damaged soul that reminded Ross of what he was like at Smilee's age. He also impressed by Luna (Ronda Rousey) who was a woman that could smile one instant and knock a man to the ground the next. What Ross didn't expect was to keep running into Galgo (Antonio Banderas) a former mercenary who used his excitement for work to cover up a dark past. Could Galgo's presence help or hurt Ross as he was forced to confront Stonebanks in one more final battle where only one would survive?
In terms of questions, the movie wasn't really required to have any due to the fact that it's an action movie where the plots are just as quickly resolved as they began. The audience knew going in that the good guys would win and that the main villain would get what was coming to them in spades. Sadly, the movie franchise suffered a minor setback with this one because it had too much going on and not enough of a time length to cover everything and everyone involved in it. It also didn't help that the core cast of Expendables was sidelined for a large portion of the film and a new crop of actors were added in to take their place, which was a mistake. The movie shouldn't have added so many new faces while the familiar ones still had the most impact. Out of the new expendables, Lutz and Rousey made the biggest impression of the four newbies for different reasons. Lutz's Smilee was supposed to be the rebel finding a purpose, while Rousey was the only female face who could dish it out as well as the men could. Her first scene showcased Luna initially coming off as a demure hostess, but she quickly revealed that she could even stop a fight in a dress and heels. The newbie plot also made it harder to find anything intriguing about the main villain subplot, which could've benefited from maybe one flashback to put things into perspective. As the villain, Gibson went as over-the-top as he could, while convincing viewers that his character deserved what was coming his way no matter what. The movie also made some wry insider jokes based on the cast's professional and personal pasts, such as Snipes' recent prison stint, which proved to be good tension relievers. In the end, the movie was best when the cast was able to get into the thick of an extreme action scene. That pivotal scene involved the old and new expendables fighting for their lives in a building that was rigged to explode. Everything else that came before it seemed to be building up just for that moment. It's just a shame that the build-up wasn't done too properly to make the scene worth the wait.
As for breakout performances, Rousey and Banderas led the pack for very different reasons. Rousey portrayed the newcomer who made the most of her limited screentime by making a lasting impression in everything that she did. It also helped that she also had an extremely well crafted fight scene where she often took on multiple bad guys alone, until Banderas' Galgo arrived at the most ideal time and joined on the mayhem. Rousey's Luna made the most of her scenes, but her character still wasn't fully fleshed to see if she'll be around if a fourth film does get made depending on how well this film does at the box office. She embodied Luna with a sense of morality and attitude that made even Stallone's Ross scared of her. Banderas' Galgo, on the other hand, stole the show from pretty much everyone. The character could've either been a comedic joy or completely irritating for moviegoers, but the character was only irritating to the others. Banderas' motormouthed character provided the most laughs as he went for broke to work for Stallone's Ross. It also seemed that Banderas sometimes seemed to go off script and improvised some moments just to see where things would go. If that was the case, it worked perfectly. He also had a memorable fight scene when he joined Rousey's Luna and proclaimed that he enjoyed doing what he loved and that this was the happiest moment of his life. Another moment that deserved an honorable mention was the pivotal showdown between Stallone's Ross and Gibson's Stonebanks, because everyone knew it was coming. The fight didn't disappoint, but the build-up could've been a little stronger. The scene seemed to be taking the best pointers from a key fight scene in "Lethal Weapon," but it still seemed to have a memorable impact with the end result being what everyone hoped for. Hopefully, any potential future stories could trim a few cast members and focus on at least one central story to keep things going at a much faster pace.
"The Expendables 3" is out in theaters everywhere. Check your local listings for times.
Verdict: Despite the cast's comfortable rapport, the movie was somewhat derailed by an unbalanced script and an excessive number of cameos that didn't always help to speed the plot along.
Movie Score: 3 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: PG-13
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)