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‘The Expendables 3’ slightly less irritating than ‘The Expendables 2’

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The Expendables 3

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You know they’re going to make “The Expendables 4.” Call, text, write or email Millennium Films and Nu Image, and insist they make it as a silent movie. No one should be forced to suffer through this much bad dialogue in a single movie.

In “The Expendables 3,” the boys (okay, given their ages, that’s a stretch) are back and this time it’s personal. Mel Gibson has joined the cast as an international arms dealer who—wait for it—is the co-founder of The Expendables. Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) thought he’d already killed Gibson, and is furious to learn he’s still alive. For reasons that are only conveyed through some unconvincing dialogue, Barney fires his entire team, including Wesley Snipes, who just got there, and goes out to recruit an entirely new team of younger faces, including “Twilight” vampire Kellan Lutz and MMA star Ronda Rousey.

The audience is pretty much expected to take the emotional content on faith. The script, written by Stallone and the husband and wife team of Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, who were responsible for “Olympus Has Fallen,” is big on telling rather than showing, and backstory is conveyed through pages of clumsily written expository dialogue. The actors have little to work with here, but to be fair, other than Gibson and fellow franchise newcomer Antonio Banderas, no one’s trying. (Banderas, as a manic Spanish mercenary with a pathological inability to stop talking, is exhausting to watch.) Does it even need to be noted that the plotting is completely paint-by-number and that every story development without exception would be predictable to a six year old?

“The Expendables” was a movie with a gimmick. In “The Expendables 2,” the gimmick was the movie. It would be hard to find another movie that worked harder to remind the audience that its stars were stars—and not even actors. It completely backfired in “The Expendables 2,” as the guest appearances and self-referential dialogue was not only distracting to the point of taking audiences out of the movie, but completely unfunny to boot.

It works better this time, but there is a distinct downside. The cast is getting huge. Already it’s at the point where we’re startled to be reminded that some stars who haven’t had any screen time lately are still in the movie. Jet Li is unforgivably squeezed in without so much as one of his trademark martial arts scenes. Bruce Willis bowed out of the franchise, to be replaced with three new faces, namely Snipes, Banderas and Harrison Ford. (Gibson doesn’t count. You have to have a villain in every movie, and clearly they’re going with increasingly big names.) Arnold Schwarzenegger, shockingly unshaven and scruffy, returns with remarkably little to do. When is Brigitte Nielsen going to pop up in one of these movies?

Patrick Hughes, whose only other feature directing credit is the Aussie revenge flick “Red Hill,” is a more than adequate traffic cop here. This entry is less annoying by far than “The Expendables 2,” with all the big ticket mayhem, carnage and property damage audiences will be expecting. The PG-13 rating is a cop-out, and the astronomical body count alone might have justified a stronger rating. Some of the dialogue, such as “Forget him!” would lead the audience to reasonably suspect this was written with an R rating in mind and watered down to get the teenagers in.

Kelsey Grammer also pops up here, as a one man employment agency for mercenaries, and could return easily. It bears noting that the time spent on recruiting the young mercs only adds to the already padded two hour and seven minute running time. If the cast is going to continue to grow by leaps and bounds, the option of cutting all the dialogue, every single word, should be seriously considered for future installments.

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