The Expendables 3: Rocky Balboa vs. Sgt. Martin Riggs (Movie Review)

The Expendables 3 TNThis is the one movie I promised myself I would have nothing to do with after I learned about the abysmal PG-13 rating the filmmakers trimmed it down to be to comply with requirements of the much feared MPAA in order to get it out to a wider audience (more about that later).  If it had not been for a trip up to Cleveland, OH to visit all my family and friends I can pretty much guarantee that I would have never partaken in a screening of The Expendables 3 as to my knowledge it wasn’t being screened down in Austin, TX at all.  Odd, huh?  Not really.  From my experience that usually means the studio, like myself going into this one, didn’t have much confidence in it and wanted to get as much first weekend foot traffic in as possible to avoid the negative reviews they must’ve known would come with the early screenings.  I’m just subjecting myself to the below experience to kill two birds with one stone, visit my most favorite Cleveland marketing team leader (she knows who she is) and also my favorite theater, that of Cinemark Valley View.  I have so many memories there and obviously now The Expendables 3 is one of them.  So let’s dispense with all the filter and formalities I’m employing here and talk about Barney (Stallone) and his old and new gang.

Although Sylvester Stallone had a hand in penning the script, this outing is directed by Patrick Hughes and sees the return of the old cast members and fresh new ones.  For brevity’s sake I’m not going to segregate who was here first and who’s all new.  Instead I’m just going to lump all the big names together for you to figure out on your own.  I’m even going to be devious and mix them up a bit.  This third film in the ensemble action series features Sly, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Kelsey Grammer, Terry Crews, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson, Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger, Kellan Lutz, Harrison Ford, Victor Ortiz and more.  Wow!  That’s literally a mouthful to type.

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The main gist of the story finds us following mercenary group, The Expendables (duh!), as they come into conflict with arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson).  I’m going to pump the proverbial brakes right there for a minute before venturing into further plot details, but fret not because I’ll eventually get there.  However, for a brief moment, I want to discuss this ridiculous rumor I have heard about Bruce Willis and his lack of involvement in this third go around.  Rumor has it that Wilis’ lack of involvement was cited as a disagreement over money.  Supposedly Willis was “only” offered $3 million dollars for four days of shooting in Bulgaria, but Mr. No Show (see the fifth Die Hard movie for an example of what I mean by this moniker) wanted $4 million.  Now tell me this.  What kind of planet do we live in where someone turns down $3 million dollars for four all expense paid days of filming with friends?  Jesus Jones!  I wish I had those kind of problems in life.  If I never see Willis again in a future feature film, I won’t feel a single bit of regret, sympathy or loss.  Alright, now we can get back to talking about the plot points and everything else.

So I’m going to warn you now.  Contrary to using better judgement and going against the grain of the mainstream critics, I’m choosing to award The Expendables 3 a much higher score than the rest simply because I had F-U-N with it.  The fun factor is truly all that matters to me here in this franchise.  Besides the punches it’s the only thing you have to roll with.  I understand that the script isn’t always cohesive.  I’m well aware of the overly simple and juvenile storyline.  And I did not turn a blind eye to the many edits that were employed to appease the MPAA.  However, what it all boils down to it is that after a long day on the road this past Wednesday, hanging with family and friends, I sat back in my seat having left all my biases at the theater’s front doors before making my grand entrance and I truly had a good ole’ time with the boys and girl in this action packed franchise.  Would I have liked more blood?  Hell yeah!  But as I took it all in I heard this little voice in the back of my head saying you enjoyed The Dark Knight immensely even when everyone was getting shot and no blood was spewing so SUCK IT UP for this one!

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As far as the story goes here I have no doubt that you’ve seen these same plot points employed over and over before to the point of exhaustion reminding you there’s really nothing new to be seen here.  The only cohesive glue that truly holds this together is the fact that we are out with the biggest action stars of yesterday trading quips, pokes, blows, jokes and measuring who’s you know what is bigger.  The nostalgia and age factor of the stars is what makes this franchise so beloved and ultimately keeps the audiences interested and coming back.  However, that’s what makes this such a gooey hot mess at the same time too.  While we are going for the hard core 80’s nostalgia and action, things gets a bit bloated down trying to sell the emotions and feelings of the characters.  They didn’t do that in the 80’s so why they are trying so hard here?  It’s really beyond me.  Things get a little too deep here for their own good in regards to Stallone’s character (Barney), but worry not, nothing like in the first Expendables flick with Rourke’s over-the-top monologue.  Thank God!  Things are also a little less campy this go around than last time with JCVD, but honestly, I can go either way there.  As long as the action carries the film, I’m okay with the one-liners and real life knocks against each of the stars.  Ooh!  That reminds me, speaking of knocks.  Remember me telling you about Willis up above?  Well rest assured, Ford’s character delivers a stinger as to why he’s in the film and not the character of Church, formerly portrayed by Willis.  I was laughing my a$$ when I heard this in the film.  Whether wider audiences will get the inside joke or not is truly none of my concern.  I got it and that’s all that matters.

What it all boils down to is the fact that The Expendables franchise can be something really dynamite and explosive, but for some reason or another, even after three tries here now, they just can’t seem to hone in on completely capitalizing.  I know there’s already a fourth and a fifth installment planned, but how much more can we the audience take?  Hell…how much more can Stallone’s body take?  He’s not 40 anymore, or even 50 or 60.  And I know this is all supposed to be spectacle and you’re supposed to check your non-suspension of disbelief in at the theater’s front door before entering, but will this franchise still be going strong with Stallone rocking a walker?  I sure hope not!  After three tries, all mostly strikes in the eyes of the critics, should we not focus our energy on something I’ll just come on out and say it…better?  I know Stallone and crew were trying to expand their audience with this PG-13 rating, but I truly don’t believe that move is really going to win them over any new fans.  For starters, it’s still extremely violent, but just employs a lot of cut away shots and a severe blood shortage.  And second, the online DVD quality leak of the film some three weeks ago didn’t do it any favors either.  I honestly can’t believe this leak happened, but in our crooked and Internet driven world I suppose I should not be surprised at all.  It’s just sad that people partake in downloading such illegal products and get away with it.  Despite being poor and born of common folk, my heart goes out to everyone affected by the loss of revenue in this project as a result.

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So getting back to the whole story component we initially pick up with the usual crew, slimmed down by casualties, on a dangerous mission to break out a fallen comrade, who’s been imprisoned for eight years over tax evasion.  I bet you can guess who that is, huh?  Then we are whisked away on another mission before heading home.  There’s not too much background or expose on what’s going on, but that’s alright.  Always remember, this is an Expendables film first and foremost.  So things don’t go as planned with this mission.  One of the crew gets seriously hurt and the group discovers a new threat, Stonebanks, someone they thought was long gone.  Back stateside, Barney tells his faithful old crew that he’s done with them because he doesn’t want to be responsible for their eventual deaths in the field and goes his own way to find new, younger recruits who don’t care about the one-way ticket aspect of the job.  This drags a bit, but eventually we get back into the action antics as they try to apprehend Stonebanks.  In an effort to avoid any spoilers let’s just say things don’t go as planned here either and I don’t think you need a fifth grade education to guess what happens next in the film.  I think it’s safe to say that you can at least expect to find both the young and the old Expendables fighting side by side for a grand Act 3 spectacle finale.  And that’s the thing.  If I had one other complaint besides the predictable story, choppy editing and lack of blood, it would be that of the blurry lines between Act 2 and 3.  The whiff of death was there, but it really wasn’t prevalent and other than the fun and games of finding the new recruits, Act 2 and 3 really blurred together for me.  However, one man saved it all for me.  Antonio Banderas had me in stitches.  And quite honestly, that’s a really good thing here!

Antonio portrays Galgo, a former member of the Spanish Armed Forces, Bosnian war veteran and expert sharpshooter who’s also quite the comedian.  Maybe his character doesn’t mean to be, but save for the fact that he never shuts up and you can see where I’m going here hopefully.  He’s the comedic sidekick all movies that strive to be too serious for their own good truly need.  Besides the old gang there’s also a bunch of nobody youngsters that I’m not overly familiar with.  Their performances at best were rather forgetful.  And even though I’m not the hugest fan of Ford and his attitude problems as of late, I’ll concede and say he was very likable here as was the former Governor.  Probably the biggest laugh comes from the description of the character Yin Yang, portrayed by Jet Li.  He’s billed as a hand-to-hand combat expert.  Maybe it’s in a deleted scene or something, but if you can show me him using his hands as such described, Denny’s is on me tonight!  So okay.  You get the picture.  The Expendables 3 is far from a perfect movie, however it’s also very far from the train wreck it could have been.  There’s no doubt that we will see an Unrated Blu-ray a few months from now with CGI blood and a few curse words here or there.  It’s almost as inevitable as a fourth film in this unnecessary franchise.  However, if you can embrace the cheesiness, the over-the-top stunts and love The Expendables 3 for everything good it does, action, d1ck measuring and the return of Mel Gibson as the film’s villain, then you have a recipe for a “fun” time at the theater.  I’m not going to rally the troops here.  You’ll have to decide for yourself if this warrants a trip to your local movie house.  I’m really glad I did get the opportunity to see it.  While I wish the final showdown between the two super powers (you know who they are) was more memorable, I’ll take what I can get from this installment and quite honestly, from what we have seen these past three go arounds, that’s all you can really ask for from this franchise.  If you choose to partake, enjoy!  And remember, please pay for your ticket…DON’T download illegally.  You wouldn’t like it if someone stoled from you, would you?

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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