The Expendables 3 feels a little flat without Bruce Willis as Church and the middle is a bit saggy, perhaps as much as Kelsey Grammer’s middle but Antonio Banderas saves the entire film as the best action-man/comic relief imaginable. It never helps a film when an actor who was in the first two installments of a franchise leaves suddenly with a good portion of bad publicity. Willis was fired from the third segment of this popular escapist action “series” amid producer Sylvester Stallone’s Twitter tirade where he accused Bruce of being greedy and lazy.
Not that this occurrence seemed to stop the screening audience from enjoying the film. In this third trip down Expendables’ lane, Barney Ross (Stallone) and his regular crew start the movie by saving a former Expendable, Doc (Wesley Snipes). After a fairly impressive opening, which consists of a lot of train and helicopter action, Doc finds out that he’s been drafted to help Barney and crew take out a bad guy and a missile.
While performing this second mission, Ross discovers another former Expendable, whom he believed to be dead by his, Barney’s hand, still very much alive. Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) is alive and well and he thwarts Barney’s mission and worse, shoots Caesar (Terry Crews) leaving him barely clinging to life. The leader of these mercenaries then fires everyone, Christmas (Jason Statham), Toll Road (Randy Couture), and Gunner (Dolph Lundgren) saying that he does not want them to die.
Barney decides he need new blood to help him take out Stonebanks. It is this part of The Expendables 3 that is saggy, slow and a bit boring. Antonio Banderas makes a brief appearance during this search for new talent which saves things for a brief moment, but the entire mid section of the film could have been shortened considerably.
Another thing that does not help the film was the decision to have Kelsey Grammer play a mercenary “headhunter.” Whether this was some sort of “dig” at Bruce Willis or just a last minute fill, is not certain. But in a film where the schtick is all about action stars, old and new, filling out the cast, it is puzzling to see where comic actor Grammer fits in. Sure he played the Beast in one of the X-Men films, but he is not known for action roles unlike the rest of the cast, it is puzzling to say the least.
Another character or two was missing from the cast list as well as Willis. Charisma Carpenter, who had the rather thankless role as Christmas’s girlfriend in both the prior films, was conspicuous in her absence. Mickey Rourke was also missing, but then it was never really confirmed that he would be back for this third outing. Jet Li might as well have been absent as his return was really a glorified cameo appearance. Sure he shoots a few rounds off, but his amount of screen time was disappointing to say the least.
The film had way too much of the new recruits, or new members of Ross’ Expendables and not nearly enough of the “old guys.” Terry Crews in his role had a little more screen time than Li and Statham, Lundgren and Couture show up later but the film could have used their presence throughout and not just at the beginning, very briefly in the middle, and at the end. Harrison Ford, who was presumably Willis’ replacement was amusing enough but like the other “older” action figures, could have been in the film a bit more. Although to be fair to Ford, his on set ankle injury probably cut way down on his part.
Before handing out kudos about what does work in the film, it has to be pointed out, yet again, that Kelsey Grammer’s presence in the movie is a complete mystery. If he was intended to be some sort of comic relief it did not work and was unnecessary as Banderas fulfilled that role perfectly. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger had funnier moments in the film than Grammer did. There is a “chopper” reference that “Arnie” makes which, combined with the expression on his face almost makes the entire film worth watching for just that moment.
That is enough of what was “wrong” with the film. Looking at what was done right for a moment, it has to be mentioned that Mel Gibson makes a terrific bad guy. The new “kids” on the crew, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Kellan Lutz and Ronda Rousey all do a great job as the younger members of the mercenary group. Rousey rocked it and her fight scenes packed a solid punch. If ever a studio decides to do a female version of The Expendables, this lady’s name should be at the top of the list.
The stunts and fight scenes are cracking and the action sequences contain enough adrenaline to keep most very happy. The film opens with a great scene between a chopper and a fast moving train that is absolutely impressive. In terms of the prior films, the violence is not quite so graphic or over the top since the filmmakers decided to leave the R rating behind. This may also have been a factor in the slow meandering middle part of the film. Keep an eye out for a pretty spectacular stunt towards the end of the movie, it is impressive and memorable, despite being a very short sequence in the film.
Antonio Banderas, however, steals the film from everyone. His performance as the very verbal Galgo is just brilliant. His antics, as well as his fight scenes, keep the audience amused and looking for his character throughout the entire second half of the film. The actor has shown that besides being an action star, his comedic talents are second to none.
The Expendables 3 should probably be the last in this franchise. With the film being so slow and saggy in the middle, this seems to prove that the writers, and the actors, are stretching a bit for material here. Even the banter between the characters is not as natural, funny or clever as in the first two films. Antonio Banderas saves the movie almost single handedly and Mel Gibson gives good bad guy. The film opens countrywide on Friday, August 15. In terms of enjoyment, this PG-13 version of the franchise is still fun as long as the audience do not mind the yawn-worthy midsection of the film.
By Michael Smith
AMC Town Square 18