If you’re like me, you’re not expecting much from The Expendables 3. Sure, the first one was kind of fun because of the premise and sheer number of action stars … despite how many were well past their prime. Then the second one came out and it felt like somewhere far off in the distance, a shark had been jumped. The script was resorting to the very worst of attempts to use the actors’ catchphrases, Jean-Claude Van Damme didn’t get to fight Dolph Lundgren in a Universal Soldier rematch, and it was just a tepid affair overall. So what could they possibly do to reinvigorate the franchise?
Apparently, all they really needed was a smarter script and an injection of action stars (still a bit past their prime but that’s okay) because this third installment is actually the best in the series and the comparison isn’t all that close. From the beginning, where we’re introduced to Wesley Snipes’ character of Doctor Death, the banter has been ramped up a notch and all of those in-jokes are actually working this time.
Antonio Banderas, who frankly I was expecting very little of in light of his action film credits of late, comes in with this chatterbox of a character and he livens up the whole proceedings just when the movie starts to take that inevitable downturn because it looks grim for our heroes. Even Harrison Ford, despite the fact that he makes walking look like a chore these days (seriously, watch the scene where he’s given some intel to Stallone and walks away from the obvious Ford product placement … I was worried he might fall over).
Most importantly, while I love Eric Roberts and friends know I’m far too invested in the work of JCVD, casting Mel Gibson as the villain really cemented the project. Putting aside the man and considering only the actor, he has that fantastic blend of intensity and humor that isn’t easily found and he puts it all on display here. He doesn’t necessarily have any dialogue that Shakespeare would be jealous of but he makes the most of his lines and the delivery makes them work.
Added into the mix is an injection of new blood, in the form of Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz, and Glen Powell. Each do fine, though while it’s obvious Rousey kicks a whole lot of ass, I’d rather have seen Gina Carano in her role because her acting is inversely related to her fighting prowess. And for all of the smack I was talking in my head when I saw that Lutz was involved (I have endured the Twilight series), he does a pretty decent job here.
Basically, I think you can tell that I liked this movie. I liked it quite a bit, even though they stupidly went for the PG-13 rating. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that a PG-13 these days is far closer to a R-rating than it is to being family friendly … but that’s another diatribe.
As someone who grew up watching these action stars in their prime, the nostalgia factor remains high and with this movie, they finally found the right balance to pull off the lofty concept. It’s not as fun or as good as Guardians of the Galaxy (nothing is right now) but if you’re an action junkie and have already seen Marvel’s latest cash cow, The Expendables 3 is the next best summer movie event. This is why you want popcorn and soda in a crowded, air-conditioned theater. You go in, you sit down, you suspend your disbelief, and after two hours you come out with a smile on your face and ready for more.
The Expendables 3 is rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language.