********* 6 out of 10 *********
Director: Patrick Hughes
Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas
Give credit to Sylvester Stallone for bringing back the action of the 80’s in a gutsy fashion by creating The Expendables in 2010. Even he may not have thought much about this whole idea of old action stars getting together to kick more ass turning into a successful franchise. When the first one worked too well indeed, a sequel sort of became obligatory. And when The Expendables 2 was another hit, it became difficult to stay away from a third. But maybe you should stop sometimes when you are at the top. The Expendables 3 provides not much in terms of freshness, for the nature of this genre is such that if you push it too long, the repetitions are bound to come. Stallone did tinker with things by adding some more big A-listers to the cast, which is simply a joy to watch if you one for nostalgia, but beyond that we get more killings, more shooting, more exploding, and it then just starts to feel the same.
The Expendables 3 begins with the “Expendables” group breaking out Barney Ross’ (Sylvester Stallone) former team member, Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes). He is needed to be part of the team which is headed to intercept a shipment of bombs. But once they arrive at the designated location, Ross finds the arms dealer to be a man from his past, Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). A man Ross has had issues with. The ensuing gunfight is the signal of another battle for the Expendables group with a formidable foe, and this time things are a bit too personal.
The story in itself, written by Stallone, is good enough for an action film. There is enough room for action mixed with a bit of sentimentality that could have combined well to elevate the film. Unfortunately, that does not happen in the screenplay. The emotional connect is largely lost, either be it the love between the team members (unlike the previous two movies where the bonding made the whole franchise tick) or even the hatred between Ross and Stonebanks. The ‘bromance’ between Stallone and Jason Statham was one of the highlights in the past, which gets mighty diluted in The Expendables 3. There is a younger team also put together at some stage in the movie, maybe to add some youth and energy to the film, though it does not work out so well.
Director Patrick Hughes doesn’t come with a lot of movie directing experience, which sort of shows. For he keeps things too simple, too straightforward. Go back to some of the classic action movies of olden times, ones that too had a straightforward story to begin with, be it Predator or Rambo; these movies shot above the rest for beyond the thrilling action sequences, they also offered layers within their characters, things to root for and things to despise. These movies had an edge about them, which kept you guessing about what will follow next on screen. The Expendables 3 fails to deliver that same excitement, and comes out as quite flat in its narrative. The action sequences though are lavish and outrageous at times, which make them enjoyable; some of the stunts are quite spectacular, and save the day. The movie has its set of one-liners and puns which build a humorous undertone, though the dialogues ain’t as good as what we have already heard in the previous two movies (The Expendables 2 especially stole the show on this point).
As far as the acting goes, the movie is loaded with stars, and if you love your action heroes, then you are going to love seeing such a big bunch together. The problem might just be, that there are way too many of them. Sylvester Stallone of course grabs most of the screen time, but this has to be considered his weakest performance in the series so far; his heart somehow does not seem to be there, though it would be preposterous to doubt his commitment. Nonetheless, he looks his age here, and lacks that commanding presence of the previous movies. Jason Statham too is done a disservice by the screenplay which limits his involvement and steals away the style and ‘oomph’ that he had brought to the franchise.
Two actors though more than make up for the lackluster performances of the other crew. Firstly, Mel Gibson. The man is incredible. A natural. He is a show-stealer and makes for a dangerous villain in the movie. For whatever reasons we see little of him nowadays on the big screen, we are missing something. The other one who shines is Antonio Banderas. The talkative Spaniard who wants to work with Barney Ross is the highlight of the second half; he is quirky, chirpy, funny, and at ease with his role. In a film which seems to have taken itself way more seriously than it should have, Banderas is the one who shows the others what this movie should have been about. There is no Chuck Norris after all this time. Harrison Ford is other big star to join the franchise, and his remarks on the absence of Bruce Willis’ character are one of the best. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a disappointing role handed out in this movie along side Jet Li, and again one has to blame the screenplay for not bringing out the best of such actors even with their limited roles.
The Expendables 3 doesn’t top its predecessor, though it does deliver the action movie that it had promised. The problem is that we look for more beyond the action even in an action movie. That is what Stallone had created with his previous two films, a set of characters who were fun and exciting to watch. If there is a fourth version round the corner, then maybe Stallone would need to think it through as to how to make it different, how to change the equation, how to add beyond the blazing guns. Old though they may be, these action heroes have still got charisma and style, if only captured properly. It’s after all not about the gun but the man who is using it, eh?