This is the third in the Anti-Monitor series, where it’s believed that some films are best reviewed with the utmost incredulity. This week, Matt Fleming and myself banter back and forth over the latest piece of filmic incoherence, Sylvester Stallone’s Golden Guys – er – The Expendables 3. We discuss the diminishing returns of a bloated franchise, the impotence of Han Solo, and Mel Gibson as The Joker. As always, be wary of spoilers throughout, and please enjoy.
DR: 126 minutes, my ass.
Matt: I wanted to take a nap, walk out, and cry at different moments during this one. And I saw The Expendables 2.
DR: I suppose I should mention – to illustrate my lack of objectivity – that I’ve not seen neither The Expendables nor The Expendables 2, but that would feel like bragging.
Matt: The first one was a lot of fun, the second one was a lot of murder, and number three was just a lot. Too many settings, too many characters, too many minutes of my life taken away. It’s like just because nobody asked for this one, Sly had to really make it hurt.
DR: So many casualties, not just of the collateral sort, but of the pitiful. I felt really bad for Dolph Lundgren, for some strange reason. This movie made me feel bad for Jet Li. How is that possible? Wasn’t there a time he could have killed the two of us with an index finger? Now he can barely hoist a gun. And Harrison Ford. He could barely scootch in his seat without me feeling concern for his hemorrhoids.
Matt: Harrison Ford looks pretty miserable here, barely mustering a smile. The cast is so bloated that, yeah, I felt bad for Dolph and Randy Couture, who went from the one people didn’t care about to the one I forgot about. Terry Crews, the funniest Expendable, gets misused in lieu of the new X-Treme Team and old people who barely speak English. The young ones do what they’re supposed to do: they attract a younger (PG-13) audience. But in a film series that can’t avoid nostalgic callbacks, this cast just became too bloated to care.
DR: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this movie needed The Rock.
Matt: The Rock is too good for this franchise. It is reliant upon a familiar face (Stallone), a relevant sidekick (Jason Statham), and cameos. Welsey Snipes was a welcome addition, but underused. Ronda Rousey is a great MMA fighter (and her action scenes are pretty cool), but she can’t act. If this is what Dwayne Johnson is doing when he’s 60, I’ll be upset.
DR: It really makes you wonder what Sylvester Stallone is trying to prove here. He’s made his point at least five different times since he forced his way back into the fringes of mainstream relevancy: that he may be a little long in the tooth, but he can still put out a reasonably entertaining movie. I’ve mentioned that I moderately enjoyed Escape Plan. I even liked that Rambo re-tread. I almost went and saw that boxing flick he did with DeNiro last winter, just to see if ol’ Sly had anything left. But one thing that he proves with The Expendables 3 is that there is nowhere left to go. When you’re sporting the likes of Frasier Crane in your top marquee, it’s time to punch out.
Matt: I wish he had the goatee in this one, at least. The original idea to bring a bunch of cinematic action heroes and have a good ol’ 1980s blow-up fest was cool the first time. The second one was taken as campy as they could go. Now, it’s like Stallone is convinced that The Expendables is a relevant, hyper-popular movie franchise that matters. This movie feels directionless, like a middle-season A-Team episode that just fills some space. This movie could have been bearable if it had an identity or tone, aside from “look at these good guys” and boring.
DR: So boring. So, so boring. I didn’t think Stallone meant for us to take that title so literally, but this entire cast meant absolutely nothing for the movie. Where’s the suspense anymore – or was there ever any in this franchise? What’s the point of assembling all these purportedly nihilistic mercs for suicide missions if nobody’s going to die? This movie really needed that R rating. It needed more carnage. It needed some of that good old Lethal Weapon, Mel vs. Gary Busey violence: bloody, prolonged, and brutal. Instead it feels like a choppily edited paintball sesh with Stallone and his aged buddies. This should have been called The Expendables: The Convalescence.
Matt: When Mel and Sly finally face off, I thought it was going to be longer and more like a classic ’80s final fight, but it wasn’t because they’re old. Don’t get me wrong, Mel Gibson plays psychotic well, and brings it back to the whole “we’re all bad guys” thing, but in the end, the stakes weren’t there. In Expendables 2, Jean Claude Van Damme murders the youngest team member in daylight, and his climactic fight was friggin’ awesome. In this unnecessary and poorly planned sequel, every time the stakes feel high, they get out unscathed, or slightly scathed.
DR: This movie had such a hard time getting that particular piston pumping. Gibson’s villain pops in to shoot Terry Crews, and then we don’t see him again until that completely extraneous scene where he buys a three million dollar painting. He stares at it, ponders whether the artist knew when he made it if the painting would ever be worth that much money… and then that’s it. And the Dark Knight references. I counted three of them. Tell me you know what I’m talking about. They wanted Gibson to be The Joker so bad, it hurt me.
Matt: I’m tired from not being able to take a nap during that movie, where are the references?
DR: The first, where Sly and his team surround Terry Crews’ hospital bed, and Stallone puts the ring on the table beside him. Then he apologizes. (Batman giving Harvey Dent his coin, all “I’m sorry, Harvey.”) The second, where Gibson is captured by the neo-Expendables, and starts shooting his mouth off about the philosophy of death until Sly flips out and starts beating him. (The interrogation sequence between Batman and The Joker.) Then there’s the most obvious allusion, where Gibson films himself torturing his captive baby Expendables for the benefit of voyeurism. (The Joker filming himself torturing that Hockey Pads Batman for the news.) Come on now.
Matt: Yeah, yeah. But The Joker managed to be more menacing and still, somehow, PG-13.
DR: That just speaks to superior storytelling, and a more inspired premise. All The Expendables 3 had was the vain hope that there are enough people out there who still have time to spend on a franchise that’s already two movies too old. So many people were checking their phones in the theater. That group of kids ran out of the theater with twenty minutes on the clock – you saw them! No one seemed to care about anything this movie had to offer, and it had Han Solo grumbling to the rescue. Even THAT failed to excite.
Matt: There was a guy who tried to get the kids to calm down, and I guess they were far away enough to keep you from flipping, but nobody cared. When Lee Christmas mutters, “Let’s get this over with,” you and I immediately agreed. The story is always the same with these mercenary flicks: get it, job goes wrong, save the day. This took so many detours along the way that I just gave up paying attention. Antonio Banderas was not funny. Harrison Ford was not Han Solo, he wasn’t even awake.
DR: Not going to lie: I was kinda interested to see what Banderas would do in this movie. By the time this thing was over – and I’m not a violent man – I was really wishing his character would catch one between the eyes. Let’s try to find something positive to say here before we close this thing out. Wesley Snipes was all right in the opening sequence. Until they let him start talking, that is.
Matt: He got really weird, didn’t he? I really wanted him to say, “Always bet on black.” Mel GIbson was pretty good. Ronda Rousey’s fight scenes were pretty good. That’s all I can think of. Jason Statham looked nervous the whole time, and he really dialed back the charisma, which is a shame. Anything else?
DR: I’m sorry, but there really isn’t. It wouldn’t hurt this bad to shit on such a bad movie if I didn’t love so many of these cast members, but I do. I’ll always have a soft spot for Sly Stallone, and Arnold, and for some really annoying reason, Mel Gibson. Goddamn it, this was just too much. It put me in a dark place, and made me daydream of Oscar Season, where I don’t have to worry about this garbage very often, if at all. This movie sent my mind to things I should really be worrying about, which is the antithesis of escapism. Any movie this cynical should shoot straight for the DVD rack, sparing us the grief.
Matt: You call it cynical, I call it clinical. Too sterile for what it’s supposed to embody, and these are people who know, or knew, action movies. I’ll take Commando or a B-Grade Stone Cold Steve Austin slugfest over this any day.
ANTI-MONITOR – MATT: The Expendables 3 is an American action film, featuring a team of guys from the first two movies, as well as some young kids with their computers and dirtbikes, as they try to capture and not murder a crazy war criminal. This team is composed of people with names like Barney, Christmas, Smilee, and Doctor Death. (And Yin Yang. Jet Li was Yin Yang. – Ed.) There are seventeen main characters, two of which get hurt or murdered, and thousands of dead extras. There is an explosion in every action scene, yet the most excitement in the movie comes when Sly’s giving the gang bad news at the bar. Maybe this is a prank. Maybe the movie is only 30 minutes long. I sure could go for one of those cold beers. Prepare yourself, folks. Prepare not to care.
I love cheesy action movies, especially those with awesome action heroes, even if they’re a little over the hill. However, The Expendables 3 lacks the excitement of its first installment, and the over-the-top, self-referential humor of the second. It is packed with too many characters, it meanders and plods through the choppy first two acts, and then spends too much time trying to pack everyone into the climactic battle. This movie isn’t beating a dead horse, it’s beating the ghost of a horse with a stick I don’t care about. The great thing about the first two films in this series is that they never take themselves too seriously. This one spends so much time worrying about family, and the next generation, and how to fit 13 people in an average-sized helicopter, that it’s hard to muster the energy to have fun. I liked the first two Expendables. This deviated far off course, despite one-third of the same cast, the same general action, and a similar enough plot. Time to give up the ghost horse, Sly.
ANTI-MONITOR – JARROD: It’s often enough that I see a film that feels longer than its allotted running time, but The Expendables 3 takes the limits of my patience and stretches it into infinity. I know that it takes a little longer for Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, etc. to get around these days, but no action film – even one as populated with senior citizens as this – should be so boring as to give its audience gray hair. It feels disrespectful to cast this much ageist scorn onto a movie franchise such as this, but Stallone – a man who became famous by portraying a boxer – ought to know when it’s time to throw in the towel.
THE CONSENSUS: Squandering its cast of action vets in favor of a questionable infusion of new blood – inexplicably ignoring the point of its own premise – The Expendables 3 is another tiresome entry in the Second Renaissance of the 80s action star.
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