The Expendables III
Sylvester Stallone started the Expendables series with the intent of returning to the 1980’s style of action films. With The Expendables III, I think it’s safe to say he’s succeeded. As the series goes on, it gets more bloated and ridiculous, eschewing story and character for the assembly-line commodification of guns and explosions. And it’s all just so textureless and boring, just like the garbage Menahem Golan’s production houses used to churn out.
The cast is jam-packed with recognizable actors, which of course means that there aren’t really any characters. Stallone anchors the team again as Barney Ross, with the approximate proportions of a Perdue chicken. Most everyone else falls into broad swaths of stereotypes. Terry Crews may be the smartest of the lot, since he bargained his way into getting shot early on by international arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), putting him out of commission for most of the picture. Ross is spooked by this and dumps his old team, hiring the Young and Hungry Crew (Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz) to exact his revenge. But they get into trouble and it’s up to the Old Guard (Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Wesley Snipes) to rescue them, with some help from the Support Staff (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Harrison Ford, Kelsey Grammer). And then there’s Antonio Banderas running around as a Spanish mercenery, desperate for a chance to just kill someone already.
The storytelling is among the laziest I’ve ever seen. Everything is a cliché. Even the token woman is the most trite and boring man-hating-yet-sexually-aggressive-badass-bitch sterotype possible. Banderas is the only remotely interesting person on the screen, and he’s intentionally played as so maddeningly irritating that we get sick of him before we have a chance to recognize what little charisma anyone else has in contrast.
But action movies are about action, right? Well, there’s a lot of not-action to sit through here, and it’s all boring. Hemming and hawing over getting rid of the old team, finding the new team, loading the plane, karaoke… all of it centered on a sleepwalking Stallone.
And when we do get to the action, it’s still boring. Long, loud, chaotic sequences of gunfire and explosions with no real stakes abound. Again, there are far too many people to keep track of who is doing what and where, especially in the huge final set-piece. Even when we focus down onto a handful of characters, the action is cut together haphazardly and nonsensically, and even that lasts for a few seconds at the most before jumping to another unrelated section of the battle.
It’s not exciting; it’s exhausting for a film to beat its audience into submission like this, without even the saving grace of Bayhem’s misused dynamism. Yes, this is a throwback to the big, loud, macho ’80s action style. But the key word there is “throwback”, as in a caveman out of his own time, and who was barely functional even then.
Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.