Sylvester Stallone is 68, Arnold Schwarzenegger is 67, Dolph Lundgren is 57, Harrison Ford…is 72. Damn. Even Wesley Snipes has reached middle age, being 52. The action stars of our youth have become old men and belong to an era that seems to be long gone.
And yet, there’s still a little life left in these guys and they won’t give up. That enthusiasm is mostly what makes The Expendables 3 a decent bit of brainless entertainment.
The Expendables 3 is very much a case of “more of the same”. Just as the last one, it starts with a daring rescue attempt in a unknown foreign country where our heroes save a masked/hooded man who then turns out the an old action star. Last time it was Arnold Schwarzenegger under the hood and this time it’s Wesley “Just got out of prison for tax evation” Snipes. Then we go through the usual plot mechanics and character introductions and bla bla bla.
This time, though, the heroes seem to be aware that their time is about to be up, so a large part of this film goes into introducing a new generation of Expendables. A group of youngsters who could actually be the grandchildren of some of these action stars. There’s even a badass woman in the mix, MMA star Ronda Rousey.
Stallone and co. have made an action flick that’s very much a recognition of how out of touch and old they are. These guys shouldn’t be saving the world, they should be playing bingo and watching Jeopardy! But in they end, they still manage to save the world, ’cause apparently they still are the best.
The Expendables 3 is tacky and stupid and semi-aware of it, having a lot of fun with its own stupidity that sorta works. For one thing few films in the history of cinema have had so many big stars in it. Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Ford, Snipes, Statham, Li, Gibson. Lundgren and Banderas have all been huge movie stars at some point. And then there’s tv star Kelsey Grammer who’s actually oddly fitting in this world (few might know it but the real Grammer is actually nothing like Frasier Crane, but in fact apparently a right-wing extremist with a fondness for drugs and loose women. The character he plays here is probably closer to the real Grammer than Frasier). This movie also keeps referencing other films the stars have been in. While Ford never talks about somebody stealing his wife we do get Arnie saying “Get to da choppaahhh” and Stallone even says “I am the Hague”. Even Wesley Snipes makes fun of himself by joking about being arrested for tax evasion (which, for those who don’t know, he really was and served three years in prison for).
Most of these actors have never really been known for great acting chops and here they don’t really stretch themselves much, just sticking to what they know. But it’s interesting to see the difference between a regular action star, like most of these guys, and a genuinely good actor like Mel Gibson who plays the bad guy here. Gibson gets a couple of monologues and reminds you why this guy was once a huge movie star, it’s not just that he’s handsome and can kick ass, he can also deliver a dramatic speech very convincingly. And man, was he *born* to play an evil douchebag. Then again, considering what his actions have revealed about him these past few years, he’s possibly not doing very much acting at all. Gibson might have a great secondary career playing douchebag baddies, as he’ll most likely never regain his past glory.
Not all the actors get to shine here, as there’s just too many characters and not enough space. Dolph Lundgren was one of the best things in the first two movies but here he only gets a handful of lines. Antonio Banderas takes the role of comic relief from him but sadly he’s not as funny. Banderas has throughout his career proved that he has the comic touch and can be very funny, but he doesn’t have the right material here and his performance mostly comes off as weird and kinda annoying. Then we have Wesley Snipes who gets a lively intro but little to do after that. Jet Li and Terry Crews also do little more here than show up and say “hi”. Maybe next time (if there’s another Expendables movie, which is not looking likely considering the box office) they should have fewer stars?
But the essence here is that while this series may have become a little stale, at least it’s not boring. The action is often generic but always lively and the actors seem to be having a lot of fun. The Expendables 3 coasts nicely on nostalgia and a colorful cast and does pretty much what it’s supposed to do, it could haven been a lot better but it also could have been a lot worse.
The Good: Mel Gibson, reminding you that he’s actually a pretty good actor.
The Bad: There’s way too many characters so a lot of the actors don’t really get to shine at all.
The Expendable: The new generation of Expendables, who get a big introduction but still don’t make much of an impression.