The Expendables 3 (2014) Movie Review “The Series is Starting to Run Out of Ammo”

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Who doesn’t love a good 1980s action movie? With the cheesy one liners and glorious glamorized bloody violence, the 80s was the time pure masculine testosterone filled excitement. For better or worse “The Expendables” series was meant to be a throwback to that era of film history.

The first entry, that was released in 2010, was fun enough but still did not make the best of the promise it had. The second one took things to a whole new level. Embracing everything it should be, over the top, cheesy, fun and exciting. I loved “Expendables 2” so much that I was beyond excited for the newest installment in “The Expendables” franchise. The problem holding me up was the PG-13 rating. All previous ones were rated R and all feature over the top bloody action and violence, which is part of that throwback to the 80s action flick. It’s been a while since I’ve come away this conflicted about a film.

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The movie has its moments of brilliance, most of the them involving newcomer Mel Gibson stealing the show. Yet the editing is choppy and hampers some of what should have been excellent action sequences and the “new blood” storyline is a wasted effort to bring in a younger new breed action star, instead of giving that screen time to the people we wanted to see.

In this latest mission for the Expendables team, Barney Ross abandons his old team and finds a group of new blood to take on a threat from the past. The threat? Conrad Stonebanks. The man who cofounded the Expendables with Barney Ross many years ago. Ross thought he killed him but now he is back and wants vengeance on his former team and partner.

Story has hardly been the strength of “The Expendables” franchise, let alone the 80s action flick. It’s about finding the best simplistic storyline that doesn’t insult the viewers intelligence too much and allow for the most fun. The story here is about half and half. The storyline featuring Stonebanks (played by newcomer Mel Gibson) and the rest of the Expendables is a fun “blast from the past” story arc. I loved the relationship between Stonebanks and Ross and the brilliant tension between them is highlighted in one scene that is seen briefly in the trailer where Stonebanks is captured and has a big (villainous) monologue.

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So far I’ve spoken many of the positives of the film. Gibson steals the show, and the main story arc with him and the Expendables is a fun vehicle. However now we move on to many of the problems that bogged this film down. The main subplot involves Barney Ross dumping his old team to recruit a new and younger one to take on Stonebanks. Although it’s not a bad idea to bring in younger fresher faces (and this could help catapult their career significantly) the way it is handled is the wrong way to go about it. Sidelining the main team that we as the audience have gotten attached too (and not to mention the movies are meant to be about those types of stars) and replacing them with names no one knows about (with many of them not having any charm or charisma) to only have them get captured is a big insult to the audience. Why do I want to bother with new action stars (that I don’t know about) to only see them get captured and have to be rescued? If Sylvester Stallone wants to help break in new action stars for a new generation why show them being helpless and needing to be rescued? It doesn’t make me want to see more of them. Instead it makes me feel like they are plot devices rather than honest additions to the series.

Many action movie fans get really upset when they see an action film rated PG-13 instead of rated R because the violence and language would have to be cut back on. The 80s action film didn’t have that problem and was known for having it’s over the top blood and violence. So, when “The Expendables” comes out (again it’s a throwback to that era) it features all of those elements that made the 80s such a memorable time for action movies.

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That’s why even I got a little upset when I saw the PG-13 rating. I actually have the unpopular opinion that action movies don’t need to be rated R to be exciting and thrilling, even with remakes or reboots. “Live Free or Die Hard”, the new “Robocop”, “Taken”, and a few other pure action of today show that you can have a PG-13 action film and be exciting. Blood is not an essential element to make a good action movie. Yet this movie is suppose to be a throwback to that era where it was all Rated R, which was part of the fun, so did the rating hinder it? Like the script there are two answers.

One last thing I want to touch on before wrapping up, the visual effects were garbage. The “Expendables” series has already shown that while it’s practical effects and stunts have always been impressive the computer generated effects have been lacking. Still they weren’t used constantly so you can forgive an occasional bad effect or two. The big problem here is there is much a larger amount of visual effects and green screen used and they are terrible. The CGI helicopters look as good as my old Microsoft Flight Simulator game for Windows 98. The green screen would barley pass for a high school tech class or for someone on youtube. This is a major Hollywood release coming out in the summer season with an estimated 90 plus million dollar budget, these effect do not cut it and is absolutely unacceptable.

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There is a few things to love about “The Expendables 3”. It’s got a few good action sequences, Mel Gibson owns the screen, and his storyline is a fun one. It’s gets the rest wrong. The young blood story goes no one and doesn’t help established the new action stars in any positive light. Many of the action sequences are choppy because of the over editing to make it PG-13 film, and the visual effects are pathetic. Some of the new additions to the cast good like Harrison Ford and Antonio Banderas is a fun cast addition (but holy cow lay off the Red Bull man). Yet it’s not enough to make up for its flaws. Judging by the early box office numbers I have my doubts that we’ll see a fourth film but if it’s made it has a lot riding on it for the future of the franchise.

Final Score

5/10

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