The Expendables 3 (2014)
New team. New attitude. New mission.
I'd be crazy not to love action movies. Simple, straightforward, mind numbing scenes of glorious action and explosions? You know what really sets apart action movies for me though? One liners. Yes, choreography and cool guns and gadgets are important to make all that helter-skelter understandable in the mind, but one liners are the thing that stays with me longest. I can more easily recall "I'll be back" from Terminator than I can vividly recall any specific scene (although I can recall some of those too). In the case of Expendables however, we come into three off the back of 2 - which was in most people's minds a rather less than stellar follow up to the first nostalgia filled riot, excluding Chuck Norris of course. Can 3 bring the boys back in town while upping the ante, or is the series proving the longer it goes just how expendable it is?
We start off right in the mix, with the Expendables crew setting up an trap of some sort on train tracks. We soon see just what it's purpose is for when they antagonize the train crew via helicopter, and promptly see the baddies and their guns get ripped off the train by it. The crew storms in the train, mopping up the leftovers and rescuing the man captured within. He seems slightly distracted as they head back to the chopper, but before he boards he jets and runs up to the front - seem vengeance is the only thing on this newcomers minds. After his goal is accomplished and he boards the chopper in the nick of time (all backed by glorious explosions), we get a very brief title screen and a quick introduction to the Expendables current mission - which just so happened had a quick detour to save an old buddy on the way. After they arrive, things are going smoothly in typical Expendables mission fashion, until eyes are finally lain on their target - an arms dealer the CIA want's taken out - who isn't who he was supposed to be. In fact, he happens to be familiar to both of the remaining members of the original Expendables lineup, and according to our head man he's supposed to be dead.
This is the start of the south turn of the mission, leading to a quick extraction resulting in our pal Caesar getting shot, and the entire crew having a bomb dropped on them. Things just got real personal as Caesar lies recovering in the hospital, and the CIA representative (now replaced by Harrison Ford) informs Barney (Stallone) that brass now wants the man they saw - Stonebanks (Gibson) - alive. Hearing this, and now feeling so shaken from Caesars current condition, Barney decides to cut the Expendables lose and instead hire a fresh batch of folks who he doesn't care about to do the mission. At this point, we get a point-to-point introduction of each of our new crew (including an introduction to Banderas' character who will reappear later on). Before they take off, they have a run in with the old crew that introduces some brief tensions, and then its off to do the mission with the old crew angrily watching the take off from their bikes.
Things start off well - with the new crew laughing at Barney's outdated plan and proposing a more modern approach - one that ends up working rather flawlessly. On the way to their drop off location, Barney and Stonebanks start getting into a bit of a huff - leading to the discovery of a GPS tracker on his watch. Once again, things go south for the crew, with Barney blown into a river while the rest of the new crew gets captured as a way of drawing Barney to Stonebanks. Barney, still bent on not dragging his normal crew into the mix, goes back to base to restock, only to find Banderas' character there (who will then provide most the humor for the rest of the movie), and before they can take off the old crew is found to be blocking their take off path. Will the first crew be able to save the new crew from the clutches of a madman and his own personal army, or will this be the end of the line for the Expendables franchise?
The plot here is far better than that of the second, arguably better than the first. It's still not any kind of masterpiece, but it definitely feels like Stallone is realizing that keeping things simple and action-oriented is what the franchise is intended and expected to be. The other thing the plot successfully does is set up the potential for a younger crew to take over performing in any future Expendable movies, giving the old timers a break - which is either a positive or negative, depending on how much you like them. The one downside to this quick-and-efficient barebones telling is that you don't get much backstory unless one of the character spouts it off - and considering the animosity between Barney and Stonebanks, it's hard to tell just how much of what you are being told is actual truth. This is, however, still an improvement over the second movies attempt to get you to feel emotionally attached to a character that was new within 20 minutes of him being relevant.
Character-wise, it's a barrel of monkeys. You have the old crew there, complete with their preexisting attitudes and personalities we'd expect from the past ones - although a decent chunk of the movie is relegated to the new crew, so outside of a now-and-then witty comment, a lot of the old crew doesn't feel as noticeable as they would have in the past. Of the new introductions, Banderas' character is probably one of my favorite - he might not be the youngest, or have any new quirks (like being a female bouncer, or thrill seeking hacker), but the character is easily one of the most amusing characters in the film. The best way I can think of putting it is that he's what Jar Jar Binks should have been in Star Wars - and not how he ended up being. That being said, the new introduction of lady demolisher should give someone for the women action lovers out there to attach to (that doesn't look like a fossil), and the other oldies (like Ford and Snipes) give you fresh new classics to come in and be excited about.
Effects are handily populated throughout. Explosions, trains, cars, guns, tanks, dirtbikes, helicopters and planes are all over the place, and there are definite moments when you can detect the presence of CG. It's not always the best CG (hence being able to notice it), but sometimes budgets have to go to something besides buying twelve tanks for one scene (and with the size of the cast, I can't imagine there was a ton of budget left for what they did manage to pull off). Despite the larger-scale effects like vehicles and explosions, the small scale still comes off well done. Fights are well choreographed, and even with flipping armbars and multi-combatant skirmishes taking part on multiple tiers you can still follow what's going on in front of you. The wide range of weapons lets the eyes take in all kinds of variety of styles, and allows the sound effects department to wing out all various levels of flinch-inducing blasts of lead.
My opinion, as is this all, would be that The Expendables 3 has succeeded in bring something that was cool back to a state of being cooler than it previous was. If you're fans of action movies, it's right in that alley to please, particularly if you just want to get straight to the point. It doesn't bother wasting time trying to inform me in on every little detail, and brings back the things I enjoy most about the old action movies - one liners, action, vengeance plots, and humor. It's by no means a flawless movie, but even though it's only a pg13 movie (mainly due to keeping language down and not showing much blood I'd wager) it's totally something I feel would easily fit into an action fan's regular rotation.