Review for The Expendables 3
I took a bit of a chance when I bought all three Expendables movies on the strength of a bit of channel-hopping one night, as I happened upon an action sequence from the first film that impressed me. I grew up on eighties action movies; Sly and Arnie were my cinematic bread and butter, and action movies used to be better back then, over the top stunts and cheeky one liners, and more importantly actors that looked the part. These days, the effects are the stars, and the actors all seem interchangeable. So when The Expendables concept came to pass, allowing those classic action stars to shine once more in a modern 21st century vernacular, I was on board... eventually (I am still a cynic about modern Hollywood). The first Expendables film had some issues. While the action was great, the tone was uneven, and it felt uncertain as to what it really wanted to be, more of proof of concept. The second film really embraced the nostalgia that the cast engendered, and it delivered the s***-eating grin that I was looking for from the first film. So when it comes to The Expendables 3, I’m hoping for even bigger and better things. I may be setting myself up for a fall...
It was supposed to be a simple mission to deal with an arms dealer in Somalia, even if they had to break a mercenary named Doc to augment their numbers. But the Expendables run into trouble when the arms dealer turns out to be a dead man. Conrad Stonebanks was the co-founder of the Expendables, before he ditched his few remaining principles for the love of money. Barney Ross had thought Stonebanks was dead, but he’s very much alive, and p***ed at having his deal interrupted. He makes sure Barney feels his rage too. So now Barney has retired his old crew, and has recruited a band of young Turks to go after Conrad Stonebanks. It doesn’t go exactly to plan...
The Expendables 3 gets a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. It’s a decent looking film, and you can see the money on screen when it comes to stunts and action. That all said, it’s a digitally shot film that shows its digital side on more than one occasion, when it comes to contrast and dark detail and the odd moment of blur during fast action sequences. There is also some digital banding to contend with. The Expendables 2 actually looked better than this, although the third film is by no means unwatchable.
You have the choice between English Dolby Atmos (with a 7.1 core), DD 5.1 Spanish, and DD 2.0 English Audio Descriptive. You have English and Spanish subtitles as well. I have no complaints about the surround, which is immersive, and really puts you in the middle of the action. The Expendables theme is actually becoming memorable by this third film. The dialogue is mostly clear as well, with just a couple of mumbles requiring the skip-back and subtitle treatment.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray, o-card slipcover and the Ultraviolet code inside. The disc boots to an animated menu, and is one that holds its position in the player memory after being ejected.
On the disc, you’ll find the Expendables 3 Documentary (51:56), New Blood: Stacked and Jacked (16:11), and The Total Action Package (6:40) featurettes. There is also a 5:41 Gag Reel, and an Extended Scene: Christmas Runs the Gauntlet (2:46).
Incidentally, you can watch the Extended Version of the film (131:31), or the Theatrical Version (126:27), just choose when you select play from the menu.
This is the best Expendables movie yet. It takes what the first movie began, what the second got right, and it expands on it, revelling in the sense of humour, making sure that the villain chews enough scenery to make it a memorable, and worthwhile action movie. That was the first film’s weakness, rectified in the second by a great turn from Jean Claude Van Damme. In the third film, it goes one better by casting everyone’s favourite real life Hollywood villain, Mel Gibson in the role of Stonebanks, and it’s inspired casting. On top of that, the plot mixes things up by introducing a new generation of Expendables, young, fast, and tech savvy against the old-school veterans, which makes for a neat clash of generations.
Those really are the two aspects that make Expendables 3 so watchable. Everything is going as usual, breaking out Doc (Wesley Snipes) from prison, establishing his badass credentials before taking on the mission against the arms dealer in Somalia. It’s when they’re faced with Stonebanks as the arms dealer instead of the man they were expecting that things go south. It becomes clear that the animosity between Ross and Stonebanks is personal, so Barney chooses to go with a new crew rather than the old, ostensibly for fresh and faster blood, but also because he’s loath to risk his friends. There’s plenty of humour to be had as Barney travels with agent Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) looking for the new recruits.
Mel Gibson brings his charm and manic intensity to the role of Stonebanks, playing off the Mad Mel persona, but he also makes him personable and likeable, just as every movie villain ought to be. The stakes are personal between Stonebanks and Barney, which makes the story easier to relate to, and the screen chemistry is palpable. There’s a scene in the back of a van, both of them, face to face, the opposite sides of a coin, and it’s as if they’re channelling Batman and Joker from The Dark Knight. Despite all the butt kicking action and bullets and explosions, that is my favourite scene from the film.
The franchise keeps adding heavyweight talent to the roster. As well as Wesley Snipes, Bruce Willis was notoriously replaced by Harrison Ford, and there’s a great comic turn from Antonio Banderas. What’s surprising is that despite all this star power, it all fits into the film; everyone gets their moment to shine, including the young blood.
After making three films in the space of four years, it seems the Expendables franchise is on the back burner, with Expendables 4 still in development, and The ExpendaBelles an apparent non-starter. That makes it all the more likely that there won’t be a fourth movie; after all getting all that star power scheduling synchronised must be a nightmare. If there isn’t a fourth movie, then Expendables 3 is a great note to leave the franchise on, the best movie yet.