One of the most idiotic moments in “The Expendables 3” is when villain Stonebanks is taunting our heroes on a television monitor, explaining that he’s wired the stronghold where he has the Junior Expendables with C4. While watching on the monitor, character Wifi (Glen Powell) completely overrides the C4 from blowing everyone to smithereens. If that’s not enough Barney plans the get away operation for the group while Stonebanks watches on the TV. So how does he still lose if Barney is stupid enough to plan an escape while the bad guy is watching only a few inches away? It’s moments like that that show Stallone really isn’t interested in details with these movies anymore.
It’s just a lot of people firing guns at one another for two hours. Sure you can argue that “The Expendables 3” isn’t supposed to be fine art, but that’s just a cop out to excuse the pure stupidity that’s embedded in these movies, now. Stallone really knows how to tap the nostalgia bone on his fan base, but when it comes to story, it’s about the same old tale we’ve seen since the first movie. Old School rules, New School sucks. Stallone has an annoying disregard for the younger characters he creates, all the while gradually removing the minority Expendables in favor of more Caucasian heroes. Along with a brand new PG-13 rating and a younger cast, “The Expendables 3” also has way too much story in it to really be remotely entertaining. Stallone introduces four interesting new characters only to have them become plot devices to re-introduce his old pals in to the movie, and it’s just so predictable. “The Expendables 3” takes a while to actually build up to anything resembling a story, but Stallone devotes the first half hour to what I’m sure was a contract stipulation for co-star Wesley Snipes.
For reasons I never understood, the movie dives right in to the action as the expendables are tasked with breaking out Barney’s old friend, a psychotic Ex-Expendable named Dr. Death. After another elaborate game of shoot em up, we learn a lot about Dr. Death and his back story for—well—really nothing. Snipes is just there to replace the infinitely more charming Terry Crews for the sake of fan service. Meanwhile, after a disastrous confrontation with old nemesis Stonebanks, Barney fires his group, and begins recruiting a new younger group to track down and imprison Stonebanks. This is at the behest of CIA agent Max Drummer (Harrison Ford). When Barney leads the team on another disastrous attempt to stop Stonebanks, he kidnaps the Junior Expendables and challenges Barney to come and get them. Now with the help of his old troop, and new member Galgo (Antonio Banderas), they have to do a lot of shooting and exploding of bad guys, while Mel Gibson plays the villain with a shade of grey whose back story with Barney isn’t nearly as focused on as it should be.
There’s a good opportunity to explore their tortured past here, but much of it is glossed over in favor of Gibson’s character literally explaining everything to the audience, while we have to just catch on for ourselves. The characters as a whole haven’t changed and or evolved in to anything interesting since the first two movies. They’re still just stagnant action figures with big guns trying to outrun father time; it seems Stallone is too, as he performs less feats of action this time around, and plays more of a mentor and wise father figure. The action is really tedious and boring, with nothing new or interesting injected to mix things up. Even when Kellan Lutz is riding around on a motor bike, gunning down bad guys, director Hughes is more concerned with showing Stallone and Snipes lumbering around through corridors and gunning down soldiers that couldn’t hit the side of a barn.
Speaking of missed opportunities, how do you feature Ronda Rousey as a character without giving her a big fight to showcase her potential as an action star? While, “The Expendables 3” is almost unwatchable, the highlights are Kelsey Grammar, who is fun as soldier recruiter Bonaparte. Rousey is also insanely attractive, and really is given equal footing among the boys club that is the Expendables. I doubt we’ll see her in part four, but she at least gets her shot here. Judging by the news, Stallone doesn’t seem to want to stop this show any time soon, which is shameful since part three is not just an awful sequel, but an awful action movie, period. It’s about time they hand the screenwriting duties over to someone who can grasp characters and an interesting story, for once.