The Expendables movies feel like they shouldn’t exist outside of a fever dream. Even watching one, they’re just the sugar-fueled stories of a kid who’s brought in all his toys to fight each other. The first two weren’t great, but had moments of charm, and the third film might be the best of the bunch, even if it often feels like the cast are brought in based on their days available. Sylvester Stallone leads The Expendables 3 cast that includes Harrison Ford, Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Ronda Rousey, Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammer and more and my review of the film on Blu-ray follows after the jump.
The film starts as Stallone’s Barney Ross leads a rescue mission to retrieve original expendable Doc (Snipes), who’s been in prison for – as he says – “tax evasion” (wink wink). After the big opening set piece which looks cheap as all get out (the helicopter effects are notably bad), the Expendables go after an arms dealer, which turns out to be Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), who was also one of the original members of the Expendables. When Conrad shoots and nearly kills Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Barney decides to retire all the older members (including Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Jason Statham), and recruit a newer younger team with the help of Bonaparte (Grammer). This new team includes Ronda Rousey and Kellan Lutz, while Antonio Banderas also wants in. Once Barney assembles his new team, he gets directions from CIA boss figure Max Drummer (Harrison Ford) on where Stonebanks will be, but Gibson’s character pulls a Joker and gets captured only to subdue the youngsters. Which means that Barney will have to use the old guys to rescue the young ones.
Directed by Patrick Hughes, the film is hurt most by the fact that it’s a little long for what it is. Running over two hours in both the theatrical and unrated cut, you know that the old team is going to be called back into play so there’s a whole lot of set up to get through. Some of that is pleasurable due to the charms of the performers (Grammer is an odd addition, but he gets one of the best scenes in the movie), but it would be more entertaining if the action was better. Part of the reason the action is lacking is because you never feel like any of the characters are in serious danger (a problem Stallone is aware, as he’s noted recently), another reason is that though there’s a lot of it, it’s not particularly well staged. Stallone, who wrote the script with Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, made a smart decision in nearly killing off a team member early on, but after that point no one seems to get much more than a couple bruises and scratches, and though you don’t necessarily want to see someone like Jason Statham killed off, the fact that he and the team are killing mostly faceless bad guys gets a little tedious. Sure, eventually Stallone will go fight Gibson, and the math tells you how that will end, but that also points out that these movies are the modern version of a celebrity roast, where a bunch of famous people show up and do little bits. Except here it’s not comedy, it’s killing people.
Gibson comes off well, and though it’s easy to understand why he’s not been given a lot of big roles after his public meltdown, he’s still a great presence on the big screen. That noted, he’s not as much fun as Jean-Claude Van Damme was in the second movie. Both feel like they had something to prove and that energy works well – Gibson seems more alive and present here than in something like Edge of Darkness. Harrison Ford is mostly awake in a role that was likely shot over two or three days, and as a substitute for Bruce Willis, it feels like a fair trade.
Though it’s ostensibly an action movie, The Expendables 3 (much like the other films in the franchise) feels like a reunion tour, where a bunch of mostly out to pasture stars who couldn’t get a film greenlit on their own team up together to get back into a major motion picture, and for that it’s fun. I like Wesley Snipes, and I missed Snipes as a presence on screen. It’s good to see him in a movie. I just wish the film had actual stakes.
The Expendables 3 on Blu-ray is presented in widescreen (2.35:1) and in Dolby Atmos True HD, and comes with a DVD and digital copy. The film was shot digitally, and considering the amount of CG, it looks it, but the transfer is as to be expected, excellent. The film also comes in the film’s theatrical cut (126 min.) and an unrated version (132 min.), which doesn’t add more blood as might be expected. The film comes with a documentary about the making of the film (52 min.), which tries to go in depth, but offers mostly a surface look at the making of the film, and the players involved. Then there’s “New Blood: Stacked and Jacked” (16 min.), which gives the new cast members a spotlight and it’s followed by “The Total Action Package” (7 min.) that celebrates the cast some more. There’s also a gag reel (6 min.), and an extended scene (3 min.) which features Jason Statham killing more dudes.