Action Packs A Mean Punch In Expendables 3, But The Franchise Is Running On Fumes.

The Expendables 3
Director: Patrick Hughes.
Writers: Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt.
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Antonio Banderas.
Where it's playing: Everywhere.

Being a child of the '80s (I was born on a breezy, calm night in 1983), I grew up watching Stallone, Van Damme, Schwarzenegger and company kick a lot of ass. I was a small kid, so this was my escape. I grew up on a steady diet of action movies.

Once the first Expendables was announced, of course I, along with many other folks born before 1990, let the tears fly. Almost all of my heroes in the same movie, together? Count me on board and tell the conductor to never let me off.

In Expendables 3, the boys are back in town to bring a fight to the bad guy’s front porch. This time it’s Conrad Stonebanks (a sinister Mel Gibson), co-founder of The Expendables, once a brother to Barney Ross (Stallone), now a terrorist who sells weapons to people who would love to see the USA sink to the bottom of the sea. Barney and his team of mercenaries, young and old, have to band together and learn how to get along to take down the maniac Barney once thought he killed. Cue vein-popping arms, silly one-liners and some of the best action you’ll see this year.

We're now at the third film in the franchise and a lot has changed. Expendables 3 has fresh, young blood on the team and the film is rated PG-13. Stallone made an admirable statement that the film will be high on action but he wanted to dumb down the gore so it would bring in a younger audience. I can respected that, but how does it fair for the fans who've been along the journey from the beginning? It's a major disappointment, to be honest. Expendables 3 delivers action and nostalgia as promised, but it’s subpar at best. It’s lost some of the magic that made the first two so awesome.

Dumbing down the violence isn't what makes Expendables 3 so mediocre, though. There are plenty of terrific PG-13 action films — the Indiana Jones, James Bond and Dark Knight franchises, to name a handful. But going from R-rated to PG-13 can be very tricky, especially with an ensemble of action stars who all have a catalog of films full of violence and mayhem.

Where Expendables 3 shoots itself in the foot is in the screenplay (co-written by Stallone). Things get heated and feelings are hurt, and the middle drags its foot like a wounded soldier. I believe director Patrick Hughes knew the audience would need an adrenaline-fueled kick to the face because he pulled out all the stops for the action-packed finale with blazing intensity. This is why action movies exist — to watch our heroes blow shit up and beat up the bad guys. Nothing more, nothing less.

Expendables 3 is the second feature from Hughes, but this guy is not stranger to action and suspense. After reading this, seek out his first feature, Red Hill. It’s an impressive slow burning revenge movie that punches right in the heart. This film is why he was elected to make the third film in the Expendables franchise, along with the upcoming U.S. remake of The Raid (which is extremely unnecessary, but that’s another discussion, another time).

The major component that makes Expendables delicious is the nostalgia. For this film, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas and Gibson join the carnage and steal the show. Each of their scenes will please fans immensely. However, that nostalgia is beginning to wear thin for the other regulars. Schwarzenegger spends his time taking self-mockery shots by reciting lines from his other films that became popular memes. This gimmick worked for the whole crew in Expendables 2 because it was crazy fun and new to the fans. Here, it’s overkilled. A broken record. The dead horse has been kicked, punched and beaten to shit.

At one point in the Expendables 3, Stallone’s Barney says — when thinking about his career as a mercenary — that “Nothing lasts forever.” He could have said the same for the excitement for the future of this franchise.

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