Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Kelsey Grammer, Glen Powell, Antonio Banderas, Victor Ortiz, Ronda Rousey, Kellan Lutz, Jet Li, Ivan Kostadinov, Robert Davi
Written by: Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, based on a story by Sylvester Stallone
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
Running Time: 126
Date: 08/15/2014

The Expendables 3 (2014)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Inaction in Action

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The main trouble with The Expendables 3 is that, unlike his Rocky or Rambo franchises, writer/actor and sometime director Sylvester Stallone really doesn't seem to know what it's for. Other than a nostalgic collection of familiar faces, he doesn't appear to have any opinions, ideas, or commentary on the action genre one way or another, and the remaining theme of "teamwork" is stretched thinner and thinner as more cast members come on board.

Following the hit The Expendables (2010) and The Expendables 2, The Expendables 3 brings back Stallone, Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, and Jet Li from the previous films. Then it adds Wesley Snipes, Kelsey Grammer, Antonio Banderas, Robert Davi, Mel Gibson as the bad guy, and four "kids": Glen Powell, mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey, boxer Victor Ortiz, and Kellan Lutz (the latter from this year's horrendous The Legend of Hercules).

Assume that the movie is at least two-thirds shooting, fighting, stunts, and explosions, and that leaves only about the length of a sitcom for characters to actually talk to one another and for viewers to learn something about them. Roughly, that breaks down to just a couple of minutes each, and those couple of minutes are, in general, not used wisely. However, Snipes makes the most of a couple of scenes, as does Grammar.

The plot, after rescuing "Doc" (Snipes) from prison, begins with a botched job and the shocking discovery that an old adversary, Stonebanks (Gibson), once thought dead, is still alive. Then, when one of his team members gets shot, Barney Ross (Stallone) decides not to endanger his team any longer, and so he recruits a whole new team of youngsters whose lives he can endanger instead -- a decidedly odd screenwriting choice -- and goes after Stonebanks.

Stallone himself directed the junky-looking first film, and Simon West (Lara Croft Tomb Raider, The Mechanic) took over for the much better 2012 sequel, which somehow clicked in a more satisfying and entertaining way, while Stallone remained on as writer.

Now the directing task has been entrusted to an unknown, Patrick Hughes. Hughes is often physically unable to follow the numerous fights that are supposed to be going on at the same time, and what he does focus on quickly turns into mush. The film's two editors must have done a great deal of sweating and panicking when presented with this unwieldy footage. In fact, it's a good bet that there was more suspense and action going on in that editing room than actually ended up on the screen.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray release is precisely the kind of thing that enthusiasts use to show off their system; it looks and sounds top-notch. It includes a new "extended" cut that runs about 5 minutes longer, as well as the theatrical cut. Extras include a studio-produced behind-the-scenes featurette, a couple of shorter featurettes, an extended scene, and a gag reel.

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