REVIEW: The Expendables 3 Almost Gets it Right

And this is just half.
And this is just half.

It seemed The Expendables would never live up to the concept that launched the franchise: Aging action dinosaurs collaborating for a final go-around. The first two movies didn’t reach the level of brutality and tongue-in-cheek mayhem children of the Eighties were hoping for, but also made clear there was a market for unapologetically violent romps as such.

The third chapter of the saga is by no means perfect, but it’s the most satisfactory to date. The self-awareness is more palpable (regarding the Bruce Willis’ character: “Church is no longer in the picture”), the tableaux are pretty clever (if milder than previous installments due to an ill-advised PG-13 rating) and the cinematography is light-years superior, courtesy of Peter Menzies (The Incredible Hulk).

At the center of it all remains Sylvester Stallone, star, writer and creator of the franchise. After a supposedly routine mission leaves the old team in tatters, Barney Ross (Sly) realizes he is too attached to his brothers in arms and dismisses them. He needs a younger, savvier group to face a former Expendable gone rogue (Mel Gibson) with a grudge against most of the Western world.

Director Patrick Hughes (Red Hill) manages to give decent screen time to all the heavyweights in the cast, not a small feat. It doesn’t hurt they all seem to be enjoying themselves. I haven’t seen Harrison Ford this lively in a decade! Gibson, whose career took a serious tumble due to his erratic behavior, has found a second wind as a villain and chews the scenery with gusto. Wesley Snipes is a hoot and feels good to have him back.

The movie has problems (the motivations are one-note, the missions are poorly planned and terribly executed), but with a hearty dose of suspension of disbelief, The Expendables 3 has the capacity to entertain. I mean, in what other circumstance could Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li and Harrison Ford exchange one-liners?

Three pumped-up prairie dogs. The Expendables 3 opens tonight.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.