Monday, October 13, 2014

The Expendables 3 Suffers From a Bloated Cast



3 Out of 5 Stars

I do like action movies and don’t even mind some that have major plot issues at times.  I have enjoyed a lot of movies that Sylvester Stallone has been in over the years.  I really enjoyed The Expendables when it came out and I enjoyed the sequel The Expendables 2 as well.  That is why I was interested in seeing The Expendables 3 even before I knew much about the plot.  I did enjoy the movie when I had the chance to see it, but I don’t like it as much as the first two movies.  This one has more issues.

Barney Ross and the team are on a mission to rescue former Expendable Doc.  He has been held prisoner for several years and is currently being moved on a train.  Doc was one of the first members of the Expendables and none of the other guys know him.  The next mission goes bad when Barney recognized Conrad Stonebanks, the man who started the Expendables with Barney originally.  Conrad went rogue and Barney has believed him dead for years.  One of the guys is injured, and feeling guilty and wanting to avoid that happening again, basically fires everyone and then recruits new, younger mercenaries.  Eventually everyone has to work together in an attempt to face Conrad.

There is no indication of how much time is supposed to have passed since the end of the second movie when The Expendables 3 begins.  There isn’t any sort of recap to anything that happened in the previous movies.  The events in this movie don’t directly build on the first two movies since there is no continuing story line.  It is kind of interesting to find out a little more about the founding of the group, but even with finding out about Conrad, there isn’t that much shared.  Barney and Conrad’s conflict works well enough as a story even though it isn’t developed as well as it could have been.  Much of what happens seems to be an excuse for more and more wild action scenes.  It just would have been nice if the story had been a little stronger.  There are attempts at humor throughout the movie, with some working better than others.

Over the top action scenes turn up throughout the movie.  There is all kinds of shooting as well as some fist fights.  Doc uses knives, much like Lee, which causes some conflicts between them.  As the movie continues, the action sequences just get bigger until there is absolutely no hint of believability to what is going on.  A handful of people with limited weapons is supposed to take out what amounts to an army, complete with helicopters and tanks.  It does get a bit ridiculous.  All sorts of nameless characters are injured or killed in some way, especially later in the movie.  Despite that, the movie is rated PG-13 instead of R like the first two in an attempt to get more younger viewers to see the movie in the theater.  It is true that there is very little if any blood shown even with all the injuries and killings, but the rating still doesn’t seem right to me with how high the body count is.

A lot of the cast has been in all three movies, but this one also has several new, younger members.   Frankly, too much time is spent with the new members at the expense of the returning characters.  The new members don’t stand out at all really.  One of them is a woman bouncer and another one is a former member of the military who doesn’t like taking orders and seems a bit moody.  I didn’t particularly like or care about any of them.  I liked the characters from the first two movies so I wanted to see more of them, not younger moody people I don’t care about.  Before seeing the movie, I didn’t realize that the younger members of the cast were going to receive the most attention, with the older members being shoved to the background for the most part while the new guys crack jokes that involve calling the older members Grandpa.  I wouldn’t have minded so much if there was just one or two younger characters added, but a whole new younger team was overkill.  That, along with adding Doc, Bonaparte, Galgo, Drummer, and having Trench around a bit more, has the cast just too big.  That results in none of the characters getting enough attention and there really isn’t any character development.  By trying to feature every member of such a large cast, it ends up with no one really featured.

The set up with Doc and how they rescue him is interesting, then in no time, that is forgotten to focus on the new team.  A big part of the appeal of the first two movies was the fact that they featured several older action stars together in one movie.  This movie went to far off track that idea by focusing so much on the new younger team.  Adding Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford would have been more than enough and would have fit in more with the original set up. 

Ronda Rousey, a mixed martial arts figher who currently has at least one title, plays Luna, the woman bouncer that Barney adds to the new team.  Really the only thing that stands out about her is that she is a woman who acts tough.  I didn’t particularly care about the character and I wasn’t that impressed with her acting.  It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either.  Kellan Lutz, who played one of the moody, sparkly, vampires in the Twilight movies is John, the kind of moody former Marine.  I do wonder if anyone involved in the casting was hoping that some of the Twilight fans would follow Lutz to this one.  Thorn is some kind of veteran who is really good with computers and Mars is a sharpshooter who has a fear of heights. 

Lee, Yin, Gunner, Toll Road, Hale Caesar, and Trench are all back, with some of them doing more than others.  They were all fine in what they were able to do.  Doc starts off looking like a bit of a wild man.  He quickly proves that he still has his work skills.  Wesley Snipes is good in the part.  Galgo is a kind of older mercenary who is desperately trying to get on a team again.  He talks a lot.  I liked Antonio Banderas in the part.  Bonaparte is someone that Barney knows who is helping find the new team.  It seems like Bonaparte has done mercenary work in the past.  Kelsey Grammar only has a few scenes.  Harrison Ford is in a few scenes as Drummer, a CIA agent that gives Barney missions.  Drummer is replacing Church, the character the Bruce Willis played in the first two movies.  Willis was originally going to be back, but then he wanted more money for only four days of shooting, so the character was removed.

Conrad started the Expendables with Barney years ago.  Somewhere along the way, Conrad starting turning more and more to the criminal side.  There was some sort of confrontation and Barney believed that he killed Conrad.  Instead, Conrad was able to become a huge arms dealer and he lives a lavish life.  He is ruthless and he decides that he is going to take out Barney and the team.  Mel Gibson does a good job with the part.  This is the first time I’ve seen him play a bad guy, but he handles it well.

Overall, The Expendables 3 is entertaining though it does have story issues and too many of the cast - the ones that many people probably want to see - are under used.  I have heard that there are plans for a fourth movie.  If that moves forward, I think it needs to return to the main cast from the first two movies and get the cast size back under control. 

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