Old action heroes never die... they just become Expendables. Need a paycheck in exchange for some light lifting? Script too much trouble to learn? Never really mastered the art of acting? We have just the movie for you!
Welcome to Expendables 3, Sylvester Stallone's version of Social Security for actors who have long since retired from their putative profession. Stallone (age 68) summons to the Senior Center Harrison Ford (72), Arnold Schwarzenegger (67), Kelsey Grammer (59), Mel Gibson (58), Dolph Lundren (56), Antonio Banderas (54) and Jet Li (51). These are not your father's heroes . . . they are your grandfather's! More wrinkles in the faces than in the plot. Many characters, but little character development. Even the principles, such as Ford and Schwarzenegger, seem to wander in and out of the story almost randomly. Let's hope they remember the address!
Happily these comings and goings don't confuse the plot which boils down to "get the bad guy." Although he doesn't get to engage in on screen domestic violence or anti-Semitism, Mel Gibson still looks like he's having fun. Apparently he relishes the bad guy role on screen, as well as off it. Unfortunately, his rugged good looks appear more and more like an apple doll. But Gibson is at least age-appropriate among the shar-pei cast.
Stallone, who admits to having written the movie, starts with his old Expendable dependables rescuing Wesley Snipes from prison for . . . tax evasion! Who says art doesn't imitate real life, or in this case still life. Sly wants to use his old crew to pursue Bad Guy Gibson who was killed off in Expendables 2, but like most of the cast, was brought back to life for the sequel.
In an intelligible moment of clarity, Stallone realizes that the old crew will no longer cut it. "At one time you guys were the best. But nothing lasts forever. We're part of the past." So he expands the Expendables with young recruits: actor Glen Powell (The Great Debators), Kellan Lutz from The Twilight Saga, former welterweight boxing champ Victor Ortiz and mixed martial arts bantamweight champion and 2008 Olympic Medalist Ronda Rousey. They aren't necessarily better actors. But they are easier on the eyes than watching Mel Gibson walk.
Abandoning the old Expendables, Stallone pursues the villains with his young recruits. But it's not long before they need a "Father Knows Best" moment to rescue them. Of course more than this may be needed to rescue Kelsey Grammer, wearing a ridiculous squashed fishing hat and looking and sounding like time and television have passed him by. Then there is new Expendable Antonio Banderas who appears as a raving maniac, proving his idiocy with non-stop prattle, hyperactivity and reference to being abandoned at Benghazi.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment with Ex 3 is how little fun the film is to view. Were all the humorous tag lines expended in the franchise's first two movies? Or perhaps they couldn't be heard above the trite, tired pyrotechnics or the actors' inabilities to ennunciate. Why were the great variety of exotic locations so well-labeled but so little used? Was the entire $100 million budget spent on promotion and salaries? Reportedly Bruce Willis refused to sign on for a piddling $3 million for 4 days work. Perhaps his presence would have livened up the inert script. Rumor has it that even the 2.2 million clickers on the internet-posted, pirated copy of the film are demanding compensation for their time watching if not money expended!
The only heart one can take out of this project is Schwarzenegger's line early on that "I'm getting out of this business." But can we even trust Arnold, who left his last job a shambles and has in the past warned us "I'll be back." Expendables 4: The Afternoon Nap?