Act your age

"I'm confused … so, it goes <i>First Blood</i>, then <i>Rambo: First Blood Part II</i> and then <i>Rambo III</i>? Shouldn't that one be called <i>First Blood Part III</i>? Or <i>Third Blood</i>?"

"I'm confused … so, it goes First Blood, then Rambo: First Blood Part II and then Rambo III? Shouldn't that one be called First Blood Part III? Or Third Blood?"

Rated 2.0

Sylvester Stallone and his admittedly awesome band of old crows take some major missteps in The Expendables 3, an unfortunate leap backwards for the aging action star franchise.

For No. 3, Stallone and company jettison the smarmy Bruce Willis in favor of the growly Harrison Ford, and this is a cool change. It also adds Wesley Snipes as Doctor Death, Antonio Banderas as fast-talking comic relief and, most notably, Mel Gibson playing himself (translation: The World’s Biggest Asshole).

Stallone and director Patrick Hughes should’ve stopped right there as far as casting, and given the group—which also includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and many others—a decent script to go by. This is a sufficient enough cast for any action movie, so get cracking with the pyrotechnics and focus in on a story that makes sense.

Instead, and probably because the production could only afford the big guys for a minimal amount of shooting time apiece, the script has Stallone’s Barney Ross putting the old guys on ice after the first 30 minutes in favor of a new, mostly younger crew.

Most of the new crew is, in short, completely uninteresting and lacking the charisma of their older counterparts. Too much screen time is given to the likes of mixed martial arts superstar Ronda Rousey, who can most certainly kick the shit out of most men but can’t act for squat. Marquee names like Kellan Lutz (The Twilight Saga) and boxer Victor Ortiz round out the boring faction of the new cast.

Yeah, I’d rather see this crew instead of Ford, Schwarzenegger, Snipes and Statham. Sure.

The plot is a mish-mosh of action movie clichés, as Barney finds himself gathering the new team to go up against Stonebanks (Gibson), a former Expendable turned arms dealer and bad guy. Gibson gets a couple of scenes to show off his catcher’s glove face—seriously … stop smoking, Mel!—and act all crazy. There’s a scene where the older guys show up looking all sad because they want to kill Stonebanks instead of the young dudes getting to waste him. It’s heartbreaking stuff. Prepare to cry.

After some tedious scenes introducing the new crew—and featuring Kelsey Grammer of all people—Barney does eventually let the old guys back into the movie, and this results in a halfway decent finale where many things blow up. It also has that typical showdown between Barney’s good guy and Stonebanks where the villain gets the upper hand, yet throws away his weapon in favor of hand-to-hand combat. I’m sure Mr. Gibson can fight with the best of them in his weight class but Gibson vs. Stallone is a bit outlandish, even if Stallone is something like 95 years old.

I did like the sight of Harrison Ford piloting a helicopter with Han Solo style, and Snipes is fun in his few scenes. The screenplay has a lot of inside jokes about his tax evasion jail sentence that aren’t exactly clever, but do warrant a chuckle or two. Dolph Lundgren’s “Sore Loser” T-shirt also put a smile on my face, as did Terry Crews once again letting loose with his really big gun.

I still don’t understand the Jason Statham phenomenon. He’s been OK in a couple of films, but most of the stuff he slums in is trash. I guess I’m sort of grateful that this movie puts him in more of a background role.

In an effort to make more money, the movie is PG-13 (the previous installments were R-rated). Dumb move. The target audience for this sort of stuff likes their movies filled with bloody carnage and F-bombs. This boneheaded move, along with a pirated copy of the film being downloaded by millions, has resulted in The Expendables 3 being far from a box office darling.

Unless this movie catches fire overseas, I have to think the franchise is in jeopardy. By my count, the franchise has only one decent movie, The Expendables 2, and a couple of mediocre ones. If you can’t get it done in the third installment, you are usually toast in Hollywood.