If you can make it through the cripplingly lifeless first 70 minutes of “Expendables 3” there's a treat waiting for you: the last hour isn't quite that bad. Oh, it's still bad, but it seems to wake up to what we always wanted from this bicep-bulging supergroup franchise, which was to be entertained.
Previous entries (and other recent Stallone pictures) are weighted down with solemn scenes of Sly and his coterie of living granite-men babbling about code and honor and family and oh, God, I get bored just thinking about it. Add to this that none of the action thus far has ever been all that energetic, at least in a visual sense or in terms of having all those bellowing, soaring bodies shoot one another in creative ways.
Now don't get too excited. There's no specifically memorable action moment in this new one, either, but there's at least some amusing performances in Wesley Snipes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson and, especially Antonio Banderas. Banderas does some of his most charming work since his turn as the Nasonex Bee as a chatterbox Spaniard who loves mercenary work, but can't find a job.
“I love killing people!” he pleads to Sly's Barney Ross and his recruiter (Frasier Crane) and while the ethics of playing such a scene for laughs may be troublesome, Banderas's gyrating, nearly-lisping, parkour-loving maniac is the best thing that's ever been in one of these movies by a country mile.
Barney Ross is crewing up with some new Expendables because things have gotten a little too heavy now that an old villain – Mel Gibson – has turned up. A brawl in Mogadishu has left Terry Crews (previously the most fun Expendable) fighting for his life in the ICU. So the old gang, Cockney Jason Statham, twin charisma vacuums Randy Couture and Dolph Lundgren, and the newly sprung from jail Wesley Snipes, who gives himself a dry shave with a knife the size of a ukelele, are kicked to the curb.
In their place Sly finds Kellan Lutz, who does a little brooding, and Ronda Rousey, who is neither Gal Gadot nor Gina Carano. And two other pretty forgettable guys.
There's an evil arms dealer and Barney's new contact at the CIA (Harrison Ford, who doesn't quite embarrass himself, but doesn't do anything too nifty either) wants this guy taken alive. Said villain is the renowned real life jerkwad Mel Gibson, who, and it pains me to say this, puts his inherent evil to good use in a quite striking performance. He fires up his crazy eyes and puts on a creepily flat midwestern accent. He even walks weird. He and Sly have a SCORE TO SETTLE and SETTLE IT THEY MUST even if they have to fly to the sovereign nation of Asmanistan. (Yes, that's right, they go to “Asmanistan.”)
Once the new crew and old crew come together there's time for a drawn out and ridiculous battle where everyone gets a moment to shine and make dumb one-liners. The Governator (an unofficial Expendable til now) gets to quote one of his early movies (he actually half-laughs while doing it) and Sly squeezes in a similar moment while mocking international jurisprudence at the same time.
I'd tell you more about the actual plot of the film, but there really isn't much to it. It's “get the baddie,” but along the way there's plenty of jumping and howling and killing. That's the weirdest thing about this movie – everyone is presented as such a nice fella, someone you want to have a beer with and bust balls. There's even a girl on the team and, for the most part, people treat her with decency and respect.
They are a family! A family that sneaks into foreign countries and kills dozens of people with bullets, knives and snapped necks for money. This movie is PG-13 and SO many people are indiscriminately murdered in gruesome ways. You don't see much blood, but you do see the gunfire and I'm not so sure that isn't just as bad.