The Expendables 3 (2014)

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*. This is the terrible force a franchise has over us. I can’t really give you any good reason why I watched this movie other than the fact that I’d seen The Expendables and The Expendables 2 and thought I might as well continue with part three. And that’s not a good reason. Especially when you factor in how I felt about the first two.
*. But, anyway, I did watch it. It was more of the same. Much more. As I’ve mentioned before, comic book franchises (which is what The Expendables now qualifies as) can only keep getting bigger through a necessary process of accretion: tossing in more characters, more stars, more explosions, etc. as they go along, since they can’t mess with the formula and have to always add something more to the last film.
*. So what we have here is in effect two teams of Expendables (Expandables?): the Old Guard and the Young Turks. For some reason Barney doesn’t want to risk the lives of his buddies in risky battles any more so he enlists a bunch of young people to form a new gang because . . . young people are more expendable? Stupid? I’m not sure.
*. What this means is that the plot pairs a bunch of veteran stars with a posse of Hollywood up-and-comers. They get in fights, fire off thousands of rounds of ammunition, and blow things up real good in the best videogame tradition. There is, however, less bloody violence because they were aiming for a PG-13 rating (and got it, though Stallone later said that going this route was a mistake).
*. Is every line in this movie a cliché? It seems like it. And the structure is equally generic and predictable, without a single twist or surprise. I had to shake my head when Gibson gets sick of seeing his private army of cannon fodder being wiped out and finally says “If you want something done right . . .” just before setting off to take care of things personally. Then in the final showdown with Barney he tosses away his gun so that he can take Barney on mano a mano. Because that’s just the way it has to go down in films like this. They don’t need a script. They are the script.

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*. The curious thing about this franchise is that it insists on taking itself so seriously. The only life in this one is provided by Mel Gibson as the bug-eyed villain and Antonio Banderas as another incarnation of his Puss In Boots character. They both get hammy with their parts while everyone else acts as though the fate of the world really is in their hands.
*. Harrison Ford stepped in to take over from Bruce Willis when Willis asked for more money. Ford looks very old here. Still, at least they left Chuck Norris at home and Steven Seagal opted out. You have to be thankful for small mercies.

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*. I can’t say whether it’s better or worse than the first two. They’re all the same. This one is more crowded with faces and tattoos, and to be honest I lost track of all the different characters. Even many of the regulars, like Statham and Schwarzenegger, are left with little to do but fire their guns. I’m sure Randy Couture must have had some lines, but I can’t remember them now. Aside from Gibson and Banderas nothing at all stands out about it. A fourth film is reported to be in the works.

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