The Expendables 3 (2014)

Rating: **
Release Date: 8/15/14
Music: Brian Tyler
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson, Ronda Rousey, cameos by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Kelsey Grammer, Jet Li

"Get to the choppa!"

Fun and mindlessly violent, but dull and disappointing at the same time. Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team of Expendables break an old teammate (Wesley Snipes) out of jail and recruit him for what should have been a simple routine job. Unfortunately, a dangerous man from Ross's past (Mel Gibson) shows up and makes a huge mess of things. Filled with hatred and an insatiable thirst for revenge, Ross deserts the Expendables and hires a bunch of youngsters to help track down Gibson. When that operation goes south, the old crew comes back to help sort things out, which results in the complete annihilation of a small Eastern European army.

While it's fun to see everyone back in action, the film is unfortunately a complete mess. The action is loud and fast, but spastic camera work and choppy editing don't allow you to see what's actually happening, and the family friendly PG-13 rating ensures that the bloodless battles are lifeless and limp. The end result is a watered down action film that's had its action scenes neutered, matched with a bloated and overly cliché plot that feels more like "G.I. Joe" or "The A-Team." The tech-savvy new blood is completely uninteresting and their motivations for joining Ross are puzzling and unconvincing. MMA champion Ronda Rousey is fun to watch and arguably gets the best fight scenes in the film, but they're spoiled by incompetent editing. After a falling out between Stallone and Bruce Willis prior to filming, Willis's character was replaced by a grumpy Harrison Ford, who delivers some snarky lines about Willis being "out of the picture." In fact, the "real world" quips are the best thing the film has to offer, especially when Wesley Snipes sarcastically mentions that he was incarcerated for tax evasion.

Speaking of Snipes, it's surprisingly refreshing to see him working again. He's in great shape and looks like he hasn't aged a day over the last decade. There's a hunger and fire in his eyes that's missing from the rest of the cast, and he's delightful to watch. Unfortunately, he and the rest of the over-the-hill gang are completely absent from the middle of the film, which leaves them with precious little screen time. Jet Li returns in the most pointless cameo of all. He spouts a couple of awkward one-liners and fires a machine gun from a helicopter, and that's it. Seriously. You really have to wonder why he's in the film at all. Speaking of one-liners, the film is full of groan worthy dialog, which is made worse by the inclusion of the wise-cracking youngsters. While it's nice to have a legitimate fighting female on the team, her combat outfit is laughable and her character is written with typical chauvinistic contempt. Whenever she scornfully snorts "hmph, men," you just want to punch the screenwriter in the mouth.

Overall, it's a pretty good looking film, although it cuts corners with unconvincing green screen compositions, tacky matte paintings, overly floaty wirework, and grainy stock footage. The sets and locations are nice, with the highlight being a large abandoned building that serves as the battleground for the final third of the film. I wouldn't be surprised if they just found that derelict building in the middle of nowhere and had the Bulgarian military blow the shit out of it. Ultimately, it feels like Lionsgate is desperately trying to wring every last dollar out of the franchise, and the limp presentation pretty much guarantees that there won't be an "Expendables 4."