The Expendables 3 is the biggest entry in the franchise yet also the laziest. The first film is the best in my opinion, a rip-roaring good time with some tongue-in-cheek humour and breakneck violence. The second film remains as violent and increases the cast size but doesn't feel as fun before, now we are at the third film. This third installment goes too big, and falters in many areas but I still had a good time.
Barney Ross recruits a younger team of Expendables in order to stop Conrad Stonebanks, who plans to eliminate Ross and his old gang. Think of this film as an older mans Avengers but without the solid structuring and character development that the Marvel hit had. Don't get me wrong I loved the new cast additions but because there are so many the writers seemingly forgot how to push them forward or make them fully interesting.
Victor Ortiz and Robert Davi are given next to nothing to do, Ortiz has the odd line but there is nothing interesting in his character, just a guy who is good with a gun, and Davi has maybe less than a minute screen time, why waste an actor who proved he is a top choice for playing an antagonist seen in Licence To Kill. The structure of this film feels all too familiar, watching the movies main man travel the country to recruit a new team has been done before in better ways, but the cast who are all clearly having a blast make these scenes watchable.
Franchise veterans Stallone, Statham, Crews, Li, Schwarzenegger, Couture and Lundgren are on fine form once again, all dishing out great self aware gags, having proper banter which never gets old and this time around they feel more like a family than a team, this is best of all seen when Ross ditches his gang in order to keep them safe, in which the team don't take the news very well.
The newcomers are superb, Harrison Ford proves he hasn't lost his charisma playing Drummer, a CIA operative who manages the Expendables' missions, Ford is blunt, deadpan in humour and when it comes to the action finale he is a blast to watch. Mel Gibson, practically doing what he did in Machete Kills, is entertaining as the bad guy, never venturing into campy but still playing a bit of a tease. Wesley Snipes is a very welcome addition as Doc, an ex-member of the Expendables who is very good with a knife. The amount of self-deprecating gags just goes to show how much fun Snipes is having.
Whilst the oldies relish in playing their roles, some of the younger and more surprising additions to the cast left a stronger impression. Kelsey Grammer is having a great year, after appearing as the sinister bad guy in Transformers Age Of Extinction, he plays a more upbeat role in this film as Bonaparte, ally of the Expendables and a mercenary who helps Ross recruit the younger team. Grammer had the whole audience in the cinema chuckling with smart quips and well timed dry humour.
The young Expendables are great, and although Ortiz and Powell aren't given much to do it's Kellan Lutz and Ronda Rousey who really make their mark. I've never been a fan of Lutz and his work but here he delivers a solid performance as a bit of a renegade, playing Smilee, a former U.S. marine who finds it hard taking orders. Lutz is convincing and is awesome in the action scenes. Antonio Banderas is the most entertaining as a chatty new member, he doesn't stop talking even during action scenes and the juxtaposition between violence and chattering is hilarious.
However, Ronda Rousey does it for me in her first ever debut acting role. The minute she appeared Rousey could more than hold her own up against these action veterans as a tough no nonsense club bouncer, who knocks the shit out of party goers in her first scene. Her actual acting is great, though she never gets the chance to fully emote as other cast members. I read an article in which she said she wanted to be "as big as The Rock" in the film industry, and as acting debuts go she has picked a great start.
The action scenes are mixed, for such a high budget a lot of the green screen effects are shockingly poor and look so fake, so much so they stick out like sore thumbs, and even the explosions look unfinished and slapped on, I think inconsistent is the word to go with. However, once the finale finishes which is essentially one giant battlefield in which the whole cast unite and blow stuff up you can just about get past the visual flaws. My favourite part though is watching the entire team drink and celebrate at a bar in the end, it's a great way to end a film and enough to get you amped for the fourth instalment.