What is it about “The Expendables” series?
What mad sorcery is at play in these films? Because they’re not good. They’re not even ‘so bad they’re good’. They’re just bad. Bad in a very mediocre, direct-to VHS, instantly forgettable way. And yet, I love “The Expendables” series. I love every minute of these overlong, terrible movies.
I don’t know. Is it because you get to see all of your favorite action heroes from the 80s and 90s finally team-up and woodenly swap obvious in-jokes with each other?
No. It’s not that.
I could do without knowing the ravages that time, HGH and Botox can do to the human body. There is no joy in looking at Dolph Lundgren’s taut, plasticine face and realizing that it’s no longer the face of an unstoppable killing machine, but rather the face of someone who would call Brandi Glanville ‘fake’ at Carlton Gebbia’s pool party.
No, what really makes “The Expendables” so appealing to me is knowing that, for many of these shambling pork mounds, it will probably be the last time we’ll ever see them on film. There’s a poignant quality in witnessing Jet Li, Wesley Snipes and others grunt, punch things and slowly walk towards the camera as something explodes in background and understanding that it won’t be long before the day when their lifeless, beefy husks are placed on a flaming catamaran and pushed out to sea.
Basically this is what makes “The Expendables 3” so very special.
In “The Expendables 3” Mel Gibson – a man who I want to believe spent most of his forced retirement wandering through the streets of Malibu hurling racial epithets at stray dogs in nothing but a housecoat and slippers – plays a one-time member of the Expendables team who is now an arms trader and wants his former teammates dead.
That is the plot, at least according to IMDb. Personally, I don’t remember “The Expendables 3” actually containing a storyline but I do remember plenty of inert action sequences that sometimes include people scooting around on dirt bikes for unexplained reasons and endless footage of Sylvester Stallone telling people how much he doesn’t like getting older. Oh, and there’s also plenty of comedy if your definition of comedy is not winking too hard at the audience as you mechanically regurgitate one of your tired catchphrases (Although, speaking as a “Judge Dredd” ‘fan’, I appreciated Stallone’s “I am the Hague” quip).
It’s not exactly revelatory or groundbreaking to note that most action movies have a tendency to be unconsciously homoerotic. And no surprise, it’s more of the same in “The Expendables 3” with scenes of Snipes and Jason Statham sharing deep, meaningful eye contact as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Li nearly cuddling after a climactic fight scene. But at times that unconscious subtext nearly borders on conscious text.
When Stallone rejects the original Expendables in favor of newer, blander recruits (which includes Kellan Lutz and Ronda Rousey), the film then cuts to a montage of the original Expendables struggling through their sad, Stallone free lives. Weirdly, the scene mirrors the exact same montages you see in every romantic comedy where the couple breaks up and tries, unsuccessfully, to go on without each other. Was this intentional? Hard to say. But considering that Stallone wrote the screenplay, I’m going to just go ahead and say that it probably wasn’t.
Am I being too hard on “The Expendables 3”?
Yes, I am. Especially considering that I not only liked the movie, I was genuinely charmed by Antonio Banderas’ bizarre star-turn as an insecure, child-like assassin. But with that said, “The Expendables 3” is still laughable sub-kitsch, an expensive, off-brand version of “GI: Joe” that seems predetermined to spend the rest of eternity at the bottom of the bargain DVD bin at Walmart. C’mon guys, there was a reason why this movie leaked onto the internet. Our dear sweet Jesus Lord wanted to give his sons and daughters the chance to see this for free. Take advantage of his good graces already, Shyeesh!