August 20, 2014

Podcast Episode 27: THE EXPENDABLES 3 Finally Gets It Right


It's about damn time.

My love of all things Stallone is pure, eternal and well documented.  Thusly, I have subjected myself to both The Expendables and The Expendables 2, movies that sound brilliant on paper yet fall completely flat in execution.  It's such a disappointment, so much so that I have stupidly revisited each film, thinking they can't be as bad as I remember.  But they are that bad, and then some.  These are movies whose idea of entertainment is a collection of tedious, poorly shot action sequences and awkward, forced comedic banter between guys who have trouble speaking coherent sentences.  Sure, it's fun to get guys like Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger all on screen together, but you also have to give them something interesting to do, something more than standing around shooting off-screen villains and regurgitating 20 year old catchphrases.  Chuck Norris is the most egregious example of this mindset: his mere presence in Expendables 2 elicits chuckles, but the guy is too old to actually do any real ass-kicking.  Instead he just sort of meanders around, has a beard, delivers some plot information and then wanders off.  Such a waste.

Expendables 3 finally learns from the mistakes of its predecessors.  Newcomers Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Kelsey Grammar, Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson all inject a sense of pure, uncut fun that the franchise has been sorely lacking.  Snipes owns the movie's opening 20 minutes, so much so that I was sad that he was barely present in the film's second half.  But that's okay, because as Snipes fades into the background, Banderas gets his time to shine impossibly bright.  He's charming and funny and sad and a badass on top of everything.  Grammer and Ford each have smaller roles but they both have a couple of killer moments, while Gibson channels his particular brand of crazy into a great maniacal villain.  Conrad Stonebanks plays like a darker, twisted version of Martin Riggs without ever resorting to any ham-fisted references, as opposed to Schwarzenegger who drops not one, but two different variations on "Get to the choppah!"  There's also a younger crew of new Expendables, but they seemingly exist solely to make the older Expendables look more awesome.  This goal is successfully achieved through wooden acting and lack of personality.  Seriously, Rhonda Rousey makes Dolph Lundgren look like Lawrence Olivier.

This is what The Expendables always should have been and it's a shame that it took three full movies before they figured it out.  At this point most people have long since given up on this 80's action-star revival showcase and I can't blame them.  As I said, the first two movies are a downright chore to sit through.  But whether you've turned your back on the Expendables or never really bothered with them to begin with, you should give the third entry a shot.  It's still not great filmmaking, (I'm more than a little worried that Patrick Hughes is taking the reins on the American remake of The Raid) but it's remarkably entertaining and it blows some stuff up.  At the end of the day, that's all I ever wanted.

Unlike myself, Bart and Jamie had never seen an Expendables movie before, but that didn't stop us from podcasting the shit out of this one.  We shook up the format this time around and moved the current events stuff to the top of the agenda for those of you who want to hear us memorialize Robin Williams or pontificate about Aquaman and DC's upcoming TV slate without risking any Expendables spoilers before you get a chance to see the movie.  I think we'll give it a few weeks to see how it feels.  The only thing we failed to talk about regarding Expendables is the incredible and casual revelation at the end of the film that Schwarzenegger and Jet Li are actually lovers.  I think that also implies that Li and Lundgren were lovers in the first film?  Either way, it's amazing.


Next Week: Is Sin City still relevant?