I’m “biast” (con): the franchise had worn out whatever welcome it might have had before the end of the first movie
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
There’s just no point in even bothering. I could huff and puff and moan and groan and explain why The Expendables 3 is a terrible excuse for a movie… even for a dumb cheesy 80s-throwback action movie. I could go into great detail about the laziness of the writing, about how perfunctory the directing is, about the blatant obvious cheapness of the FX.
It doesn’t matter. There is nothing I can say that will convince those who have already been won over by the Hollywood entertainment meatgrinder that this movie is not worth your time. In the vast conspiracy of stupidity that has overtaken pop culture, the disparagement of a movie like The Expendables 3 by a film critic becomes an endorsement of a sad, twisted sort. And if it’s a chick critic? If it’s a middle-aged chick film critic? That’s just gold. That just proves that this is precisely the kind of movie for everyone who doesn’t give a shit what overintellectual dried-up ladybrains are blathering on about now. If she hates it — or so the equation goes — it must be awesome.
It doesn’t matter that I and my overintellectual dried-up ladybrain could explain that I really do feel, deep down in a visceral, action-movie-loving way, that some of the stars here have appeared in some of the greatest examples of manly action movies in the history of cinema. Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon). Harrison Ford (Raiders of the Lost Ark). Sylvester Stallone (Rocky… okay, not quite action, but very very manly). Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator). Jason Statham (Crank). Antonio Banderas (The 13th Warrior). All that matters now, in 2014, is that The Expendables 3 gets to trade on their names — and the names of many others. Dolph Lundgren! Wesley Snipes! Is the movie cool yet? If you think it is, there is nothing I can tell you that will change your mind. I could tell you that almost every one of those cool names does little but stand around gawping and occasionally shooting a gun, and it wouldn’t matter.
Did I say meatgrinder? More like beefcake grinder. I could complain about how there are 16 actors (plus their names) — all but one of them male — featured on the movie’s poster. In that way that movie posters tell you: “These are the famous people in whose presence you will bask.” In that way that movie posters tell you: “These are the people the story will be about.” And then I could complain about how all these people are all actually crammed into the movie in a way that guarantees that none of them gets much of anything to do. Jet Li speaks two lines here. That’s it. Is that cool?
If you say, “But Jet Li!” then you are admitting that you will respond, and happily, to the most vulgar sort of pandering to your most unthinking, most reflexive instincts. Hollywood is, in fact, counting on you to do so.
There’s no point in even mentioning the barest outlines of the plot — Stallone’s Expendables (who never seem to get expended) go after Gibson’s billionaire arms dealer — because it doesn’t matter. It’s barely a plot anyway. “But who needs plot? It’s about the action!” There’s nary a reasonable reason why the action ends up in a conveniently abandoned Eastern European city (“Stop overthinking it!”) that becomes the expansive battleground for something that looks like an enormous game of paintball with real bullets. (“It’s supposed to be fun! Just relax and enjoy it.”)
Every possible negative criticism becomes a demented kind of approval. If I call this movie “black ops porn,” well, that makes it sound appealing to some. If I say it condones a sort of uber-American geopolitical vigilantism, well, that makes it sound patriotic to some. (So much for “liberal” Hollywood.) If I say that even the teeny bit of winking self-awareness that the first movie had is long gone (it was nowhere to be found in the second movie, either)… well, I’m not sure how that can be spun as a positive thing, but I’m sure someone will let me know.
This is what Hollywood thinks of action movie fans these days. The Expendables 3 is directed by Patrick Hughes. His next movie will be the pointless remake of Indonesian-language ultraviolent martial-arts flick The Raid. That movie needs to be remade because Hollywood believes that the audience for movies like these is so dumb that even in a movie that’s mostly blood and gore and shootouts and hand-to-hand combat, and very little plot or exposition, a few subtitles are an insurmountable obstacle to one’s enjoyment of it.
But mostly the reason why there’s just no point in even bothering is because no one involved in The Expendables 3 is bothering. They know they’re pumping out brainless crap, and they don’t care, because they know there’s a built-in audience for brainless crap. I could ask you not to be that built-in audience, but there’s no point.