‘The Expendables 3′: Embarrassment Rankings
As reconfirmed in ‘The Expendables 3,’ Sylvester Stallone has quit trying to be a genuine action star, much less an actual actor. For the third entry in his aged-warrior franchise, Stallone is back in nostalgic form, reuniting with a bunch of old-school badasses as well as enlisting the help of some young pups eager to follow in his renowned kill-‘em-all footsteps. As an awkwardly constructed film that trots out each new cast member in separate stand-alone sequences, at least until a finale in which almost everyone shows up in one location to do some joint heroic killing, ‘The Expendables 3′ is barely a movie; it’s a string of cameos primarily constructed with its poster’s credit line-up in mind.
That the film also ditches its predecessors’ R rating for a more teen-friendly PG-13 designation further underscores the fact that Stallone no longer cares about delivering the type of hardcore mayhem that made him an icon, and which his die-hard fans most covet. The bloodless ‘Expendables 3′ combat and corny blink-and-you’ll-miss-them supporting roles verifies that Stallone now only cares about trading on his (and his fellow co-stars’) past reputation for marketable cartoon action. Yet while Stallone may be perfectly comfortable selling himself out, his accomplices on this latest jokey saga seem to have tackled their ludicrous material with varying degrees of seriousness – and as this ranked rundown details, also with varying degrees of embarrassment.
Ahead, of the established stars, we rank from least to most who we feel the most embarrassed for that he (all hes!) is in ‘The Expendables 3.’
As a motormouthed killer-for-hire who joins Stallone for the film’s final battle, Banderas is wholly inconsequential to the plot of ‘The Expendables 3′ – he’s just there to be spastic comedic relief. As such, Banderas acquits himself better than every one of his illustrious co-stars, prancing about like a hyperactive child, dispensing Spanish-lover come-ons to Ronda Rousey’s Expendables recruit, and generally acting like a bug-eyed, ADHD-afflicted lunatic. Comprehending the inanity of the proceedings, he does what everyone else can’t bring themselves to do: embrace his role as an over-the-top caricature.
Snipes is the focal point of The Expendables 3’s opening sequence, in which his original-Expendable Doc is rescued by Stallone and company from a high-speed train headed to a Russian prison. His CG-enhanced acrobatics during this scene, as well as his subsequent use of a machete to shave his scraggly beard and tough-talk with Statham, indicate that the actor is more than game for revisiting his larger-than-life tough-guy routine. Here, that includes a thoroughly weird and inadvertently hilarious recurring catchphrase – “Jing-a-ling, Jing-a-ling!” – which refers to the sound made by rattling dog tags of fallen Expendables, and is served up by Snipes with a twinkle in his eye that reveals that he gets the project’s silliness.
Grammer doesn’t do action, so in this threequel, he appears as Bonaparte, a bearded underworld agent who helps Stallone assemble a new, youthful Expendables team. Other than enjoying some light chit-chat with Stallone, as well as one nighttime car ride through a laughably lousy green-screened night, Grammer proves to be a well-spoken, mildly engaging footnote – which is a nice way of saying that he gets out before the getting gets truly absurd.
Primarily asked to drink from a flask, engage in some premature ejaculation-related repartee with Terry Crews, and act like a technology-challenged lunkhead, Dolph Lundgren is little more than a glorified extra in ‘The Expendables 3.’ That would be dispiriting if Lundgren seemed the least bit perturbed about this marginalization. However, the actor appears barely awake during the scant scenes that require him to grunt out a few words or hulk his way through some heavy gunfire. It’s possible that his running-on-fumes performance is, in fact, a canny, subversive means of thumbing his nose at an endeavor he deems not worthy of his full effort. But more likely, he’s just like the audience: bored by the story’s endless, mind-numbing sound and fury.
As Lee Christmas, an expert at, um, throwing knives and performing blurry martial-arts moves, Statham is mainly asked to be Stallone’s right-hand banter-mate, which leads to a host of scenes in which Statham calls Stallone “demented,” and Stallone playfully objects to the term, and then Statham says he means it as a compliment. For a guy capable of handling his own far superior action series (‘The Transporter’ or ‘Crank’, take your pick), Statham’s participation remains more than a bit embarrassing – a vain attempt to assume an action-idol mantle that Stallone can’t pass on, in large part because he relinquished it years earlier.
So desperate is Stallone to populate his latest ‘Expendables’ with recognizable names that he even trots out Mel Gibson, he of the rampant anti-Semitism and misogyny, to play the story’s bad guy, a ruthless Expendables turncoat who’s become a terrorist arms dealer with a love of fine art. That cultured-mass-murderer characterization should have provided Gibson with some juicy opportunities to go full-on campy. Instead, though, the actor plays him as just a glowering, nastily sarcastic thug in a swanky suit. In this rare return to the mainstream spotlight, Gibson squanders his shot to make a lasting impact by simply snarling his way through clichéd rants that reinforce the impression that he’s now only capable of operating in a crazed-psycho register.
Schwarzenegger reprises his role from ‘The Expendables 2′ (and his cameo from the first movie) as Trench, a guy who smokes cigars, wears sunglasses (and this time around, also a Hawaiian shirt!), and wields enormous firearms. In other words, it’s his same old shtick, executed in a handful of short scenes that are defined by his dearth of dialogue and matching lethargic body language. Considering that he remains a bigger icon than Stallone ever was, Schwarzenegger’s peripheral part in this adventure comes off as sad, replete with him parodying his own memorable Predator catchphrase – twice! – by barking at his fellow compatriots, “Get to the choppah!”
Apparently, the royalty checks from ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ aren’t as sizable as they once were – how else to explain Ford wasting his time playing a CIA bigwig named Drummer who spends most of his scenes giving menacing orders to Stallone’s merc. True, Ford elicits a mild chuckle from his chronic inability to decipher Statham’s British accent (which is funny mainly because it indicates that Ford is hard of hearing). Yet his airborne heroism during the film’s climax is a thing of monumental awkwardness, lowlighted by him announcing his arrival on the explosions-and-gunfire scene by bellowing, “Drummer’s in the house!”
Even Ford, however, isn’t as pitiful as Jet Li, who doesn’t show up until the very end of ‘The Expendables 3,’ at which point he performs no martial arts (even though, you know, that’s what made Li a cinematic legend), and is given a whopping four lines of wholly perfunctory dialogue. It’s a pathetic cameo in which Li comes off as an inconsequential nobody – and ends, even stranger, with him and Schwarzenegger giggling and whispering in each other’s ears in a bar.
And as for the headliner himself? He walks away from exploding helicopters without flinching, shoots tons of faceless enemies, trades a few barbs with his elder partners-in-chaos, and receives two separate extended close-ups in which his thousand-mile stare reflects a mixture of righteous fury and hard-nosed determination. In other words, Stallone treats ‘The Expendables 3′ with the utmost seriousness. That makes him the most embarrassing thing about the film – and also helps him bestow it with its most unintentionally amusing moment, when, faced with sending Gibson’s defeated villain to court for war crimes or killing the fiend himself, Stallone’s hero delivers with a straight face the kiss-off line, “I am the Hague.”