Blu-Ray Review: The Expendables 3 (2014, Dir, Patrick Hughes)

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WARNING!
THERE’S A GOOD CHANCE YOU’LL STEP ON MORE THAN A FEW SPOILERS!
WARNING!

I never liked the first Expendables movie, and I even watched the Unrated version of it. For an action flick I remember being extraordinarily bored by it. Now the sequel was a major improvement. I could easily re-watch it countless times, and then the trepidation came back when I heard Stallone and gang were going to do another. Rule of thumb for any ranchise is that the first is good, the second one is better and the third one sucks. Well, they already trashed that rule from the get go so maybe the third wouldn’t suck. Still, for some reason, I was expecting a bad movie. But, all that was for naught, I saw it last night and it was incredible, dare I say better than the previous one.

New members recruited this time out are Wesley Snipes, who was finally able to participate in one of these movies since his release from prison for tax evasion coincided perfectly with filming, and Antonio Banderas, who didn’t have to time anything for filming since he was not in prison for anything whatsoever. It was rumored early on that Jackie Chan might be a new member, but as I understand it he didn’t want to be in the movie in a small role, if he was going to be an Expendable he wanted to have a significant part. Understandable. Jet Li’s role in this one is even less than his role in the second one, and, yeah, even though I’m less of a Chan fan these days than I used to be, I’d still prefer to see him play a major part, just to see him kick ass as much as possible.

Expendables 3 kicks right off with the required near nuclear bang, just like the second did (can’t remember if the first did or not), with Barney Ross’ (Stallone) gang breaking Doc (Snipes) out of a prison train. One of the reasons I really liked this new entry is that it explores more of the history of Stallone’s Expendables. Doc was an original member before a mission went south and he got caught. He’s been doing hard time in some third world country’s prison system for 8 unearable long years, and they are moving him to a new prison.

They’re in the middle of a mission and short one person, so breaking him out now is preferable to breaking him out after. Doc is proficient in martial arts and the deadly use of throwing knives, not to mention being a medic, which will come in extremely handy in just a few minutes.

Afterwards, this new mission seems fairly routine as we see it playing out, everything seems to be going according to the plans set down, but the monkey wrench thrown into it this time comes in the form of arms dealer, Conrad Stonebanks, whom has a significant history with Ross. He was another founding member of The Expendables, but let his “darkside” get the better of him and became a ruthless arms dealer, who would murder anyone at the drop of a hat for anything. He has two major monologues later on in the film that gives his history during and after his time as an Expendable.

This initial encounter with this man who’s supposed to be dead sets Ross off and he blows the mission by trying to kill the fucker, but aforementioned fucker gets revenge by nearly fatally shooting Caeser (Terry Crews) as they are trying to escape. This almost fatalistic encounter forces Barney to reevaluate the situation and his team, deciding to put together a new “suicide squad” to go in and end Stonebanks once and for all.

This ending of the old team does not settle well with Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), and Toll (Randy Couture), but for a good chunk of the movie they don’t have much say in the matter. Barney partners up with retired merc, Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammar), to search out recruits for a new, younger team. This brings us to ex marine, John Smilee (Kellan Lutz), a hot nightclub bouncer named, Luna (Ronda Rousey), computer hacker, Thorn (Glen Powell), and weapons expert, Mars (Victor Ortiz). Antonio Bandaras’ Galgo character is the exception. Not being a young pup, but still lethal and game, he recruits himself and becomes a major asset to the team. Standout performance I mean. Loved his character.

Bruce Willis’ CIA middleman, Church, is out (heard Willis wanted more money than usual to reprise his role and Stallone said no) and in comes his replacement, Drummer (Harrison Ford), which I actually prefer to Willis’ character now. He reads Barney the riot act for fucking up that mission and insists he fix it, but not by killing Stonebanks, but by capturing and bringing him back to the States to go on trial for war crimes.

This actually goes as planned, which threw me for a loop, but Stonebanks had a back-up plan, and he takes Barney’s new team hostage, prompting Ross to get back his old team so he can go in and rescue the new team, and once the old team and new team are all together it’s time for the final act ass whooping which is even more kinetic than the final act ass whooping from part 2. Even Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Yang (Jet Li) are both on hand again to help in the killing of the bad guys at this remote, abandoned hotel in yet another third world country ruled by some nutzoid despot and his army.

The final showdown between Stonebanks army is crazy, exhilarating and exhausting to behold. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. It looks like just about everyone gets their shot in the limelight; they even give Jet Li a moment to shine too. Not as good as the beginning of part 2, but at least they tried. I personally think he’s horribly underused in the franchise, but that’s just me.

Of the new, younger members, only Kellan Lutz I was already familiar with as an actor. I never heard of any of the others. I figured that Luna chick, played by Ronda Rousey, must be some MMA celebrity or boxer or something, and looking her up online, I figured right. This is her first role on screen in a major movie. She’s got some cool moves and even cooler curves, and not a bad actress, now that I think about it.

When it comes to the rating, I remember being extremely disappointed that Stallone was letting this out as PG-13, but as I watched it I began to look at it like this. The PG-13’s of today are the R’s of yesterday. What I mean is if you took this movie with you in a time machine and had the MPAA of 1985 rate it, I know they’d give it an R. You can get away with a lot of celluloid violence these days. As long as you don’t show blood and suffering you can evade the “dreaded R” and get more people’s ass into theater seats. So, in summation, if Stallone did Expendables 4 and rated that one PG-13, too, I’d be okay with it.

Now in regards to the unrated version, the 6-minutes of restored scenes is extremely negligible. I saw two brief dialogue scenes restored; some minor extensions in the actions scenes in the final act and a different take in the final moments of Gibson and Stallone’s fight. In the unrated version Gibson’s final line, “What about the haig?” is delivered differently than in the theatrical version; he also utters a “motherfucker” and Stallone’s reply, “I’m the haig,” is delivered earlier in that scene in the unrated version. There is no added gore, aside from a bloodless knife in the shoulder, which looks suspiciously CGI. As I said it’s all very negligible, but I’d still go with the unrated version. The extended action scenes do make you feel you’ve been threw it more than the theatrical cut, yet I think the edit in the theatrical cut of Gibson’s death is the better one.

This coming November 25th Lionsgate releases The Expendables 3 in two separate editions: Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy and DVD/Digital Copy. The Unrated version is only available on the blu-ray.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.40:1 high definition widescreen—English Dolby TrueHD Atmos Mix, 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital—English, English SDH, Spanish subtitles.

Simply put video and audio were perfect; didn’t have a problem with either.

The extra features I’m about to list, take note, they’re only on the blu-ray:

  • The Expendables 3 Documentary (51:55)
  • “New Blood: Stacked And Jacked (16:11)
  • The Total Action Package (6:40)
  • Gag Reel (5:41)
  • Christmas Runs The Gauntlet Extended Scene (2:46)

All of these extras were primo, but the best is the obvious documentary. All of them, however, give you an inside look into the filming of the movie, stunts, tomfoolery, weapons, training, you name it, with an emphasis on the behind-the-scenes during filming. Statham almost died in one scene when the brakes on the truck he was driving gave out and he went right off the dock and into the briny depths. Terry Crews was there that day and he thought he just saw someone die, but Statham got out to live and film another day. The stunt people also said if he wasn’t an actor he’d make the perfect stunt driver and he did a lot of the driving stunts himself.

I hope they do another one of these. There are still a few more action actors they could get like John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Kurt Russell, Christopher Lambert and to a lesser degree Steven Segal.

1715139h

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