In the interest of full disclosure, I was invited to attend the London Press Junket for EXPENDABLES 3. The only reason I chose to go was that Stallone wanted me to go, and I have a very interesting friendship with Sly. I have leveled harsh criticism and I have loved on him quite a bit, but what I’m always up for… is seeing a new Stallone movie. Good. Bad. I just love seeing the guy on the screen, but I want him to be great!
As part of the Junket, my first in over a decade, we wound up seeing EXPENDABLES 3 twice. The first after a “get to know” Kellan Lutz 30 minute hangout. Some fellow awesome online journalists were there, and Kellan impressed me as having so much more articulation and charisma in person, than I’ve yet seen him play on screen. As that wrapped up, we were ushered into a small auditorium at the SOHO HOTEL, that already had a crowd of people that I was not familiar with visibly, sitting as we came in.
Kellan Lutz then came out to introduce the film, and I have to admit… this was surreal. His shirt was easily like maybe two sizes too small and man is that guy chiseled. But it was earlier in the room, where it got really surreal. Kellan Lutz, ex-glitter vamp, lost his shit over my glittery rainbow Jeremy Scott Adidas shoes that I was wearing. Crazy. Just Crazy.
I have to say, I haven’t seen Lutz in anything I liked a whole ton, where it was him that I was liking. He got to smile a lot in Twilight and showoff his various vampire outrageous skills. But I loathed his HERCULES almost as much as The Rock’s. Strange that Steve Reeves is still my favorite Hercules. Jim Steranko once invited me to work with him to do a proper HERCULES movie/comic… Never before have I been so tempted after seeing these two flailing projects.
But it was odd having Kellan introduce the film. He told us how he started out auditioning for the first one and how TWILIGHT messed it up for him, but he was lucky as hell to have Twilight. But this time out everything lined up and he wants to make these through EXPENDABLES 10. For the record. I heard him say this live about a dozen times this weekend at different points. JUNKETS are weird.
The first viewing of EXPENDABLES 3 – was intimate, but with a bunch of dead fish for an audience, so I can only imagine they were professionals that consider themselves above human reaction during a movie. It's ok to laugh at the ridiculous they do in this movie! This makes one very self-conscious about laughing or making a noise – and it feels like a room of grown ups too good to have fun with a fun movie. They all seemed to like the movie plenty afterwards though… so they weren’t completely daft. I had a great time with the film, and upon exit all I really wanted was to see the film at the World Premiere in London with a fired up excitable audience… because… there needed to be more than me clapping when Arnold screams out “GET TO DA CHOPPAH!!!!” – and at the premiere that scene killed.
In a lot of ways – that’s the difference between a lot of critics – and movie lovers that pay to see films… There seems to be a distancing between themselves and the movie they’re watching, that I’m really just not capable of.
EXPENDABLES 3 is an incredibly violent practical stunt and mass killing film that really does seem like an extreme PG13… seriously. Harrison Ford even says “FUCK” with that Jack Ryan pissed off shaky face and FINGER OF DOOM – and yeah, that’s a clap too.
You have to understand… Look at the standee… Look at that cast… Do you want to see that cast bounce off of one another like marbles, blowing shit up a lot. Riffing on themselves and their images. And killing ALL THE BAD GUYS and then some. There’s a ton of bad guys. This has a higher body count than any of the previous body counts in the EXPENDABLES franchise. Not as graphic, but they make up with it in overkill that makes TEAM AMERICA’s parody of this kind of action seem subtle.
So how does it rank with the others? Well, while the first EXPENDABLES had the novelty of being the first, as a lover of R-rated mayhem, I like the 2nd most… but… EXPENDABLES 3 simply has things that I just loved watching and discovering with the film.
Like the opening sequence which involves a rescue of Wesley Snipes’ character, who instantly set about into a murderous revenge plot – which probably resulted in the deaths of hundreds. But we didn’t see all that death. But it is impossible to deny – and man… just seeing Wesley Snipes on the screen where he belongs kicking ass and looking damn good doing it… well, it is a delight.
You will see Riggs and Rambo showdown and boss fight… And while I wished they’d shot the fight for 2 weeks and got each other beat bloody and broken the way Riggs and Rambo would have… but, still…. That’s fucking Riggs and Rambo in a yucky pool fighting one another and it’s fun as hell. Just like watching Van Damme and Stallone go to it.
Watching Harrison Ford piloting an attack helicopter with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jet Li riding MachineGun… battling foes on the air and below on the ground, showing off Ford excellent piloting skills – and … these are things that when you see them… you’ll have one of two reactions… “This is stupid” or “I CAN’T FUCKING BELIEVE THIS EXISTS” – I fall into that latter category.
Then there’s Antonio Banderas who may very well be my favorite character in this new film! He’s the lost puppy of a killer. He had a team that he was a part of, they killed side by side and were things of legend. Invincible, badass. And he’s not with them anymore, but he must serve where he can do what he does best, which is to kill. He wants to have a family that kills together… and he so wants to belong and not remember his tragic exposed nerve – and when Sly gets that out of him, his silly, lovably annoying character has a pay off – that’s a payoff in the best ways that Stallone builds into his character. Think back to FIRST BLOOD PART II, “You not Expendable!” – I loved that moment – and when Sly and Antonio find some honest truth in their characters… it is oddly beautiful – in a macho men in the woods kind of way.
Could everyone in this movie be doing better, fuller more satisfying work? Sure. But ya know – as long as film has been around there have been Cavalcades of Stars projects… go back to that crazy star filled version of ALICE IN WONDERLAND to THE LONGEST DAY and the comedy giant casts like IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD or CANNONBALL RUN… Films made as much about the star power and the sheer outrageousness of placing that number of actors in a film.
Now, the fun part about EXPENDABLES 3 beyond the Nostalgia factory, is the speculation regarding the action stars of tomorrow… I’m not sure about all of them, but there’s one that is absolutely working on that screen in a very real and charismatic way and that’s UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Jean Rousey… this is her first acting performance – and there’s something genuinely kind of exotic and electric about her. She does some crazy awesome MMA style takedowns that you just gasp at… but even better – and more hopeful is her more quiet scene with Sly driving that truck… One, she softens Sly in the scene, but at the same time… she does the same for herself. It’s casual, intimate without overt eroticisms. But the charm of a sexy strong woman and a SYLVESTER STALLONE – and it works real good. She’s got quite the smile and she kicks ass!
This film is on a different scale than the previous EXPENDABLES movies, it lacks that over the top screaming cheering blood lust of the first two, but let me tell ya… I had fun with this film, then at the World Premiere, watching it with that audience reminded me that my instincts about the film being a fun audience movie was absolutely right. The laughs, the cheers and the applause. It feels so good watching a film with an audience that is the film the audience came to see. This is spectacle at a completely different level than most of the Summer flicks. It’s outright cheesier, busier and sillier… but that’s not a bad thing… it’s just a real damn fun thing.
Once you get to that final mission, you’re about to see crazy amount of gunshots and bodies flying. SLY says on Blu Ray we’ll be getting 45 more frames of every shot, which makes the film the harder version. I’m dying to see that version now. With it’s teeth fully in, this coulda been a contender for the best of the series. It’s still a whole lotta fun – and I can’t believe they got away with this much violence at PG13. What I wouldn’t give though for a full hard R EXPENDABLES directed by Gareth Evans…. And given that kind of time to get the action and violence to its full potential. That’s how to really take this series to the next level. It’d be flatly the most amazing action film ever made. Pray pray pray!
EXPENDABLES 3 won’t cure cancer, pick up awards, but it will show you pairings and interactions you’ve been wanting to see for a very long time. There is a degree of playing to our inner action fanboy. That said, seeing this with a good audience raises the enjoyment factor greatly. They may be getting older, but it’s a whole lot of fun to see them play together. And really, that’s the spirit these films get and that Harrison Ford acknowledges with his last line.
On second viewing the recruitment sequence which makes the greater part of the second act drag a bit, but really, I felt that was my impatience wanting to see the film go crazy again. This series doesn’t really seem to be running out fun ways of shaking things up. Love Kelsey Grammer playing his best George Kennedy character. It’s fun stuff. I do wish Robert Davi’s part would have been larger or if they’d let him do a Sinatra number.
This really is a fun flick!