Skip to main content

I am the Hague!

The Expendables 3
(2014)

(SPOILERS) The one more famous for being pirated pre-release than its content. I’d like to say that’s a shame. There are certainly those who will proclaim this as The Expendables movie that gets it right(er). But really, it’s more of the same as the last two, only with several additions to the cast that make it – periodically – a lot of fun. Not enough to guarantee – or merit – a fourth outing, however.


Indeed, Stallone appears to have been intent on shooting his lumbering franchise in its steroidally inflated foot, as he introduces a bunch of young bucks (and honorary doe) with all the personality of mainstay Randy Couture. It’s as perverse a decision as focussing on Rocky’s son and a new champ in Rocky V (and look how well that did). Patrick Hughes, thrown his Hollywood entrance exam following decent Oz thriller Red Hill, does his best to keep his head above water, but there’s little very memorable here, or that Simon West couldn’t have done.


The plot, such as it is, finds Sly’s Barney Ross bent on getting even on discovering old Expendable co-founder turned uber-villain Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) is still alive. He doesn’t want his erstwhile chums to meet a grizzly fate (poor Terry Crews – far more watchable than Couture, so I don’t know why he had to be side-lined) so he fires the lot of them and takes on four anonymous newbies (one of whom wasn’t even memorable in Twilight), courtesy of Kelsey Grammar’s talent scout (asking what Grammar is doing here is akin to pondering why he would show up in a Transformers movie; to win that Razzie). These non-presences are at least balanced by the arrival of Antonio Banderas seemingly having the best time he’s had Stateside outside of voicing Puss in Boots.


He plays a sharpshooter no one wants to work with because he can’t stop talking. Banderas, playing (mostly – at one point he starts flirting with Ronda Rousey) against type, brings the kind of goofball energy and humour The Expendables needed from the outset. Instead, the series usually opts for tedious locker room camaraderie and groan-worthy quips.


There’s some amusement to be had from the bromance chemistry between Sly and the Stat, although most of their lines of fourth rate. Many of the ones relating to the Stat’s character, based on his surname, would have been rejected from The World is Not Enough (“Christmas is coming”; “But it’s only June”; “I’m the knife before Christmas”).


The misplaced search for a new gang (“I can do that” proclaims Sly, 69 this year, unconvinced that he can equal their feats) is thankfully replaced by the return of the old when dirty rotter Stonebanks ensnares the Expendatots. The worst of this is that Sly and his co-writers have spent the entire opening section of the movie introducing a hugely watchable Wesley Snipes (asked why he was locked up, his character Doctor Death replies sportingly “Tax evasion”; when Sly references an agency spook, Snipers doesn’t miss a beat with “Excuse me?”) He even cuts his beard with an unbelievably enormous and vicious-looking knife. Perfectly. But then, he’s gone. Snipes barely registers even when he’s brought back for the big rescue. If nothing else, it’s a reminder of what a strong screen presence he can be.


On the subject of strong screen presences, there’s Mad Mel. Gibson knows how to relish being a nasty bastard, and, unlike many of his co-stars, he has a natural intensity. It means any scene he’s in can’t help but carry a conviction the picture doesn’t really deserve. I say any scene; he’s hardly in it, but he casts a long shadow. Mel makes a particular impression escaping from his Expendable captors while riling and mocking them. Later he starts shooting his own men in frustration at their ineptitude (“How hard can it be to kill 10 men?... Couldn’t you even wound a few?”) That the picture finishes on a fairly crappy fight with the (10 years his senior, lest we forget) Sly is inevitable, but otherwise Mel makes the most of every minute he’s on screen.


The action isn’t especially memorable, and at times is just irritating (the motorbike sequence stands out in that regard). And all the big explosions are in the trailer (it’s also the case that there entire third act takes place in the same unscenic derelict warehouse). So the only things to talk about are the aging cameos. 


None more aging than Harrison Ford. Ford’s arches had fallen badly when he ill advisedly returned as Indy. It now seems that his face is following suit. Sometimes cinematographer Peter Menzies Jr looks favourably on Harrison, and he bares a resemblance to the icon of old (most of these shots are in a helicopter cockpit, where Ford sits against a green screen for the majority of his slender scenes). At others, it looks like he’s been slowly melting. Ford did at least made me laugh a few times, playing on his irascibility and failing to understand Lee Christmas’ accent (“What language is he speaking?”; “Stop mumbling!”)


Unfortunately Dolph has little to do. And neither does Arnie. He gets to reel off his Predator line “Get to the choppa!” several times, to rather desperate effect. But then, something very peculiar happens. He’s paired up with Jet Li, and the genuinely hilarious, playful Arnie is let loose. He accuses Sly of jealousy at their special relationship, while Li mocks Lundgren; “Tall people don’t live long”.


Robert Davi (Special Agent Johnson) appears for all of one scene, alas. The Expendables 3 is fundamentally quite crappy, but there’s enough sporadically likable silliness to make this, by a whisker, the most enjoyable of the trilogy. Just follow the through line from Snipes to Gibson to Banderas and on to Arnie and Li (there’s a good 10 minutes post-final fight, but the latter duo make it bearable). Stallone wisely (at least since the early ‘90s) contents himself with being the eternal straight man.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Prepare the Heathen’s Stand! By order of purification!

Apostle (2018)
(SPOILERS) Another week, another undercooked Netflix flick from an undeniably talented director. What’s up with their quality control? Do they have any? Are they so set on attracting an embarrassment of creatives, they give them carte blanche, to hell with whether the results are any good or not? Apostle's an ungainly folk-horror mashup of The Wicker Man (most obviously, but without the remotest trace of that screenplay's finesse) and any cult-centric Brit horror movie you’d care to think of (including Ben Wheatley's, himself an exponent of similar influences-on-sleeve filmmaking with Kill List), taking in tropes from Hammer, torture porn, and pagan lore but revealing nothing much that's different or original beyond them.

You can’t just outsource your entire life.

Tully (2018)
(SPOILERS) A major twist is revealed in the last fifteen minutes of Tully, one I'll happily admit not to have seen coming, but it says something about the movie that it failed to affect my misgivings over the picture up to that point either way. About the worst thing you can say about a twist is that it leaves you shrugging.

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.

Well, you did take advantage of a drunken sailor.

Tomb Raider (2018)
(SPOILERS) There's evidently an appetite out there for a decent Tomb Raider movie, given that the lousy 2001 incarnation was successful enough to spawn a (lousy) sequel, and that this lousier reboot, scarcely conceivably, may have attracted enough bums on seats to do likewise. If we're going to distinguish between order of demerits, we could characterise the Angelina Jolie movies as both pretty bad; Tomb Raider, in contrast, is unforgivably tedious.

If you want to have a staring contest with me, you will lose.

Phantom Thread (2017)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps surprisingly not the lowest grossing of last year's Best Picture Oscar nominees (that was Call Me by Your Name) but certainly the one with the least buzz as a genuine contender, subjected as Phantom Thread was to a range of views from masterpiece (the critics) to drudge (a fair selection of general viewers). The mixed reaction wasn’t so very far from Paul Thomas Anderson's earlier The Master, and one suspects the nomination was more to do with the golden glow of Daniel Day-Lewis in his first role in half a decade (and last ever, if he's to be believed) than mass Academy rapture with the picture. Which is ironic, as the relatively unknown Vicky Krieps steals the film from under him.

No one understands the lonely perfection of my dreams.

Ridley Scott Ridders Ranked
During the '80s, I anticipated few filmmakers' movies more than Ridley Scott's; those of his fellow xenomorph wrangler James Cameron, perhaps. In both cases, that eagerness for something equalling their early efforts receded as they studiously managed to avoid the heights they had once reached. Cameron's output dropped off a cliff after he won an Oscar. Contrastingly, Scott's surged like never before when his film took home gold. Which at least meant he occasionally delivered something interesting, but sadly, it was mostly quantity over quality. Here are the movies Scott has directed in his career thus far - and with his rate of  productivity, another 25 by the time he's 100 may well be feasible – ranked from worst to best.

This is it. This is the moment of my death.

Fearless (1993)
Hollywood tends to make a hash of any exploration of existential or spiritual themes. The urge towards the simplistic, the treacly or the mawkishly uplifting, without appropriate filtering or insight, usually overpowers even the best intentions. Rarely, a movie comes along that makes good on its potential and then, more than likely, it gets completely ignored. Such a fate befell Fearless, Peter Weir’s plane crash survivor-angst film, despite roundly positive critical notices. For some reason audiences were willing to see a rubgy team turn cannibal in Alive, but this was a turn-off? Yet invariably anyone who has seen Fearless speaks of it in glowing terms, and rightly so.

Weir’s pictures are often thematically rich, more anchored by narrative than those of, say, Terrence Malick but similarly preoccupied with big ideas and their expression. He has a rare grasp of poetry, symbolism and the mythic. Weir also displays an acute grasp of the subjective mind-set, and possesses …

Outstanding. Now, let’s bite off all the heads and pile them up in the corner.

Venom (2018)
(SPOILERS) A 29% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes can't be wrong, can it? To go by the number of one-star reviews Sony’s attempt to kick-start their own shred of the Marvel-verse has received, you’d think it was the new Battlefield Earth, or Highlander II: The Quickening. Fortunately, it's far from that level of ignominy. And while it’s also a considerable distance from showing the polish and assuredness of the official Disney movies, it nevertheless manages to establish its own crudely winning sense of identity.

The whole thing should just be your fucking nose!

A Star is Born (2018)
(SPOILERS) A shoe-in for Best Picture Oscar? Perhaps not, since it will have to beat at very least Roma and First Man to claim the prize, but this latest version of A Star is Born still comes laden with more acclaim than the previous three versions put together (and that's with a Best Picture nod for the 1937 original). While the film doesn't quite reach the consistent heights suggested by the majority of critics, who have evacuated their adjectival bowels lavishing it with superlatives, it's undoubtedly a remarkably well-made, stunningly acted piece, and perhaps even more notably, only rarely feels like its succumbing to just how familiar this tale of rise to, and parallel fall from, stardom has become.