Review: The Expendables 3

The-Expendable-3-Movie-Wallpaper-30-1024x576 Back for a third time, the mercenary squad led by Sylvester Stallone prepares to take on the american action genre one more time. Since 2010 the goal has been to somehow rekindle the magic of action films of the 1980s. From Rambo to Terminator and every shoot ‘em up movie in between, The Expendables 3 works its butt off to make your brain hazy with nostalgia. It tries, but the real question is does it succeed. The simple answer is NO. There are many movies that lack plot and substance and suffer tremendously for it. Luckily, The Expendables 3 doesn’t suffer from a lack of plot, but rather an abundance of it. Overly saturated with team building moments and poorly constructed plot points so heavy handed you want to cry out “WE GET IT!!! NOW GO SHOOT SOMEONE!!!!” Never in the history of meathead action movie franchises, which I love, has their been a cast who just isn’t in on the joke. The entirety of the movie, sans the last 40 minutes, is largely a poor man’s version of a Tom Clancy film. Working to give unneeded exposition to make a “fuller” film, writers Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, and Sylvester Stallone waste vast amounts of the viewer’s time. We all know why we are here, and its not for the heart and mental conflict of the characters. We signed up to see Rambo, The Terminator, and their buddies blow things up...a lot!

The general format of The Expendables movies have been largely the same, and this third installment doesn’t break from that mold. The team goes on a mission and realize another conflict has arisen from another character who is pretty much the definition of an Expendable himself. In this case, its Mel Gibson as Conrad Stonebanks. A founding member of The Expendables, he is matched against Stallone’s persona from the start. Stonebanks hates the Expendables and wants them all dead. Simple enough, now get to the shooting. No wait, lets shoehorn some other garbage in to make it feel more like a movie first: CIA managers, 5 new team members who are introduced so slowly over the course of 30 minutes you begin to check your watch. When Stallone has to retire his old team we are treated to what should have been a montage of a new team assembly scene, but alas it was just painful. The montage is the staple of these types of movies and here is yet another missed opportunity. Not until the last 40 minutes do we find our heroes where they live best, the battlefield. For that last section of the film, its the closest thing to what the entire film series should have been to date. Tanks, failing buildings, and dirt bike stunts are all here and this is all I ever wanted. For the first time the series felt, in those moments, like it was self aware. Just about every moment prior to it we suffered through clunky dialogue by an ensemble cast of non-actors. The two truly talented actors in the movie, Mel Gibson and Antonio Banderas, were the absolute highlights. Gibson was an over the top villain in the perfect way, besting any of the bad guys from the previous two entries. Banderas was the perfect amount of comic relief. Unlike the rest of the cast, these two aren’t completely washed up. Honorable mention goes to Wesley Snipes, and his return to the big screen. He had a couple of cool moments but this is a poor return for him; he deserved better.

There really isn’t much of a reason to see this movie. Its a violent, yet completely bloodless, movie with a PG-13 rating to reach a younger audience. Well, I hope it reaches them because it missed me by a mile. As a lover of over the top poorly acted muscle bound action movies of the 1980s this fails at one major point...TOO MUCH PLOT. Stop trying to make me care about why the bad guy is bad. I know he is bad because he has an evil look and has henchmen. Stop trying to make me care about the background of your new crew...NO ONE CARES! Did I need to know backstory on Dutch, Dillon, Mac, Blaine, Billy, Rick and Poncho in Predator? No, I did not. Just drop them in the jungle and point their guns towards the bad guy. Nothing more, and nothing less. In this case less is more, and I wish I had more of my time back by watching less of The Expendables 3.

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Review: Haywire

Micah's Review:

Steven Soderbergh’s latest film Haywire is a very paint-by-numbers spy/action thriller.   Gina Carano stars as Mallory Kane, a covert operative that gets contracted out to do the jobs that government s can’t legally endorse.  Her latest job sends her to Dublin where she is double crossed and must find her way back home and deal with those responsible.  The film plays like a Bond film with a smaller budget.  The big issue with the film is its overall lack of energy.  There is little excitement from this film outside of the fight scenes.

Carano’s acting leaves a bit to be desired even by action movie standards.  Like a bad SNL host delivering their opening monologue, her inability to emote and dead pan delivery make it seem as if she is reading from a teleprompter.  She does a serviceable job but it’s hard not to notice her lack of strong acting ability when she’s in scenes with Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas.

What Carano lacks in acting ability she certainly makes up for with her action scenes.  Haywire delivers some of the most visceral fight scenes I’ve seen in a long time.  The brutal nature of these scenes is punctuated by the lack for musical score during the fights.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a female actor give and take a more realistic punch.

This film is ok, but just ok.  We’ve all seen this done before and we’ve all seen it done better.

Jay's Review:

There is an overarching mechanism that I could not ignore in Steven Soderbergh's Haywire. Whether good or bad the notion of sound is used heavily to control your view of this movie. Soderbergh's past movies (Oceans' 11 and the sequels) had a catchy tune and tone about them. This is also easily heard and felt in Haywire. However, there is a sound treatment that all but ruined the movie for me. The voice dubbing of Gina Carano with Carano's own voice (modified) was distracting at the least and poorly executed at the best. The movie has little sense of urgency throughout. Never did the dialogue or intensity of the characters match what was happening around them.

The fight scenes were great. The thud-like punching noises during those scenes (not my preference) are reminiscent of fight scenes in Chris Nolan's Batman films. The actual fights were visceral and as previously mentioned by Micah, are some of the better fight scenes in an American movie in some time. Carano's MMA skills were put on display here and for good reason. Cheers and jeers were heard throughout those choice moments.

The supporting cast is what got me to this movie, and what helped me get through it. Overall Carano was watchable, but I feel that she needs more time to hone her skills as an actor. She has the potential to really be a break out action star in the upcoming months/years. However, the cast that she worked with are the shinning stars. What I learned most from this movie is that Douglass and Banderas still have it. You saw their charisma pour through the screen when ever possible. While I thought Ewan McGregor was just acceptable. I am not so sure this is his fault, as his character was poorly flushed out. Channing Tatum is the most forgettable here even more so than Bill Paxton who is on screen for less time. Tatum inability to emote was just as bad as Carano's, but she gets a pass as this is her first outing. Fassbender comes out of no where with an above average performance for a below average character, nice quick job for him.

I wouldn't rush out to see Haywire, but I would check it out on a matinee for under 10 bucks. That isn't saying much for the movie, and that is deliberate. Soderbergh has performed much better with a large cast of great actors in the past. This time he falls flat, and you can not blame it all on his leading lady. On a positive note, I think Soderbergh may have launched a real action movie career for Gina Carano. More female action stars is never a bad thing. So for that reason alone I give Soderbergh immense credit.

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