Entertainment

08.18.14

I Am The Hague! Sylvester Stallone's 'Expendable' Wet Dream

If you are a ferry, car, train, or construction crane in any nation that ends with a –stan, Sylvester Stallone will hit you with his full sexagenarian force in The Expendables 3. (Warning: spoilers.)

When I first heard that the Expendables was dragging these ’80s action heroes out of their cryogenic chambers and thawing them out to fulfill their contractual obligations to this dying franchise, my first question was “Why?” This question, along with many others, goes unanswered throughout The Expendables 3.

For example, why does this movie have 16 main characters? Didn’t anyone wonder if that was too many characters? Also, who thought it was okay to let Sylvester Stallone end a scene by saying “Ba Bam” and walking out of a room? On that note, who thought it was a good idea to end so many scenes on a lingering shot of Sylvester Stallone’s face—or to let the majority of the film’s exposition be narrated by a man with a famously incomprehensible accent? These were just some of the questions that haunted me long after I left the theater, along with the indelible image of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face stuck in a permanent Botox smile.

The Expendables 3 opens on a mission to rescue Doc (Wesley Snipes), who has been imprisoned for the past 8 years. This is sort of a joke, because Snipes famously served a three-year sentence for tax fraud. The Expendables sets up this meta-joke but never really does anything with it—like subsequent sort-of-jokes about premature ejaculation and cancer, these doses of humor don’t skillfully break up the action so much as suggest that Sylvester Stallone really wanted to use this movie to try out some stand up he’s been working on. You can detect a joke in this movie because it’s usually followed by a fist bump, or an uncomfortable silence where laughter will never be.

Now that Doc’s on board, the few remaining expendables have a mission to complete. “Missions” essentially consist of annihilating all means of transportation in small, vaguely Middle Eastern/African cities. (Uncomfortable about the level of unrestrained violence sanctioned by the CIA on exclusively non-white urban centers in this film? I know I was!) If you are a ferry, car, train, or construction crane in any nation that ends with a –stan, Sylvester Stallone’s Barney Ross will hit you with his full sexagenarian force. Stuff gets blown up in this movie in a serious way.

Unfortunately, the mission goes awry when Barney realizes that the man he was sent to kill is none other than Mel Gibson’s Conrad Stonebanks (gasp!) a former expendable who Barney thought he had already killed…but whom he now realizes he must spend an entire new installment trying to kill again. Because when it comes to The Expendables franchise, no plot is expendable.

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Lionsgate

Stonebanks ends the mission once and for all when he shoots Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) and leaves him for dead (much in the way this needlessly bloody “mission” surely eviscerated the economy of this now destroyed city and the livelihood of every one of its citizens!). While the shooting, as opposed to stabbing, of Caesar does seem like a missed sort-of-joke opportunity, it does whet Barney and company’s appetite for revenge. Cue a series of shots of these veteran actors dusting off their best revenge faces.

Max Drummer (Harrison Ford) is the CIA chief who ordered the expendables to take Stonebanks down. He’s not angry at Barney for failing, he’s just disappointed. Luckily, Drummer is on his own quest for revenge, since Stonebanks killed some close friends of his, who also happened to be “good guys.” This is exactly the amount of minimal exposition we get throughout this film—it’s really less of a “completed script” and more of a fill in the blank game of “Blockbuster Action Franchise Mad-Libs.”

Because he’s really a big softie, Barney sacks all the other expendables so they won’t die on the job. In order to execute this one last mission (really? Can we get that in writing?), Barney meets up with his old pal Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammar) for an old-fashioned boys assassin-recruitment road trip. The best possible version of this movie would have consisted entirely of these totally nonsensical car conversations between Barney and Bonaparte—the two joke and reminisce and laugh about old times, all while stunningly unsubtle “masculine emotional bonding” music plays in the background.

The expendables 2.0 manage to take Stonebanks hostage in a high stakes, high-tech scene miraculously ushered in by a Mel Gibson monologue that begins with the phrase “When Cain slew his brother.”

If there’s one thing The Expendables 3 does consistently well, it’s telling its audience exactly how to feel through overbearing musical accompaniment. From “revenge” sounds to “just kicking back at an assassins bar sharpening our knives” sounds to “vaguely ethnic” sounds in scenes with Antonio Banderas, this movie is clearly determined to pull out at least one emotion from at least one viewer—the most doomed and futile mission of them all.

The new, hot expendables that Barney and Bonaparte pick out are so factory fresh that they don’t even have personalities yet. There’s John Smilee (Kellan Lutz), the hot one with authority issues, Mars (Victor Ortiz), the hot one who isn’t white, Thorn (Glen Powell), the hacker, and Luna (Ronda Rousey), the girl. All in all, they’re a convincing bunch of young people with some assorted skills and a handful of backstories—really, what more could you ask for?

The expendables 2.0 manage to take Stonebanks hostage in a high stakes, high-tech scene miraculously ushered in by a Mel Gibson monologue that begins with the phrase “When Cain slew his brother.” From there it only gets monologue-ier as Stonebanks turns his helicopter prison into his own personal story slam, going on (and on) about how he and Barney started the expendables together, before Stonebanks “went dark” in an effort to make more money but also stick it to the United States government somehow? The details are still very unclear when Stonebanks is thankfully interrupted by his goons’ rescue mission. Barney is blown into some nearby rapids and the new expendables are taken as prisoners. But they were so hot!!

In what better be the definitively final mission of the film, Barney’s old expendables help him free the new team and vanquish Stonebanks once and for all. While I don’t want to spoil too much of the genuinely cool battle royale, I will say that it features Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, and Sylvester Stallone in an adorable beret. It’s also supremely aided by the arrival of CIA dude Max Drummer in a commandeered plan, shooting down bad guys with hilariously bland one-liners like “Drummer’s in the house” and “That’s gotta hurt.” Classic Drummer!

Suffice it to say that despite orders to capture Stonebanks alive so he can be tried for war crimes, Barney ends up shooting him dead. Because as Barney so eloquently puts it, “I am The Hague!”

What? Ok. This is by far the best line of the entire movie, because it signifies that the movie is over.