MOVIE MAN

‘Expendables’ not the Depend-ables just yet

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Well, you can’t blame a guy for trying.

Sylvester Stallone has been churning out movies as he approaches the latter stage of his life. And a slew of them just haven’t been embraced. Here’s another one that’s difficult to love.

ABOUT THE FILM

With a couple of exceptions, Stallone has had an astonishing stretch of snubbed movies. The list of accepted films – “Rocky Balboa” (2006, a 6) and “The Expendables” (2010, also a 6) – is short.

But the series of misfires is near-amazing. His last bona fide hit was “Cliffhanger” in 1993. Since then, it’s been 20 years of almost constant ho-hummery from the public.

Excluding animated voicings and small parts in other (bad) movies, here’s his filmography the last two decades:

  • “The Specialist” (1994, an anticipated teaming with Sharon Stone that flopped, $57.4 million)
  • “Judge Dredd” (1995, $34.7 million, and don’t get the fanboys going on how much they hate this movie)
  • “Assassins” (1995, $30.3 million)
  • “Daylight” (1996, $32.9 million)
  • “Cop Land” (1997, $44.9 million, his last good reviews)
  • “Get Carter” (2000, $15 million, a major misfire at the time)
  • “Driven” (2001, a 4, $32.6 million)
  • “Eye See You” (2002, a $55 million movie that was barely released, originally called D-Tox, made $79.1 thousand – yes, thousand)
  • “Avenging Angelo” (2002, went straight to video)
  • “Rambo” (2008, a 5, $42.8 million)
  • “The Expendables 2″ (2012, a 5, $85 million)
  • “Bullet to the Head” (2012, $9.5 million)
  • “Escape Plan” (2013, a 7, $25.1 million)
  • “Grudge Match” (2013, $29.8 million)

A couple of things: While the amount of money a movie makes doesn’t mean it’s good or bad, Stallone has a recent history of not coming close to making back budgets domestically – not even halfway. Also, action movies often do much better overseas, so it’s not like he’s a colossal failure.

Despite all this, the Movie Man remains a Stallone fan. He will never forget one of the greatest movie evenings ever when he went to a sneak preview (back when sneak previews were great mysteries), seeing “Rocky” (again) and the sneak, “Annie Hall” in 1977.

You had to be there to appreciate the explosion Stallone made on the scene with that first boxing movie. He was nominated for two Oscars – Best Actor and Best Screenplay – (for “Rocky”), joining only Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin in pulling that same-year double.

So if he’s still punching late in life, he deserves some slack.

THE FILM (SPOILERS)

Barney (Stallone) still has a few of his Expendable team members around, and they bust out a former Ex, Doc (Wesley Snipes), from a moving train.

On another mission, the group gets a member seriously hurt, shot by Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), another former Expendable who turned evil.Stallone thought Gibson was dead, but he ain’t.

The CIA shows up in the person of Drummer (Harrison Ford). The agency has a 36-hour window when they know where Gibson will be, and Ford charges Stallone and his team to capture Gibson alive.

Stallone, worried that his mates are getting a little long in the tooth and need to get out of the mercenary business, cuts them free and recruits a new batch of young ‘uns found by old pal Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) across the globe.

The new crew captures Gibson, but the wily fellow escapes with all of Stallone’s recruits hostage. So, the old Ex gang reunites to aid Stallone in fetching his newbies and taking care of Gibson.

WHAT WORKS (SPOILER)

As actors, Gibson, Ford, Grammer, and, yes, Stallone blow the others out of the water. Gibson, of course, has that wild-eyed, manic, motor-mouth, crazy guy routine down pat and it’s effective here.

There’s a nice scene where Stallone is laying out his plan to storm the building Gibson has entered. But the newbies are high-tech savvy and create a scheme that requires not nearly as much mayhem – and it works to a T.

It’s hard to dis any movie that manages to work in Neil Young’s “Old Man.” It’s obvious and corny – and classic Stallone – when the young bucks serenade the veterans, but it works.

BEST SCENE

Director Patrick Hughes often frames the old-timers in super close-ups. There’s a long take of the camera just staying on Stallone that details the toll of all those years of action movies (and some Botox). Ford and Gibson get screen-filling shots, too. They are mesmerizing.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

Every young actor is completely forgettable. And the acting by the lone female, Ronda Rousey, has to be seen to be believed; she’s horrible.

“The Expendables 3″ is jam-packed with rapid-fire editing that makes keeping up with what’s going on pretty tough – especially in the endless concluding battle.

There might be plenty of Old School, macho-man bon mots in the movie, but so many actors mumble – something Ford’s character calls out Jason Statham for in the movie, though all are guilty – that they can’t be discerned.

The movie goes on and on and on. It’s a laborious two hours, six minutes and seems even longer. After the 10,000th explosion, interest fades.

THE RATING

There’s the violence and some blood, of course. Factor in an f-bomb or two (that mumbling again) with classic vulgarities and you have a hard PG-13.

SUMMING UP

“The Expendables 3″ tanked at the box office, finishing fourth, behind two movies already in theaters. A fourth in the series has been “announced” but that remains to be seen. If 3 takes off overseas, another could arrive.

NEXT UP

“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.”

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