The fourth time is the charm, but only if Stallone and company get back to basics.


Film Review © 2014 by Trip Reynolds


Directed by Patrick Hughes; Screenplay by Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger, and Katrin Benedikt. Story by Sylvester Stallone. Characters by Dave Callaham. Ridiculously produced by Avi Lerner, Dany Lerner, Kevin King Templeton, John Thompson, and Les Weldon; and executive Produced by Guy Avshalom, Guymon Casady, Boaz Davidson, Danny Dimbort, Robert Earl, Samuel Hadida, Victor Hadida, Basil Iwanyk, Zygi Kamasa, and Trevor Short; and co-produced by Matthew O'Toole; and co-Executive produced by Lonnie Ramati; and line produced by Giancarlo J. Sini; and executive producer in charge David Varod.

Starring: Click images below to enlarge

2014 2012 2010
Sylvester Stallone Barney Ross
Jason Statham Lee Christmas
Harrison Ford Drummer
Arnold Schwarzenegger Trench
Mel Gibson Stonebanks
Wesley Snipes Doc
Dolph Lundgren Gunnar Jensen
Randy Couture Toll Road
Terry Crews Caesar
Kelsey Grammer Bonaparte
Glen Powell Thorn
Antonio Banderas Galgo
Victor Ortiz Mars
Ronda Rousey Luna
Kellan Lutz Smilee
Jet Li Yin Yang
Ivan Kostadinov Krug
Robert Davi Goran Vata
Directed by Patrick Hughes
Number of "producers" 19
Sylvester Stallone Barney Ross
Jason Statham Lee Christmas
Jet Li Yin Yang
Dolph Lundgren Gunnar Jensen
Chuck Norris Booker
Jean-Claude Van Damme Vilain
Bruce Willis Church
Arnold Schwarzenegger Trench
Terry Crews Caesar
Randy Couture Toll Road
Liam Hemsworth Billy the Kid
Scott ASdkins Hector
Nan Yu Maggie
Charisma Carpenter Lacy
Nikolette Noel Billy's Wife
Directed by Simon West
Number of "producers" 18
Sylvester Stallone Barney Ross
Jason Statham Lee Christmas
Jet Li Yin Yang
Dolph Lundgren Gunnar Jensen
Eric Roberts James Munroe
Randy Couture Toll Road
Steve Austin Paine
David Zayas General Garza
Giselle Itié Sandra
Charisma Carpenter Lacy
Gary Daniels The Brit
Terry Crews Caesar
Mickey Rourke Tool
Hank Amos Paul
Amin Joseph Pirate Leader
Bruce Willis Church
Arnold Schwarzenegger Trench
Directed by Sylvester Stallone
Number of "producers" 17

Question: How do you know, in advance, if a film is likely to be a chaotic, jumbled-up piece of mess?
Answer: Take a look to see how many "chiefs" are involved in "producing" the film.

Nineteen people, that's right, 19 people were involved in the "production" of "Expendables 3." Of course, some people served as producer in "name only," however, keep in mind all "producers" have immediate access to "influence" some or major elements of the character, scope, direction, editing, distribution, and the actual financing of the film. The production element of this burgeoning film franchise increases with every film, and at this rate, if, again, if an "Expendables 4" gets the green light for 2016, there will be at least 20 or more persons serving in the role of "producer," which is ridiculous.
Rumor has it the box office for "Expendables 3" has been compromised because a DVD-quality version of the film got leaked online, and because the film was edited from a "R" rating to a "PG-13 rating, but it doesn't matter. A mediocre film is a mediocre film no matter where you see it.

The story? Film begins with Stallone's crew out to rescue one of their original members, "Doc," played by Wesley Snipes, from a train en route to a prison. Given Snipes' "real life" problems with the IRS, the best throwaway line in the film occurs when the freed Doc explains why he was incarcerated " . . . tax evasion." Then, film begins another storyline with Stallone's crew attempting to capture an evil weapons dealer, Stonebanks, played over-the-top but with great attitude by Mel Gibson, who also happens to be the co-founder of the Expendables, and long thought to be dead. For filler between the gun play and explosions, film has Stallone discarding his seasoned team members and replacing them with younger recruits, who embrace new strategies and technologies. Of course, except for Stallone, all of the new recruits end-up getting caught by Stonebanks, and Stallone's original crew comes to the rescue, which now also includes Antonio Banderas as a extremely talkative "Galgo," plus a helping hand from Harrison Ford as CIA operative and pilot, "Drummer."

It's easy to be critical about this film because it's so unnecessarily predictable. The bulk of the story involves martial arts-guns-explosions-and-unnecessary-derring-do, which is supplemented, of course, by more martial arts-guns-explosions-and-unnecessary-derring-do. Action for the sake of action becomes very boring, especially to the male-dominated demographics for which this film is targeted. To save this franchise, Stallone really needs to get back to basics. Basics? You've never seen a great action "buddy" film unless you've seen "The Wild Bunch," produced by Phil Feldman and associate produced by Roy N. Sickner, directed by the legendary Sam Peckinpah, released in 1969, but banned from many theaters due to its graphic violence, which starred William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien, Warren Oates, Jaime Sánchez, and Ben Johnson. This film, with only two producers instead of the 19 required for "The Expendables 3," actually has a story, with clearly defined characters, and great drama, suspense, and action! Buy this movie now, it's definitely better than all three "Expendable" films, and Sylvester Stallone knows it.

Great action films have something in common: (1) an "exhilarating" story, and the story is both dramatic and suspenseful, (2) "realistic" non-cartoonish action, and (3) "believable" A-list actors. Given the aforementioned, now you know what's wrong with "Expendables 3," and what's wrong with this burgeoning film franchise. Stallone really has a great idea here, and hopefully, he doesn't give up, but film needs to be helmed by a strong director with a keen vision that's anchored to a solid script. The film must do more than give each "star" temporary center stage to "do their thing." Or, as with Jet Li, his prowess in martial arts has been completely underutilized in all three films. The biggest mistake this film makes is to take its audiences, the younger and older audiences, for granted - and that's just dumb. For example, Stallone's very own "Rambo 2: First Blood Part II," which was the second entry in his other great action film franchise ("Rocky" being the other), should have functioned as a template. Please recall, after being betrayed by Murdock, and subsequently captured by the Vietnamese and Russians, the suspense was palpable when the imprisoned Rambo tightly clinches the microphone and says, "Murdock . . . I'm comin' to get you!" That is one of the best "action" lines in any film, and the drama conveyed in that scene validated all subsequent (cause and effect) action. There's very little "cause and effect" action in "The Expendables 3," where a bunch of useless PG-13 pseudo-violence permeates the film. The best scene in the movie? That's easy, the dialogue exchange that occurred in the truck between Kelsey Grammer's character, Bonaparte, and Sylvester Stallone's Barney Ross, when Bonaparte speaking introspectively about his impending death actually punked Ross. This was a great exchange, and without any guns or explosions.

Let's not forget, Stallone (who wrote all of the "Rocky" films and wrote or co-wrote all of the "Rambo" films) is an excellent writer and a competent director, but for "Expendables 2" and "Expendables 3" he relinquished way too much of his vision to others, which hurt, and did not help these "over produced" and "under directed" films. Consider the "Rambo" reboot, written and directed by Stallone, released in 2008, which was a solid entry in the franchise, and unbelievably it had twenty-(20) producers verses the planned 2015 reboot "Rambo V," which (so far) only has Stallone's five key producers over the past five years (Avi Lerner, Danner Lerner, Lonnie Ramati, Trevor Short, and Kevin King Templeton) and two additional producers. Clearly, as with "Rocky" and "Rambo" Stallone's films work best when he maintains creative control over his vision.

Only Kelsey Grammer and Antonio Banderas gave life and charisma to their characters, otherwise, the acting in this film is adequate, not exceptional. Directed by-the-numbers by Patrick Hughes, at 126 minutes, film should have been cut by 36 minutes, and paced faster. Camera angles to capture several scenes that were meant to be sensational, such as the motorcycles stunts, were ultimately lackluster. Editing by Sean Albertson and Paul Harb was parochial. The actual look of the film, shot in Bulgaria and Bucharest, Romania, with art direction by Tom Brown and especially the pseudo-violence as pictured by cinematographer Peter Menzies, Jr. ("Die Hard: With a Vengeance" and "The Incredible Hulk") was surprisingly bland. Steven Seagal's latest direct-to-video 2014 release, "A Good Man," was also shot in Bucharest, Romania but looked better. By the way, as represented below, Seagal is just one of several action stars (such as Donnie Yen, Nicolas Cage, Gina Carano, Jackie Chan, and many others) suggested or rumored to have been cast for the "Expendables." It's also rumored that egos clash in these kinds of films; but more importantly, if a great script and a solid director are not attached to "Expendables 4," all of the actors below should stay clear.

Steven Seagal Kurt Russell Kiefer Sutherland Michael Jai-White Pierce Brosnan

Recommendation 1 (for film audiences): "The Expendables 3" is better than the campy "Expendables 2" but not nearly as good as the original "Expendables." Therefore, to get more bang for your buck, see a great action "buddy" film like "The Magnificent Seven," produced by John Sturges, associate produced by Lou Morheim, and executive produced by Walter Mirisch. Released in 1960, film is a remake of the 1954 original Japanese film, "The Seven Samurai" by Akira Kurosawa. "The Magnificent Seven" starred Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Horst Buchholz, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaugh, James Coburn, and Brad Dexter; or (2) "The Dirty Dozen," (1967, produced by Kenneth Hyman and associate produced by Raymond Anzarut, directed by Robert Aldrich, with Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, George Kennedy, Trini Lopez, Ralph Meeker, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Robert Webber, and Clint Walker); or (3) "The Great Escape" (1963, produced by John Sturges and James Clavell, and executive produced by Walter Mirisch, directed by John Sturges, with Steve McQAueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, and James Coburn). Buy these movies now! Each of these films are better than all three "Expendable" films, and Sylvester Stallone knows it. Or, wait for it . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . .

But you'll be waiting for a long, long, long time!

Or, you can watch this 2014 low-budget, poorly scripted and directed, all female "Expendables-like" film starring:

Brigite Nielsen
Vivica A. Fox
Kristanna Loken
Zoë Bell
Nicole Bilderback
Cynthia Rothrock

Recommendation 2 (for "Hollywood"): Disney, which owns Marvel Comics (Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, X-Men, The Avengers, etc.), literally has thousands of superhero characters to exploit from the "Marvel Universe," which they've done quite successfully. TimeWarner, which owns DC Comics (Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Justice League, etc.) literally has thousands of superhero characters to exploit from the "DC Universe," which they've also done quite successfully. Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) also owns WWE Studios, and the "WWE Universe" has a robust roster of larger-than-life superstars accustomed to performing their own stunts both in the ring and in WWE films. Make no mistake, as with the 2007 release of "The Condemned," starring Steve Austin," and the 2013 release "The Call," starring Halle Berry, WWE Studios produces very good films. Therefore, the WWE could produce its own series of R-Rated, dramatic (i.e., "The Wild Bunch"), egomaniacal-testosterone-based theatrical films. Of course, an edited-down PG-13 version can be released for home video.

Here's the pitch: Two right-wing zealots known as "The Visionaries," played with subdued demonic charm by Stephanie McMahon and her husband Triple H) direct a crew of mercenaries (Hulk Hogan, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Mark "The World's Strongest Man" Henry, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Kane, CM Punk (double agent), Ryback, and Rick "The Nature Boy" Flair and his harem of WWE Divas to seize complete control of the Pentagon to intentionally blanket the U.S. with nuclear warheads. However, President MacMann (played humbly by Vince McMahon), has authorized his elite military group of "Indispensables" to recapture the Pentagon under the immediate command of his ruthless right-hand-man General Armistice, played with devious delight and no-nonsense by Paul Heyman. Where's the massive letter/email writing campaign to encourage the WWE to produce this film?


Stephanie McMahon and Triple H
as "The Visionaries"

Hulk Hogan
as "Goldie"

The Rock
as "Mr. J"
Mark Henry
as "Blue"
Stone Cold
as "Texas"
as "Death"
CM Punk
as "Breed"
as "Bullethead"
Rick Flair
as "Don Juan"
WWE Divas
as "The Harem"



Paul Heyman

Note: All WWE characters and images © 2014 WWE.