It's fair to say that the release of Expendables 3 was one of the biggest news stories of the year. First of all the film was announced to be PG-13 in America - no doubt to try an capture a wider audience - but in doing so alienated fans of the older action stars who prefer action-packed R-rated fare.
Worse was to befall the picture however with a final version leaked and available through various means 3 weeks before release. It was a disaster that likely cost the film tens of millions of dollars. While the worldwide box office managed to hold up well with $US166 million (compared to $171 and $220 million for the first two films) in America the film pulled just over $39 million (compared to $103 and $85 million). Fortunately for the filmmakers this means the film will still turn a profit making a fourth film likely which will keep fans happy.
In The Expendables 3, Barney (Sylvester Stallone), Christmas (Jason Statham) and the rest of the team comes face-to-face with Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who years ago co-founded The Expendables with Barney. Stonebanks subsequently became a ruthless arms trader and someone who Barney was forced to kill... or so he thought. Stonebanks, who eluded death once before, now is making it his mission to end The Expendables - but Barney has other plans. Barney decides that he has to fight old blood with new blood, and brings in a new era of Expendables team members, recruiting individuals who are younger, faster and more tech-savvy. The latest mission becomes a clash of classic old-school style versus high-tech expertise in the Expendables’ most personal battle yet.
As The Expendables filmmakers have always stated this is a franchise with old-school action, and while there is certainly a lot more CG then expected, this remains a franchise that puts gunplay above superhero styled action. The Expendables 3 has several fantastic set pieces which starts with a very entertaining opening sequence which sees a long-lost Expendable team member being rescued from a train. The ending is, well, just wow, with everything but the kitchen sink thrown at the team.
Where the film lost me a little bit was the massive number of cast members. Sure it's nice to see all the old guys rocking it on the big screen, but the inclusion of the younger team, while trying to draw in the younger audience, just becomes too much. I mean you are now talking about fourteen characters in The Expendables team now. In terms of the actual storyline, it's decent enough albeit nothing too refreshing or different but allows the setup of action sequences.
Speaking of the younger team, they are largely forgettable characters. Kellan Lutz (Twilight) plays a former Marine named John Smilee, MMA star Ronda Rousey plays the hard-assed bouncer Luna, Glen Powell, who was our favourite of the younger newcomers, plays tech expert Thron and boxer Victor Ortiz plays sharpshooter Mars. They're decent in their roles, but largely forgettable and lacking charisma like the older guys.
Ultimately, while the toned down violence and the oversized cast hurt this film, The Expendables 3 is still worth checking out if you enjoy the franchise. Oh, and it's great to see Wesley Snipes back on the screen after his stint locked away for tax evasion - remember that for a nice little joke in the film about it too!
If there are a couple of complaints it that the there are some visual effects that look very CG - primarily in the final battle - and the HD resolution of the Blu-Ray format probably doesn't assist that. Still, it's hard to mark down a transfer due to the source material. Occasionally too the colours look at little washed out, but that's probably intentional too.
Lionsgate have always lavished The Expendables films with a superb audio transfer but sadly this third outing has been scaled back for release in Australia (it's still a cracker release mind you). Where The Expendables 2 enjoyed a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track (which remixed to DTS Neo: X providing 11.1 support), The Expendables 3 is left languising with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (16-bit/48Khz) track. Indeed, this is even more disappointing given the US release of the film includes a Dolby Atmos soundtrack (for speakers above you), or drops back to "only" Dolby TrueHD 7.1 if need be. Why do we miss out?!
Now don't get too disappointed however as this is still an absolutely cracker sonic experience with booming explosions, gunfire and action sequences but dialogue which has been given good prioritization which allows you to hear the characters talking at all times.
Beyond the primary audio track the Blu-Ray does contain an Audio Description track for the Vision Impaired encoded with Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224kbps which, understandably, isn't a patch on the lossless track. The disc also contains a single Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired track for those that require it.
New Blood: Stacked and Jacked (16:02/HD): As the title suggests this featurette focuses on the younger cast including Victor Ortiz, Kellan Lutz, Rhonda Rouses, Glen Powell and then the older actors including Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson, . While they didn't do a lot for us in the actual film, it's nice to see the filmmakers bringing in some new, untested, talent into the mix.
Into The Battle: An Expendables 3 Video Diary (7:02/HD): More of a general look on-set at filming some of the scenes of the film. Not really a video diary as more of on-set footage during the shoot.
Real Action Heroes: Scrapes Not Capes (6:35/HD): Quite EPKish this featurette focuses on the "real" action heroes in this film, and not unrealistic characters with superpowers that can save the world.
Action For Hire (7:45/HD): Another short featurette focusing on filming the action sequences with stuntmen.
Gag Reel (5:41/HD): Yep, it's a gag reel with goofing around on set and fluffed lines.
Christmas Runs The Gauntlet - Extended Scene (2:45/HD): A slightly extended sequence from one included in the film.
Review By: Dave Warner