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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 

 

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The Expendables 3, Review: Gen Ex+Gen Next

The Expendables 3: Generation Ex+Gen Next

“The challenge was to write literally 16 main characters in a two-hour movie, and how often do you get to write for Zorro, the Terminator, Rocky, Indiana Jones and Mad Max?”—Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, co-writers, The Expendables 3.

The Expendables are a group of righteous, patriotic mercenaries, used by the CIA in operations where the US government does not want to be officially involved. They are led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and were once 22 in number. Currently, they are down to Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll Road (Randy Couture). Since such a small number would be incapable of carrying out the high profile missions assigned to them, they carry out a near impossible prison-break to extract former member Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes), a knives specialist and team medic, from a military prison. Immediately, they get on with intercepting a shipment of bombs meant to be delivered to a warlord in Somalia. Arriving there, they reunite with another old associate, Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), who directs them to the drop point, where Ross is surprised to find out that the arms trader is Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who co-founded the Expendables with Ross, but later betrayed the team to make his millions through illegal weapons dealing. Ross had pumped three bullets in him, but he has miraculously survived. In the ensuing battle, the Expendables are forced to retreat due to Stonebanks' men's advanced weaponry. They all manage to escape unscathed, but Caesar is severely injured.

Ross disbands his unit and leaves for Las Vegas, where he enlists retired mercenary Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) to help him find younger mercenaries to join the team. After a series of interviews, they pick ex-Marine John Smilee (Kellan Lutz), female night-club bouncer Luna (Ronda Rousey), computer expert Thorn (Glen Powell) and weapons expert Mars (Victor Ortiz). Skilled sharpshooter Galgo (Antonio Banderas) is desperate to be included in the team, but Ross turns him down. The new team then meets CIA operative Max Drummer (Harrison Ford), the Expendables' mission manager, and Ross' rival mercenary, Trench Mauser (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who has decided to work directly for Drummer. The two have traced Stonebanks to Romania, where he is expected to make a deal with another arms trader. Ross and the new recruits capture Stonebanks, but Stonebanks' men catch up in a helicopter and fire a missile at the team's van. Ross is thrown into a ravine, while the other four, Smilee, Luna, Thorn and Mars are captured by Stonebanks, who challenges Ross to rescue them.

Pitched at two levels, with two sets of heroes, the film tries to, and partly succeeds in, involving both young adults as well as senior fans of the first two outings. Missions aimed at rescuing/assassinating high profile targets lodged in maximum security prisons/hide-outs are the grist that runs the mills of films like Ex3. It is the how and how much that matters. With the writers of Olympus Has fallen on board, adrenaline rushes were to be expected, and are there in good measure. The husband and wife team of Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, who met at a screenwriting class, retains elements of Olympus Has Fallen (they are writing a sequel too), in the shape of huge structures pounded with a million tonnes of explosives and bullets, with all the casualties confined to the bad guy’s side. At one point, ‘King Lawless’ Mel Gibson, lets loose a few abuses at his inept henchman and decides to take the Law (matters) in his own hand, armed with just a gun.

It must have been tough trying to accommodate 16 main characters in a film just over two hours long, so they try to use narrative dialogue as back-story or intro, a device which will please those who like to make some sense of the mayhem, but might not go well with the android and apple addicted generation Ex3. There isn’t too much of Jet Li. Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Is he beginning to look like Clint Eastwood?) are brought back in a well-written twist, but except for his first entry, Ford is good without being impressive. Dolph (Hans) Lundgren, the 57 year-old Sweden-born body-builder who  a bit of a star in the 80s and was seen in Rocky 4, looks like a version of Mads Mikkelsen, and is cast as the strong, silent type, with little to say. One cannot help noticing the names given to the characters, including one called Church, largely symbolic and mostly funny.

Australian ad film-maker Patrick Hughes, who made Red Hill, the Action/Thriller/Western a couple of years ago, helms Ex3. He says his first memory of films is Coen Bros’ Raising Arizona . “The scene that floored me was Nic Cage robbing a supermarket with a shotgun, for nappies.” (Nicolas Cage was to play the part that went to Kesley Grammer in Ex3). Hughes graduated from film-school in 1999, and, after Ex3, is planning to remake the Indonesian film The Raid. To get an insight into the functioning of black ops agents, Hughes spent three hours with three men whose job regularly sees them flying to a remote country, taking out a target (usually a drug cartel figure), being shot at and, hopefully, flying home again. Each of them had a “go bag” under the table, in case they got the call to leave during the meeting.”

Ex3 maybe a fiction film, however, it deals with realistic issues. Luckily for The Ex, their chances of getting blown apart or stopping a bullet are one in a gazillion—literally. Countless shells are fired, and only one of them gets injured in the whole film. Ah yes, Brian Tyler’s music score goes well with the theme. Some of the stunts, especially the motor-cycle acrobatics in the extended climax, are stunning. Scenes shot as Millennium’s film city in Bulgaria, coupled with computer graphics, make for some interesting viewing.

Sylvester Stallone, who worked on the script too, does not hog all the lime-light. True, by virtue of being the founder (co-founder, now) he is the central character. He sustains his position and holds his own against some heavy-weights. Mel Gibson (reportedly paid $1m/day x 4 days’ work= $4 m) comes across suave initially but begins to ham down the line. Talking of lines, look out for the scene where he suggests that Ross is treating his men not as Expendables but Deletables! Jason Statham as the member who always differs with Ross, yet ends up as his eternal well-wisher, adds a touch of humour, is good. Wesley Snifes...Snipes gets a meaty role, and the re-credit sequences are dominated by his heroics. Kelsey Grammer (villain in Transformers: Age Of Extinction) , who worked recently with Sylvester Stallone in John Herzfeld’s Reach Me, gets reasonable exposure and some punch lines. Ronda Rousey is the only female member of the Ex. She started judo at 11, retired at 21, and started Mixed Martial Arts at 22. Along the way, she was a bartender, cocktail waitress, canine physical therapy assistant, and also worked graveyard shifts for 24-hour fitness. Films came next. Her catch expression in the film? A disgust-laced, “Men!” Antonio Banderas as the Spanish recruit-who almost-was-not, talks, talks, and talks. It’s hard not to like him, and, like Ross in the film, you succumb to his silly charm.

Did I miss out on some names? Meet

1. Avi Lerner 

2. Danny Lerner    

3. Guymon Casady  

4. Boaz Davidson 

5. Danny Dimbort  

6. Robert Earl 

7. Samuel Hadida 

8. Victor Hadida  

9. Basil Iwanyk 

10. Zygi Kamasa  

11. Matthew O'Toole  

12. Lonnie Ramati  

13. Trevor Short  

14. Kevin King Templeton    

15. John Thompson     

16. David Varod  

17. Les Weldon  

That makes 17 producers/co-producers/executive producers. 16 stars, 17 producers. How often do you see that?

Rating: ***

Trailer:

http://www.theexpendablesmovie.net/expendables-movie-trailer.html#.U_YbD5XYfDc

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

India



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