Film Notes: “The Expendables 3”
ENSEMBLE ACTING AND THE BIG STARS
by Pablo A. Tariman
Going to the movies (whether they turn out to be bad or good or just so-so) is always an education.
The recently concluded Cine Malaya film fest gave you a rich sampling of original and thoroughly moving stories often avoided by mainstream films. Almost censorship-free thanks to the incentive arranged by the CCP, the current crop of indie films hold sway and they are at times profound, if, shocking and mind-boggling. These films often challenge the mind but in more ways than one, they often leave the so-called masa in the dark.
For in the indie language, the dark side of human existence leaves a majority of the audiences cold and conflicts of the human spirit are too much to contemplate when their priority is how to come up with three square meals a day.
There are films that give you time to reflect, films that make you laugh for what it is worth and films that offer endless action and gunfights enough to convince you that action films — of the kind offered by Hollywood — is where the money is.
Just get the right stars and the right story and voila, the producers end up singing their way to the bank.
Watching Patrick Hughes’s “The Expendables 3” is like being re-introduced to old and new war weapons with helicopters crashing, buildings tumbling down the way the World Trade Center collapsed in minutes.
It’s only one hour and 26 minutes but it had been thoroughly edited to give you slices of a mercenary’s life and with it, a suspenseful glimpse of a tale of revenge between two leaders of mercenaries with violent ax to grind.
Of course the big attraction is that you get to see all the big stars in one film and in the end, you get a fairly good idea of how honest-to-goodness ensemble acting fares in a star-studded action film.
Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross (leader of the Expendables) has the character pinned down effortlessly inside and out; Antonio Banderas as Galgo, a former member of the Spanish Armed Forces, also a Bosnian war veteran, gives us a portrait of a war-weary soldier turning to his sense of humor for relief from his military burden.
You see other stars at their best like Jet Li Yin Yan, a hand-to-hand combat expert and former Expendable; Wesley Snipes as Doctor Death, a former medic, and one of the original Expendables; Mel Gibson as Conrad Stonebanks, a rogue co-founder of the Expendables and a ruthless arms dealer; Harrison Ford as Max Drummer, a CIA field operations officer and a pilot who manages the Expendables and Arnold Schwarzenegger is Barney’s former teammate and sometimes rival.
Indeed, the big stars — now old boys over 60 — are big revelations and they look unbeatable in the company of young recruits like Kellan Lutz as John Smilee, a former Navy and Ronda Rousery as Luna, an athletic nightclub bouncer.
Banderas admitted to a publicist how it was like doing action in his senior year and confessed what he asked in exchange for acceptance of the role. “You have to be in good shape, basically. And then, you have to have certain craziness, if you’re going to do some of the action things. I did something that I shouldn’t have done. I’m in my 60s now and just running almost 50 meters with explosives going on, it was kind of like, ‘Oh, my god! What am I doing here?’ The whole entire building was shaking, and stuff like that. But, you do it. At the same time, I just wanna do it if I have the possibility of laughing a little bit at myself.”
Indeed while the fight scenes look serious and impressive, the film has its dose of humor elicited by the screenplay specially those written for Antonio Banderas which had young audiences in Manila rollicking with his lines.
But in a way, the film looks overpopulated with stars.
But on the whole, the veterans and the new recruits somehow merged as one acting ensemble. There is a steady supply of suspense and action that keeps you on the edge of your seat. If this is your idea of entertainment, then you get what you have bargained for. This film doesn’t pretend it has something profound for the characters given to the big stars.
But the truth is the senior stars look sinister when the part calls for it.
The film is really fun movie with lots of action and a tour de force for the likes of Banderas who makes something both pathetic and comic as a Spanish Bosnian war veteran.
Like it or not, “The Expendables 3” is a good intermission if you had a week or two of serious films in the indie film circuit.
“The Expendables 3” is now showing in all theaters.