By Bill Arceneaux
At a certain point in the third Expendables film, Harrison Ford – having been cast based off of his past as Indiana Jones and Han Solo – looks at Sly Stallone, and remarks, “I haven’t had this much fun in years.” Of course, in a movie where not even the audience cares what names the actors have been given, and just want to see familiar action heroes shoot and fight, it’s obvious that Harrison is not supposed to be speaking as his character, but as himself. The Expendables 3 is filled with meta moments, but this one might be my favorite.
Favorite for reasons the filmmakers won’t like.
This movie features the mainstream return of Wesley Snipes, having been released from prison on tax related charges. In the story, we’re introduced to him on a train bound for a fortress like prison. After escaping, and having just been asked why he was in that predicament, Wesley answers, “Tax evasion.” Throughout the run time, Wesley is clearly having a blast, smiling and profiling whenever given the opportunity. Watching him do his thing, I was reminded of the first two Blade films, and even Demolition Man, flicks that showcased his charisma and athleticism to a T. Through this glorified cameo, Expendables 3 makes its own case for being a joyous blast.
Mel Gibson especially deserves some applause, for trying to give a villain worthy of going up against. One scene in particular had the makings of some frightening possibilities. During an arms deal, Mel is asked if he can provide some nuclear weapons. He smirks, and begins to discuss the matter seriously… until the lights go out and the heroes ruin things.
By “heroes” I mean the crew making the movie. At every turn, there are poor edits, bad musical cues, and unflattering photography choices. I don’t want to speculate on what happened behind the scenes, but when you have an MMA star fighting off attackers, and you capture it without clear shots detailing the action, something is wrong. Perhaps they were rushed to complete? Maybe there was a lack of guidance?
Which brings me back to Harrison Ford having fun. In his action sequences, he pilots a helicopter, which has been laughably keyed into the frame via some awful green screen techniques. The copter flying around gave me Birdemic and Who Killed Captain Alex? chills. There are many a CGI explosion and many bad cutaways from destruction – possibly to avoid an R rating – that I, along with some other audience members, laughed out loud.
Maybe Harrison did have fun working on this. All he had to do was sit in a chair and read a few lines. Probably drank a lemonade between takes. Or a scotch. Or two. The cheapness of the production is depressing, and its value of easy and superficial nostalgia even more so. But, Harrison Ford had fun. The man deserves that, especially after suffering a broken leg. After all, real action takes a lot out of you.