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The Expendables 3: Where Stallone could / should take the third instalment

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Tom Jolliffe looks at the possibilities for The Expendables 3

Director: 

There are plenty of potential directors out there. It would be safe to say that Sly should stay in front of the camera. The scale of the third needs to at the very least match the second, and if it was too tough an ask for him to direct that, it will be the case second time around. 

……..

Elsewhere there is Roel Reine. He’s shown remarkable style and visual flair in straight to video action films like two Death Race sequels that ended up being better than the original, as well as the only half decent Steven Seagal starrer in the last decade, Pistol Whipped. His gift for elevating a films look and scope beyond its budget is impressive. One thing to say for the first two Expendables films is, they looked if anything less expensive than they cost to make, and not more. Perhaps Reine could make an $80 million movie look considerably more.


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Special Features - The Expendables 3: Where Stallone could / should take the third instalment

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Tom Jolliffe looks at the possibilities for The Expendables 3...

The dust had barely settled from the first time eyes were laid upon a print of The Expendables 2before rumours of the third film started flying around. Long before the final box office takings had been registered it seemed that the third was more or less a done deal. Of course the second one, like the first, was a huge hit. Now the first film had plenty of flaws. The second had just as many, though a more consistent tone, and bigger scope. So with yet more rumours about what’s to come, who’s in, who’s out in the third and possibly final (though I doubt it) Expendables outing this week, I take a look at what we have heard thus far, and perhaps what fans will hope for. 

The key thing for the next film isn’t just about the next action icons who get cast. First and foremost is the quality of the film. For this franchise to extend further than a third film, what was forgiven in the first two - lacklustre script and mechanical direction (outside of the action scenes) - will possibly not be tolerated by audiences for a third time. The third film must work, not just as a piece of stunt casting, and a gimmick laden homage, but as a piece of film. 

When the first film was announced, genre fans were in raptures. There was a real hope that, aside from pulling together all the action gods like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Jason Statham etc., the film would be as good as some of the better films of their respective careers. Take Arnold as an example; Predator, taking the alien aspects out, was the perfect template for an Expendables movie to be. The toughest of the tough, taking out the trash. Something simple, yet made with brilliant efficiency and wonderful clarity in its action. What Sly delivered though was far short of that level. It was kind of the bare minimum required. The act of getting everyone in and crafting a film out of it, as well as writing, directing and starring was a gargantuan ask. Its mere existence though was enough appeasement for fans, and it wasn’t bad, merely (disappointingly to many) average. The second was better, more consistent but still rested on action and the personalities involved. This must be better, and there must be a more concise script. 

Director: 

There are plenty of potential directors out there. It would be safe to say that Sly should stay in front of the camera. The scale of the third needs to at the very least match the second, and if it was too tough an ask for him to direct that, it will be the case second time around. 

John Woo has thrown his hat into the ring. Though Woo in his Hollywood career became something of a caricature of his own style from Hong Kong, particularly in his last few Hollywood flicks, it would still none the less be a crowd pleasing choice. The Woo has a great eye for action. He’s also worked with plenty of action men over the years, including Jean-Claude Van Damme (who’s unlikely to return, despite Sly teasing that Jean Vilain may have a twin brother hell bent on avenging his brothers death), Dolph Lundgren and Nicolas Cage, who’s been rumoured for number 3. If he keeps the doves and the melodrama to a minimum and can recapture anything like the kinetic brilliance of his Hong Kong films, Woo would be a great fit. 

Simon West may well return and though his set pieces had a clarity lacking from the overly frantic style of Stallone’s action in the first, he probably lacks a certain deft touch needed to elevate this from something that would be fairly decent, to top notch. In addition, there’s a feeling, a bit like the Mission: Impossiblefranchise, that a different director for each film is the way to go. 

So who else? There are plenty of action veterans who might well do a solid job. Or there’s the possibility of taking things in a more interesting direction. Walter Hill, Richard Donner and John McTiernan (if he gets out) may do a solid job but have probably lost the invention and spark they once had. Shane Black would be a great choice, to not only direct but script as well. After all, if The Expendables unites the crème de la crème of action stars, why not add one of the best action screenwriters. 

Some rising directors who have impressed in lower budgets might well add a fresh impetus, invention and vibrancy to proceedings, and with more funds at their disposal could fully realise the potential they have. One man is John Hyams who did a remarkable job with two Universal Soldiersequels. These films weren’t needed, weren’t asked for, and had no right to be decent but Hyams beat expectations and odds to deliver some great action on minimal budget. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (the fourth) especially was a surprise hit with many critics because of its bold direction, taking what is really a ridiculous franchise down a route laced with Lynch, Kubrick, Carpenter and Gasper Noe. It shouldn’t have worked and it did. That fact aside, his eye for crafting action scenes is also undeniable. 

Elsewhere there is Roel Reine. He’s shown remarkable style and visual flair in straight to video action films like two Death Race sequels that ended up being better than the original, as well as the only half decent Steven Seagal starrer in the last decade, Pistol Whipped. His gift for elevating a films look and scope beyond its budget is impressive. One thing to say for the first two Expendables films is, they looked if anything less expensive than they cost to make, and not more. Perhaps Reine could make an $80 million movie look considerably more. Or perhaps Jesse V. Johnson? His stunt background has proved useful in his stints directing so far. Again, like Hyams and Reine he’s been stuck doing low budgets but has a knack of making them look more lavish than they are. His recent fan made, proof of concept Wonder Womantrailer got a lot of people talking and taking notice too. His recent film The Package with Dolph Lundgren and Steve Austin, despite lacking any originality, was enjoyably old school and genuinely so, whereas theExpendables film kind of market as being this, and promise it but don’t always deliver it, with too much CGI blood, shaky cam, and bordering on the softer side of an R rating to be truly old school hard-ass action. Johnson does old school. It might be deemed too big to give to director lacking in big budget experience but with Sly at hand to guide that should be a problem. 

New Cast: 

Many rumours have already circulated. Nicolas Cage has been mentioned consistently, as has Jackie Chan. A popular choice amongst fans (and even current cast) is Wesley Snipes. All three would add a great deal. I’m not a Cage fan by any stretch, but his manic style could provide entertainment and enliven a potentially forgettable side character. I can see him as a crazy government agent perhaps. Chan would be brilliant. He just lightens things first off. There’s also a great likeability about Chan and it could provide great chemistry with the rest of the group.

Wesley Snipes could be an ideal villain. I’m thinking back to Simon Phoenix now. He stoleDemolition Man completely. Not only that, but Snipes is a fantastic on screen fighter. His quick, brutal, martial arts still would be great and in particular a throw down with Jason Statham would be the most logical, and stylistically compatible choice. 

Tom Sizemore and Vinnie Jones have both mentioned possible roles in this film. Two solid additons, particularly Jones who could have some great moments with The Stath. Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood have both been mentioned but seem unlikely, whilst Steven Seagal has no interest in joining the fun. In truth it just wouldn’t suit Seagal. He’s not suited to the kind of style Expendables is about, and that’s before you consider his current condition. Potentially he’d have made a good villain but it’s all academic now it seems. 

Sly mentions young blood. He’d mentioned for the second film Taylor Lautner but that proved a very unpopular choice and remains so. I would hope not. There’s possibly room for Chris Hemsworth to come in (following on from younger brother Liam’s largely pointless role in the second). Henry Cavill might well be a worthy choice, if he’s not beyond playing a bit part after his portrayal of Superman is unleashed upon the world. 

This is a potential sticking point. It’s the young cast members. Firstly it goes against what the films represent and why people watch them. It also seems in some part, a possible way to gradually let the old dogs go out into pasture and let the fresh blood take over. Again though, it then becomes unsellable and goes against what the franchise is about. Secondly, there’s little point bringing in new younger rising stars and then giving them little to do like Liam Hemsworth whose role required little more than for him to look doe eyed until he eventually gets offed. 

Also for many, another group remains largely untapped from the first two film, and that is from the plethora of 80’s/90’s video action stars who could make appearances. There’s some demand (okay mostly from me) to see video shop staples such as Don 'The Dragon' Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Mark Dacascos, Olivier Gruner, Lorenzo Lamas and more. Gary Daniels appeared in the first, whilst up and coming video god Scott Adkins appeared in the second. There’s a wealth of such peers to pick from if needs be, and it would be great to see, as would other cult actors like Rutger Hauer, Christopher Lambert and Gary Busey (I could go on even more). 

Current Cast: 

One thing that needs addressing is a lack of expendability from The Expendables. There needs to be some culling to offer some dramatic impact and at least some semblance of vulnerability. Randy Couture and Terry Crews have become somewhat needless. In Crew’s case in particular it’s a shame because his role as chief gagster of the group could have been more prominent. Couture certainly must be sacrificed in a hail of gunfire. 

Arnold, Bruce and Chuck Norris could return, though very unlikely in Chuck’s case. In plot terms the returns of all three isn’t particularly needed. It would be probably best served to leave them out and allow more development to the current group, particularly Statham who’s supposed to be Sly’s right hand man but felt somewhat redundant in the last film. Similarly Jet Li has done his time and need not return, particularly as in all likelihood Jackie Chan will appear and should be given ample screen time. 

Then there’s Dolph. Gunnar went from crazy and unbalanced in the first to a comical Frankenstein's monster in the second. In both films Lundgren is a scene stealer, but for the third things should take a darker turn again. Gunner is a character who was written to die. He’s destined to burn out in style. Dolph is awesome and I enjoyed his performance in the second but logic dictate he should have died in the first film as originally intended. This time around Gunnar has to explode out in a blaze of glory. 

Finally what of Barney Ross? Sly will eventually bow out of action gracefully. Surely? He must! I love the guy but he’s got 1-2 more years max before the audience interest wains or it becomes laughable, or he just takes on fall too many and breaks a hip (if he hasn’t already). Perhaps in this instalment Barney can take more of a back seat and allow Statham to step into the fore, and also allow more depth for the likes of Gunnar (who remains the most interesting of the group) and possibly Chan if involved. 

So what do you make of the rumours so far? Where do you want to see the third film take us? Who would you like to see appear? Let us know your thoughts... 

Tom Jolliffe

Blog Jan/Feb 2013

January and Februari 2013 spending most time on finishing two movies. Mixing and color grading DEAD IN TOMBSTONE with Jonathan and his team from Sonic Magic. Very happy with the final movie. Release in September 2013.

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 And also finishing mixing and color grading 12 ROUNDS: RELOADED for FOX and WWE with mixer Rick Ash.


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This movie will be releases in June. Yesterday recorded the directors commentary for the blu-ray and dvd bonus features. This time I have done the directors commentary together with my editor Radu Ion.

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