CAST: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Kelsey Grammar, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger
RUNNING TIME: 126 mins
BASICALLY…: When the team of mercenaries known as The Expendables face off against co-founder Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), leader Barney Ross (Stallone) must recruit a new, younger team to fight off the threat…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
The action genre nowadays has seen a substantial dip in both quality and box office intake, particularly when they star old veterans from the 80s and 90s. Stars like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all seen their fair share of disappointments over the past few years – including Bullet to the Head, A Good Day to Die Hard and Sabotage to name a few – which is sadly telling of the ageism that some audiences have toward their Hollywood heroes now that they’re in the latter half of their long lives. With this in mind, it’s almost sensational that the Expendables films – including the mediocre first instalment and the much more enjoyable 2012 follow-up – have still managed to find an audience in this day and age, wherein all we get are these action icons most people grew up with together at last and doing what they do best: blowing stuff up and spouting corny one-liners.
But alas, time has finally caught up with The Expendables and their third and final outing (at least where box office numbers are concerned) is about as slow and tiresome as anyone would expect from these aging movie icons.
Directed with an alarming amount of inconsistency by Patrick Hughes, The Expendables 3 is a sign that this particular franchise has run its course, even with the star/muscle-power of its 99% male-dominant cast. Hughes unfortunately cannot direct an exciting action scene to save his life, which results in each major set-piece looking and feeling like an undergraduate project on Adobe Flash (with some of the worst visual effects in a major blockbuster this year) with all the excitement and thrill of a fart in a swimming pool. Here’s an example of the astonishing lack of attention to detail: near the end of the first act, antagonist Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson, who seems to relish in being the bad guy once again after Machete Kills – can’t imagine why…) aims a rifle towards a major character’s rear end but the bullet magically ends up going through their chest instead. You can put that down to either continuity errors or, more likely, faulty editing – both of which are the responsibility of the director to oversee and make sure everything’s sewn up properly, which he clearly didn’t if he was to let a scene like that slip by. This man is directing the forthcoming remake of The Raid – be very, VERY afraid.
Stallone’s script deserves flagging also, not least because it introduces unlikely scenarios or instances that would otherwise kill all characters involved but instead makes no sacrifices within its small team and presents them as Kryptonians, completely incapable of receiving any bodily damage aside from the odd cut on the forehead. There is certainly the feeling of a much more hardcore film within its surface, which has been distractingly sanitised by its 12A rating, meaning less swearing and far less violence – you know, the one thing that made the previous films so enjoyable in the first place? – than ever before. After a while, you’ll be praying for there to be an onslaught of blood and carnage just to make sure everything hasn’t been completely pussy-whipped.
The script is also filled with blatant plot-holes and developments that make no sense whatsoever, including Stallone’s decision to disband his team in favour of newer, younger faces to take on the new threat in the form of Gibson’s Stonebanks. Yeah, because risking the lives of a group of young and inexperienced individuals with their whole lives ahead of them over a group of muscle-bound men who are more trigger-happy than Lee Harvey Oswald at a Presidential shooting gallery is TOTALLY the smart choice to make in this situation. No wonder Stallone keeps being called a moron during the final act.
Worst of all, however, is the oversized cast who despite being the key selling point for this movie – hell, ALL the Expendables movies – are completely wasted or fall victim to shoddy characterisation. Though Stallone once again takes up the majority of screen-time, regulars like Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture are left with nothing to do other than show up on-screen. Faring even worse are the newer additions to the team, including Antonio Banderas who despite his best charismatic efforts cannot salvage an otherwise insufferable comedy relief character, and the aforementioned new and inexperienced recruits from Kellan Lutz to Ronda Rousey who all have no definable personalities nor the acting chops to convince us that they’re Expendable material other than being, well, expendable material. Wesley Snipes turns out to be a pointless addition despite a grand entrance during the opening sequence, Harrison Ford phones it in as a last-minute replacement for Willis, Kelsey Grammar arrives and disappears just as quick despite being the best actor in this movie, and even Schwarzenegger is left confused and stranded without a decent role to work with.
When you can’t even get Jet Li to amp things up a bit, you know that The Expendables 3 has been milked dry of all possible enjoyment. Maybe it’s time to fill up the gun rack, guys. You’ve had your share of fun for a lifetime.
SO, TO SUM UP…
The Expendables 3 is a franchise-killer, with terribly-directed action sequences, a lazy script and lacklustre efforts by its star-studded cast. If you want to see your favourite action movie stars together for a rip-roaring ride of fun, you’d best be suited to the likes of the first two Expendables films – or even some of their earlier work. At least they’re fun to watch…