Writer: Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Jet Li, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, Kelsey Grammer, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz, Glen Powell, Terry Crews
Running time: 126mins
The lowdown: Sly gets the band back together for another no-brow barrage of (old)boys and their toys mayhem, joined by newcomers Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammer and Harrison Ford. But, it’s Mel Gibson who steals the show as a big, bad international arms dealer the over-the-hill action men must bring down.
The full verdict: Like the first two instalments, The Expendables 3 has a plot. Problem is it’s virtually the same as those first two instalments: the lads have to stop an evil villain who’s also done them a personal wrong.
But, The Expendables franchise has always played like an action movie Royal Variety Show: massive opening number, arthritic comedy interludes that scrape by on audience goodwill, dull stretches allowing a quick loo break or ice cream run, and a show-stopping finale that sends everyone home smiling and slightly punchy.
Plus big name in-joke cameos. So Wesley Snipes has a tax evasion joke Ken Dodd was doing 25 years ago. Antonio Banderas essentially does his Puss in Boots character for real. Harrison Ford makes reference to Bruce Willis’ very public expulsion from the film with the line, “Don’t worry about him, he’s out of the picture.”
The characters do have names, but everyone involved is aware they are playing amplified versions of themselves.
Good then, because everything is amplified in The Expendables 3. An opening train vs. helicopter set-piece is genuine textbook action cinema, with Sly, The Stath and co rescuing one-time Expendable Wesley Snipes as the off-balance Doc (and then giving him nothing to do).
Mel Gibson’s clunkily named Conrad Stonebanks also gets a grand entrance in a second first act set-piece that hurls handguns, automatic weapons, knives, cars, trucks, helicopters, speedboats, shipping containers, RPGs mini-guns and a daisy cutter at the screen in an orgiastic spectacle of destruction that is the textbook definition of overkill.
And must have given the BBFC pause before granting the movie a family friendly 12A.
Typically when something risks sinking into formula new blood is recommended. The Expendables 3 injects fresh plasma into the cast, yet charisma vacuums Lutz, Ortiz, Powell and Rousey are more Disposables than Expendables.
And there is a queasy subtext at play here. Sly’s Barnaby Ross dumps his well-trained, experienced brothers-in-arms because he fears they may not survive an encounter with Stonebanks. So he hires greenhorn kids presumably because he won’t feel so bad if they are cut down in a hail of high-calibre gunfire? Riiiiight…
Praise be then for Mel Gibson (and how many times can that be said?). Proving he can funnel his offscreen kamikaze antics into magnetic onscreen villainy, he effortlessly generates menace with a steely look of those famous blue eyes or by spitting out half-baked dialogue with well-done malice.
A third act conflagration has The Expendables battling Stonebanks’ hired army through an Eastern European high-rise that plays like a huge-budget dress rehearsal for director Patrick Hughes’ upcoming Raid remake.
Here we have handguns, automatic weapons, knives, C4, choppers, vans, motorbikes, tanks, bazookas and enough bass sound rumbling to rattle your fillings loose.
But, how good can an action movie be when Jet Li pops up in a micro-cameo and is not permitted to right the wrong of Lethal Weapon 4 and kick Gibson’s backside?
Despite the A-list wattage The Expendables 3 deserves 3 solid stars.
Guys, leave it here. Please don’t go fourth and multiply.