Release Date: 14th August 2014
Running Time: 126 minutes
Director: Patrick Hughes
Sylvester Stallone’s high-profile project to help find work for the elderly, or ‘The Expendables Trilogy’ as it’s better known, comes to a close with the release of the third and probably-not-final installment of the franchise. You know the drill by now, and if you don’t then it’s fairly straightforward – a bunch of ageing Hollywood muscle-men come together to re-live their pre-9/11 glory days before Hollywood went all liberal on us. What’s wrong with a bit of blasé ultra violence? Evidently Sly won’t stand for this sort of wishy-washy nonsense, and so we’ve been treated to two Expendables outings so far, the second being the most entertaining slice of nostalgic action pap. The trailers promised the usual ‘bigger and better’, and so they’ve expanded the cast to include Frasier Crane, Indiana Jones, Blade, Puss-in-Boots and a raging anti-Semitic alongside a bunch of young pretenders. Could this be as enjoyable as its supremely silly predecessors?
After the Expendables bust out former colleague and friend Doc (Snipes) from an Eastern European prison, they continue onto another mission where Mel Gibson’s crazed Stonebanks (also a former Expendable) is doing dodgy stuff in Somalia. After a botched attempt to take him down lands Caesar (Crews) in hospital, Barney Ross (Stallone) enlists the help of Bonaparte (Grammer) to help him find a younger, more able team. Cue the old expendables moping back at home, cuddling their knives and guns whilst lying on their sofa watching day-time telly.
The first glaring problem are these youngsters; aside from being about as dull as an all-day marathon of Bargain Hunt, the fact that they seem to have the same (or more) screen time than any of Barney’s team is preposterous. Kellan Lutz? Victor Ortiz? Glen Powell? Baby McBumface? They have the remarkable ability to shut down your brain completely once words start to dribble from their mouth. They’re like babies who can’t even speak yet; half of them haven’t even learned how to tie their laces, let alone act. MMA champion Ronda Rousey is limited to kicking people whilst rolling her eyes and muttering ‘men!’ under her breath, whilst Kellan Lutz is a soldier with an authority complex (brilliant). You most likely won’t even remember the others, and they’re barely worth looking up on IMDB.
Understandably the old guys are pretty miffed at being dumped by their friend and former boss for these brats, so cue a lot of arguments and ‘older is better’/’kids are pussy’ jokes which wear thin before they even begin. They laugh at their reliance on technology, reminiscent of a grandparent ranting about young folk spending too much time on that twitterspacebook, before spouting vaguely Daily Mail sounding rubbish with an ignorant smugness. The fact that Stallone and co felt the need to hire a bunch of second-rate amateurs and then strut about taking the piss (badly) does not do themselves any favours, and feels a bit embarrassing.
There is of course also the problem of the dreaded 12A rating, which is sweeping through the modern blockbuster like a hideous plague. Apart from the fact that nobody under the age of 15 is likely interested in seeing this, it obliterates a lot of that much needed bloody action, which usually distracts you from how bland the whole thing is. The first two outings had a 15 certificate, and despite not being the Citizen Kane of action movies, they were ‘adult’ enough to keep you entertained. Sadly with this third instalment we’re left with some sanitised dialogue and a camera which cuts between the action so rapidly that we haven’t the time to focus on anything. You’re not sure if people are dying, or if they’re just taking part in a huge mosh pit. The whole thing looks pretty uninspiring too: grey and bleak, with no blood splatter to add any colour.
There are still some of those that look like they’re enjoying themselves, and in doing so manage to elevate the material slightly to something a bit more entertaining. Schwarzenegger and Ford have fun on the periphery (Arnie gets to shout ‘get to da choppa!’ at least once), Statham is entertaining as always -when he is actually on-screen- and Gibbo and Snipes occasionally show flashes of lunacy amidst the tedium. There are still signs of the series’ trademark humour too, although the seriously ropey ‘old man boo-hoo’ drama puts a dampener on it.
The biggest problem is simply that the cast is far too big, and the fact that half of them are so dull and the likes of Jet Li are almost completely left out is a sin. Getting rid of Crews at the beginning is also a huge mistake, given he had one of the most likeable characters next to Dolph Lundgren, who also gets next to nothing to say or do. No-one expected a masterpiece from the third entry in what is already a fairly mindless throwback franchise, but by turning down the humour and action and turning up the ‘drama’ and the bland, it has its moments but is ultimately disappointing. Let’s hope that this is a final addition and doesn’t spiral into further self parody; it would be too upsetting. The best thing about The Expendables 3? Still the press tour, where the cast rode a tank through Cannes film festival. Magic.