The Expendables 3 is, obviously, the third in the, hopefully, just a trilogy of films about aging action stars getting cameos in a last throw of the dice, for some of them.
The first one, directed by Sylvester Stallone, had a great opening 10 minutes, a great final 30 minutes, and naff all inbetween. The second was better, and directed by Con Air‘s Simon West, but still wasn’t brilliant, *and* had a whacking great hole in the middle lasting 40 minutes where absolutely nothing happened, until Chuck Norris showed up.
So, what about EX3? Well, the basic – and only – thing you need to know is that Mel Gibson is the bad guy. He’s called Stonebanks, and he set up the Expendables together with Barney Ross (Stallone), but went rogue along the way and was assumed dead by Barney’s hand. Or actions, somehow. At least I think that’s the gist of it.
However, he’s not dead. He’s alive and well, and when he knows that Barney and co. know this, he wants to ensure he stays alive. Everyone else wants him brown bread, including the government and Max Drummer (Harrison Ford), effectively a replacement for Bruce Willis’ character, Church, so-named in the first film because he, Barney and Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) all met in a church.
After a bout of below-average action in the first half-hour, Ross decides it’s time to retire the old Expendables, citing that they’re going to end up dead sooner rather than later if they carry on, and he hires a younger team, even though he doesn’t practice what he preaches, and sticks around to lead the newbies. For example, at one point Barney gets blown off a bridge by a rocket launcher, into a river, but ultimately, it’s not a problem for him.
What follows is a list of what makes this film so dreadful:
- Any bad guys sent in to kill the Expendables are quickly defeated, usually with a single bullet. Any good guys would need to take a volley of bullets to do any damage.
- There’s the occasional decent death, but the relentlessness of it all, as well as the total lack of originality, means it’s a very long two hours.
- The certficate is a 12A, so it’s like this time round, someone’s switched off the CGI blood splatter and fight scenes, and injuries with weapons, all look badly filmed and/or edited, and don’t make sense due to the nannying editing. What would’ve been some cool deaths in a 15-cert are reduced to the camera cutting away when people die. As such, I was going to give it a one out of ten, but it then loses that point. This is Expendables for children, and reminded me of Xenia Onatopp’s mass slaughter of employees in Goldeneye, which was amazingly blood-splater-free!
- In fact, you have to rewatch some of the fights in order to see exactly how it happened, since the editing is so bad.
- I wondered by Harrison Ford, Arnie and Jet Li bothered to turn up, since all they give is basic cameos.
- Antonio Banderas is tedious as the class clown. Any time he opens his mouth – to speak, so do you – to yawn.
- Wesley Snipes puts in an appearance because he’s got a tax bill to pay, and his character, Doctor Death, even makes a dig at his own personal prison trip.
- Although Jason Statham, Lundgren and Snipes are in it more than I was led to believe, they still don’t get an awful lot to do. It’s a definite case of “too many cooks spoil the broth”.
- I was pleased to see Robert Davi in the cast, but his was a very blink-and-you’ll-miss-it performance which made little impact.
- Luna (Ronda Rousey – who?) is portrayed as a man-hater, twice deriding the male species behind their backs (sometimes dead) with the sleight, “Men!!” Given that the story was written by Stallone, he clearly just writes women as men, or how he sees women. God knows how he’s still married if that’s how he sees them.
- Ford sometimes mumbles as if he sounds like he’s had a stroke. At one point he and Stallone have a conversation. All I remember is that Ford used the film’s one and only f-word.
- Stallone is becoming mightily lazy in his later years. Grudge Match was an exercise in two hours of solid nothingness, and this one is mostly the same, with any occasional decent moments being stamped out by the fact that this is an action film with a total lack of gore, or any real action – certainly nothing we haven’t seen before.
Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the film, plus news of a potential spin-off…
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.