Director: Patrick Hughes
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lungdren, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Kelsey Grammer.
Written by: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, (also story) Sylvester Stallone and (based on the characters created) David Callaham
Running Time: 127 mins
Release date: 14th July 2014
When Sylvester Stallone first announced his intentions of making The Expendables, there was great excitement. A film crammed with action stars from the 80’s and 90’s sounded like nostalgia heaven. A hard rock soundtrack while mullets flew everywhere. Alas, it wasn’t to be and in fact, The Expendables turned out to be a disappointment, a grown-up shoot-’em-up with testosterone at every turn. The Expendables 2 was a slight improvement, thanks to Arnie and Willis actually joining in on the action and a perfectly pitched slice of self parody from Chuck Norris. Now we have The Expendables 3 and from the rumour mill, this is the last one. Maybe we should be thankful for the third is also the weakest.
Barney Rose and his troop of mercenaries are sent to capture a ruthless weapons dealer. When the mission goes wrong and one of their own is shot, Rose discovers that the man they are after is Conrad Stonebanks, Rose’s former friend and co-creator of The Expendables, who was believed dead. Feeling his team are no longer working and not wanting to lose any of them, Rose turns his back on them and recruits a new bunch of soldiers to track Stonebanks down. The arms dealer has other plans and maybe Rose needs his old team back.
Stallone has always managed to get together a solid enough group of stars to play soldier with, so the old gang are back (Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Dolph Lungdren and Terry Crews). Arnie also returns in his cameo role as Trench, as does Jet Li in a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-him” appearance. This is one of the many problems with the film. Having relied on these stars for the three films, their characters, which were always paper-thin, have nothing to do but grunt and look tough. So Stallone removes them from the film for almost an hour while he runs around with a bunch of new kids who, again have no real character traits to make them worth caring about.
The plot is as old as the leads and once Rose decides to let his old gang have a rest, we go into the lengthy, cliche-ridden selection sequence where he and Bonaparte, a recruitment expert played by Kelsey Grammer, in which each of the new Expendables are introduced, doing what they do best (mountaineering, shooting and in the case of Ultimate Fighter Ronda Rousey, beating up men in a club while wearing a tight red dress). It’s a series of scenes that could have been condensed into a few minutes but seems to go on forever and slows the pace down to a stop.
The mission itself, to get Stonebanks, could have been done within the first section of the film because, every time we see the villain, he gets away, when a chance to shoot him always comes up, they mess it by looking mean and moody. That wouldn’t make for an interesting film, although, for all our sakes, it would have been much more entertaining.
So what about the new old members? (Not the new, new members, if you get my drift). Well thankfully they are the saving graces. Wesley Snipes, returning to the screen after an absence in jail, which he self-mockingly mentions during the opening sequences, plays a character called Doctor Death, who is handy with a knife, yet he is left out along with the older members of the team so we don’t get to see the full Snipes in action. Mel Gibson, as Stonebanks is, well Mel Gibson, all crazy eyed and calm psycho. Apart from his personal problems, Gibson still has screen charisma, although the final fight between him and Stallone (not giving anything away here) is reminiscent of Lethal Weapon’s Gary Busey/Gibson battle.
The real stars here, however, are Antonio Banderas as a man desperate for friends although he won’t shut up. It brings a little light relief to an otherwise stone-faced action flick; and Harrison Ford, who replaces Bruce Willis after he demanded more money than most. Ford is the film’s revelation, knowing exactly how to play it. Tongue rammed in cheek and sending the whole thing up, He even delivers the best line in the film when asked about Willis’s character. “He’s out of the picture!” comes the retort.
What also affects this badly is the insistence from the producers to make this a PG-13 instead of an R (PG-13 is the equivalent to a 12A), so the violence, while still there, is watered down and in some shots, the editing is a little too obvious. It also doesn’t allow for the tough manly banter that occurred in the previous films.
The Expendables films should have been tons of fun but they were always taken slightly too serious. This time, it’s a sluggish action film that is far too long and has too many scenes where Stallone has to explain who Stonebanks is. The final battle scene is well handled and nice to see proper stunt work but you have to shift through 90 minutes of other, less exciting stuff before you get to it. Definitely time to put the Expendables out to retirement.