Starring: Sylvester Stallone (Rambo), Jason Statham (Crank), Wesley Snipes (Blade), Antonio Banderas (Desperado), Terry Crews (Idiocracy), Randy Couture (The Expendables), Kelsey Grammer (Transformers: Age of Extinction), Kellan Lutz (The Legend of Hercules), Ronda Rousey (Fast & Furious 7), Jet Li (Unleashed), Mel Gibson (Mad Max), Harrison Ford (Air Force One), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Predator)
Director: Patrick Hughes (Red Hill)
Writers: Sylvester Stallone (Rocky) and Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt (Olympus Has Fallen)
Runtime: 2 hours 6 minutes
Release Date: 14 August (UK), 15 August (US)
The Expendables franchise is a prime example of wasted potential; a good germ of an idea that wasn’t thought through properly and marginalised into something bland. The first Expendables was an absolutely incoherent mess whilst its sequel, whilst better, was still little more than milquetoast action fodder. So how does the third instalment fare? Do you really need to ask?
None of these movies are particularly well written, but Expendables 3 does have the best story of the bunch; not much to brag about, but it’s something. Whilst the first two films had such bland narratives that I can’t even recount them for you, this time around it feels a bit more solid because there seems to be a much more personal stake here. Rather than fighting just some random sadistic warlord, they’re fighting against a former brother (Gibson)…who has become a sadistic warlord (hey, you can’t expect them to completely change the formula?). It’s a simple story you’ve heard a million times before, but I at least can remember what the plot was. But that doesn’t mean the movie is free from any other action clichés, as the film delights in putting those in constantly and without any sense of irony. The film also suffers from terribly inconsistent pacing. A good portion of the second act is taken up by Stallone and Grammer wandering around picking up teammates like we’re watching Ocean’s Eleven or something, with these scenes and the dead spaces between action beats filled with “witty banter” that’s mostly just the cast referencing their résumé. They just go on and on about nothing, padding out the film to just over two hours and killing all tension and interest I had with it.
Stallone has once again assembled an impressive cast, but my main problem with this franchise still lingers: take away all of the star power, and these characters are nothing but dry cliché-ridden caricatures of either roles these actors have played before or just generic action hero stereotypes in general. They all have only one character trait each (though some of them can’t even muster that much), and with so many faces flying around none of them get decent amounts of screen time or development. The cast seems to be having fun, but that enjoyment doesn’t translate to the screen; it all feels so self-congratulatory. In terms of the fresh faces, the new group of young Expendables are weak and unremarkable; when Kellan Lutz is the most recognisable out of the bunch, you know there’s a problem. Antonio Banderas is a motormouth who gets on the characters’ nerves as well as the audience’s, Harrison Ford mumbles stone-faced through his performance, and Kelsey Grammer feels extremely miscast in a thankless role. Mel Gibson thankfully livens the proceedings in an eccentric performance, but he lacks any kind of physical threat. I’ll give Jean-Claude Van Damme’s character from Expendables 2 this much: he was incredibly bland, but at least he could still fight.
The Expendables 3 has succumbed to PG-13 neutering in the name of bigger box office, and though I didn’t find it too egregious considering how bad the CG gore was in the first two were it doesn’t make the film any better, especially when it’s clear it was shot with a harder rating in mind. The action sequences themselves are competently shot and choreographed, but none of them do anything particularly spectacular. The film’s climax is entertaining at times, but it goes on forever with barely a moment to catch your breath. It all just lacks any sense of originality or flair, content with just giving us the same thing over and over again. None of it comes off as incompetent, but it’s still lazy. That is except for the horrendous dubbing present in several parts of the film. Multiple times they’ve dubbed lines in that in no way synch with the actor on screen; most hilariously during a bit where you can hear Banderas blabbing away incessantly in the background but his lips are obviously not moving that much. It’s embarrassingly incompetent; especially considering it’s all in the name of yet more useless prattling dialogue.
I’d confidently say The Expendables 3 is the best of the franchise, but that’s like bragging about being the best player for a really sh*t sports team; it’s not much of an accomplishment when there was hardly any competition. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if it weren’t for all the actors in these movies, they would barely scrape by as those direct-to-video action flicks you always see clogging up Netflix. Despite mildly more competent writing and direction, the unoriginality on display here is just so numbingly dull that it’s very hard to care about the carnage on screen. It’s certainly not a bad movie, but it doesn’t really do anything to justify its existence, and the world wouldn’t be much of a different place without it. I guess you could say this movie is…expendable.
C’mon, that joke’s on about the same level as most of the gags in these movies.
FINAL VERDICT: 5/10