To be honest, when I heard about the Expendables films I rolled my eyes thinking that Stallone made this franchise as a big f*#k you to anyone who has called him an old has-been. But I take it all back – these films are very entertaining and while it does prove that Stallone still has enough energy to star in an action film, he does it with humour and a tongue-in-cheek confidence that suggests that he is anything but precious about his age.
The Expendables 3 still has all the explosions, bad guys, bad jokes, blood sprays, guns and those other kind of guns that made action-lovers foam at the mouth with Expendables and The Expendables 2. This time around I felt that there was a little more meat in terms of plot, a little more heart and we had time to catch our breath before being served an epic bang-for-your-buck finale. This did mean cutting back on action sequences, giving room for all of the old-school stars to join in the fun of this loaded gun bromance. There’s Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Jason Statham, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes and Kesley Grammer – just to name a few.
The film starts by introducing Expendable-gone-rogue Conrad Stonebanks who seemingly comes back from the dead (played by a deliciously evil Mel Gibson) and puts Caesar (Terry Crews) in hospital. This leaves Barney Ross (Stallone) questioning the expiry date of his team and forces them all into an early retirement. He then recruits a young fresh group of mercenaries to take their place, leaving Christmas (Statham), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll (Randy Couture) back to living a civilian life and not being very happy about it.
At first it was a little bizarre to see the smooth skin of the younger team members after all this time spent with our wrinkled favourites – but the endless opportunities to poke fun at the fuddy-duddy’s and pat the little ones on the head is a huge part of what makes this film so good. One of the best lines was when Barney outlines the plan for a bust and kids laugh at him and saying “you want to kick the door in and spray bullets? Nice plan if it was 1985”.
The new additions don’t stop there. Bringing Snipes and Banderas to The Expendables is another huge bonus of this installment. Snipes doesn’t waste any time to remind us how much of a bad ass he is by using a machete to shave his face within the first five minutes of the film. And never mind that his character Doc spent 8 years in captivity, on his first day out he is able to fight like a ninja that jumped out of a box. Banderas is as always, likable and charming. He uses much of his screen time chatting passionately as the rejected but enthusiastic mercenary Galgo, and it’s comical how socially awkward he is compared to his Puss and Boots character from the Shrek series.
While there’s so much pleasure in seeing all the action stars of the 80’s and 90’s back on the big screen clearly having a good time (except Ford who seems a bit fed up) the newbies bring a little swagger as fresh and hungry fighters. This includes a drool worthy The Legend of Hercules actor Kellan Lutz who could be The Next Big Thing in action films and UFC Campion Ronda Rousey who saves this film from being a complete dude-fest.
Let’s face it though, the film is just plain silly and it’s not created to make you think. If there’s any doubt you don’t understand what’s going on, don’t worry someone will explain it to you – maybe even twice. And while most of the banter between the oldies is pure delight, some of the dialogue is a bit like a dad joke you’ve heard too many times. Like when Snipes says to Statham he’s the “Knife before Christmas”- you will groan instead of laugh.
The Expendables 3 is not a film that will win awards, it’s not deep and it’s not clever nor inventive. It’s not a film that you will remember and keep to watch again and again or give you one-liners to add to your pop culture repertoire. But who cares? If you want to go out and have fun with all your favourite action heroes all under one roof (Rambo, Terminator, Indiana Jones, Zoro, Mad Max, The Blade) having a chuckle between gun fights and blow ups – then you will really love this film. At the end you will be fist pumping “I’m so happy” along with the team – young and old.
I found this film more enjoyable than the first two installments. Action, laughs, muscles and enough stars to fill a sky – The Expendables 3 proves, in its ridiculousness, that things really do get better with age.
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