The Expendables films thus far have been a great guilty pleasure. For those of us who spent our youth with a perpetual rotation of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, JCVD, Snipes and Steven Seagal action films, in all their glory and failure watching that ‘remasculinization’ genre (Rambo etc) re-emerge twenty-five years past its prime has been nostalgic and fun. Cue The Expendables 3 and Australian director Patrick Hughes (filmmaker behind the tremendous neo-western Red Hill) behind the lens, several more 80s/90s titans like Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and Wesley Snipes along for the ride and we were looking like we’d be wandering down memory lane once again. However, much like Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), The Expendables brand wants to move away from the style and approach of their veteran team for the latest adventure and bring in the youth, in both co-stars and in rating. The hard lesson learnt is that age, and carnage should always come before beauty in an action movie.
We return to Barney (Stallone) and the Expendables team (Jason Statham’s Lee Christmas, Dolph Lundgren’s Gunner Jensen, Randy Couture’s Toll Road and Terry Crews’ Caesar) in the midst of a two tiered mission. One, they must rescue an imprisoned former member of the team Doc (played by Wesley Snipes); and two, they must use his help to assassinate an international arms dealer and all round bad guy. When they encounter this figure and identify that it is former founding member of the Expendables, Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who Barney had ‘put down.’ Stonebanks is particularly malicious and tags a member of the previously impervious crew, and sets Barney down a path of force retirement and recruitment.
Mr. Hughes directs the living shit out of this veritable ‘butter knife’ that remains from the machete the franchise used to be. He’s got a sense of style demonstrated in interesting lighting and composition choices, heightening and elevating every location. The best scene by far is introduction of real life superhero Ronda Rousey’s introduction as a frightening and beautiful badass in a red dress. The rating though makes the film seem as if every punch being landed, every fatal blow being delivered or every projectile hitting its target is edited out of the final film. Mr. Stallone and co-writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt have the best intentions with The Expendables 3 but they’re ultimately misguided. In Barney’s own weird perverse way he’s ‘protecting’ his team by replacing them. The new unit, are far more technologically and aesthetically similar to the typical ‘contemporary’ Hollywood action hero; but when they’re pitted against the nihilistic, ‘old-school’ villain they don’t have the resources or the mettle. To put it delicately, the writer ‘borrows’ from The Dark Knight. While Skyfall and Star Trek Into Darkness are guilty too, one would have assumed that fellow Australians Mr. Gibson and Mr. Hughes may have had more tact.
Nothing against Mr. Gibson, who relishes the opportunity to go all the way to a place of madness after so many characters (even ones with MAD in their name) that balance on the knife’s edge. It’s all in the eyes and man does Mr. Gibson have something wonderfully implacable about what he’s thinking.
The most notable additions to the enormous cast are Antonio Banderas’ Galgo, who may as well be a wholly comedic riff on his character Miguel Bain from Assassins (Richard Donner and the Wachowski’s collaboration from 1995). His relentless chattering and yelling in frustration or celebration never ceases to make you chuckle. UFC women’s champion Ms. Rousey is just absolutely awesome as the lone belle in this sausage avalanche. Whether it’s in the aforementioned a divine red dress beating up douche-bags or in the fray tear apart dudes with awesome hand to hand combat; she can’t help but be a highlight. Harrison Ford can’t hide that he’s just having a ball hanging out with these guys (and gal) as Drummer.
The Expendables 3 feels like the once badass dad trying to appease to the kids; when he should have been beating the crap out of them for talking smack.
[rating=2] and a half
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Written by: Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Kelsey Grammer, Glen Powell, Antonio Banderas, Victor Ortiz, Ronda Rousey, Kellan Lutz, Jet Li