Film review: The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3

(M) **

Director: Patrick Hughes.

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Kelsey Grammer, Terry Crews, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Jet Li.

The stars (most of them) of The Expendables 3.

The stars (most of them) of The Expendables 3.

LOOK at how long that cast list is.

And look at some of those names - Rambo, Zorro, Mad Max, Blade, Indiana Jones, The Terminator.

It's weird seeing a line-up like that these days. In the '80s it would have meant you were about to watch The Greatest Action Movie In The History Of The Universe.

But watching these people together on the screen in 2014 reminds you how cruel the passage of time can be and how far some have fallen since their 1980s glory days.

None have fallen further than Mel Gibson, who is the best thing in this movie.

Regardless of what he said or did in the past to earn his effective blackballing from Hollywood, there's no denying Mad Mel can act and seeing him as villain Conrad Stonebanks is a real delight.

Stonebanks is the trigger for this Expendable outing - he's supposed to be dead, but when head Expendable Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team spot Stonebanks alive and well in Somalia it leads them to pursue him across the globe on behalf of the CIA, who plan to put Stonebanks on trial at The Hague for war crimes.

There's also history between Ross and Stonebanks as they started The Expendables together, but Ross is not willing to risk his current team to bring him in and instead hires a bunch of newbies to do the dirty work (hence the low-wattage names of Lutz, Rousey, Powell and Ortiz in that lengthy cast list).

This last point ends up being one of the film's biggest downfalls. While physics and logic go out the window whenever you step into a darkened cinema to see an Expendables film, the idea of Ross sending a group of talented yet inexperienced kids on a suicide mission instead of his trusted (and frankly over the hill) teammates doesn't sit very well with him being the movie's good guy.

It also strips away one of the best aspects of these films to date, which has been the interaction of his endearing team of muscle-bound, machine gun-toting lugheads. With them out of the picture for most of the picture, we're left to watch a pack of nameless 20-somethings who we don't care about.

Things work best when the old hands are in the mix. New addition Banderas is a scene-stealer as the garrulous Galgo, Schwarzenegger gets some good lines (including the old favourite "get to the chopper!"), Grammer is great, Ford looks like he's having fun filling in for Bruce Willis, and Snipes' acting may be shaky but he also looks like he's having a blast, even getting in a joke about his recent stint in jail for tax evasion.

As mentioned, Gibson steals the show, and the film lights up whenever he's on screen, in much the same way as previous series villains Eric Roberts and Jean-Claude Van Damme. It makes you want to see him back on the big screen more, or to play more villains

While it's great watching these familiar faces together again, The Expendables 3 lacks the spark of The Expendables 2, which is the best of the series. The second film was in on the joke, having taken itself too seriously first time around - these guys are predominantly past their prime and can't do the things they used to do, meaning their legends now cast longer shadows than their present-day action personas.

This made The Expendables 2 genuinely funny, in a laugh-with-it way. As line after line clunks to the ground, as the stunts get more impossible, and as the bravado becomes sillier, you're laughing at instead of with Expendables 3.

It's a shame. The cast is likeable, the stunt work is exemplary, and the wave of nostalgia brought on by seeing The Italian Stallion, The Austrian Oak, Mad Mel and Han Solo share scenes almost makes it all worthwhile.

For these reasons, it's hard to totally shoot down The Expendables 3, even though it's not very good. I'd still line-up to see The Expendables 4, which will probably star Jackie Chan, Michael Dudikoff, Steven Seagal, and Pierce Brosnan.

But yeah, this isn't very good.

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