Expendables-1I probably have far too much affection for action stars of the 1980’s than is healthy for a 21 year-old Film Student. There has been many a time where my affection for Stallone, Schwarzenegger and the like has clouded my judgement from time to time. Where critics often lack enthusiasm for many of their efforts, you can bet that I am the type of individual who is quick to plead a case for any title, be it from the glory days or the more recent ‘twilight’ years. The Expendables is one such franchise. The first two installments were received with mixed to negative criticism, but I found plenty to enjoy, particularly in regards to the second installment, which decided to throw caution to the wind and revel in self-referential winks, pushing the film well into the realm of pastiche. The Expendables 3 was very much on my radar within this summer’s crowded release schedule, and with a young newcomer director at the helm in the form of Patrick Hughes, there was hope that perhaps this was going to continue in the improved footsteps of the second installment. While that is not the case, we have yet another case of me supporting a film beyond its worth. The Expendables 3 is a terribly made film, make no mistake. But boy, did I have fun.

After springing out former medic team mate, Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes), Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his gang of Expendables are put quickly back to work by CIA stooge, Agent Drummer (Harrison Ford). But during said mission, one of Barney’s men is seriously injured by an adversary long thought dead. The adversary in question is one Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a former founding member of the expendables who went rouge, and who would like nothing more than to see Barney suffer. Scared to see his old team slaughtered in front of him, Barney opts to retire them in favour of a younger, more tech-savvy team, and embarks upon taking Stonebanks down for good. But when the plan hits the fan, there’s only one group of men Barney can call upon.Expendables-2

The Expendables 3 does, in some way, seem to address some of the concerns that many critics have had with the previous installments. With a teen friendly 12A rating, the violence has very much been toned down (although the gloriously over-the-top violence was, if anything, part of the charm of the first two), and younger cast members have been jotted on to the roaster in order to address the concerns of the geriatric stars doing too much then they are believably capable of. But in this young band of expendables are exactly that; there is barely anybody who is worth your attention or concern. The characters, played by Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz, Glenn Powell, and Rhonda Rousey, are poorly developed, with very little in the way of unique personalities (I cn barely remember their names. Was one called Thor?). The only one who is memorable in anyway is Rousey. The UFC fighter strikes an intimidating pose, but can’t act for toffee. But hey, she’s got more screen presence than her young co-horts.

The more gleeful performances come from, of course, the old stalwarts of the cast. The returning dependable expendables have lesser to do this time around, with Stallone conveniently giving himself the Lion’s share of the screen-time. But what time is given to the newer cast-mates of the older generation does delight, for the most part. The wonderfully OTT opening re-introduces Wesley Snipes to action cinema following his recent incarceration. Snipes exudes the charisma that made him such a watchable screen-presence in the early 90’s, as he clearly revels in the chance to run with the pack. Harrison Ford, filling the void of the exposition spouting spook left in the wake of Bruce Willis, has his tongue firmly in cheek and gives much more energy to this film than I was expecting, despite much of his action taking his place either on the phone or behind the controls of a Heli-copter, with shockingly awful green-screen to accompany him in the background. Less successful is the inclusion of Antonio Banderas. While he is certainly not lacking in energy, his usually radiant screen charisma seems somewhat off note. His character, Spanish Mercernary Galgo, is too rambunctious and irritating to be charming, and despite attempts to give him a tragic backstory, one is left too numbed by the cartoon-esque characterisation to care.

Expendables-3The most impressive addition to the cast is in the form of its villain. The Expendables franchise is one that has struggled to establish memorable antagonists; Eric Roberts was lacking in any quirks, and while Jean Claude Van Damme was certainly having a lot of fun, he was never given a truly great moment to strut his stuff. While that is unfortunately the case again with Mel Gibson, his Stonebanks leaves more of an impression. The ferocious charisma of former Detective Sergeant Riggs allows for many of his scenes to brim with a steady degree of tension, particularly during one verbal confrontation between him and Stallone at the tail end of the second act. Gibson seems to be making a career out of playing up his own Hollywood Bad Guy image, and when he’s having this much fun doing it,  it’s kinda hard not to join in on the joke. In a film with so many ego’s clashing with each other, it is something to be commended that Gibson is the one that you are drawn to among-st the muscle-bound action stars of today and yester-year.

In regards to the action, Hughes is unsuccessful in orchestrating any spectacle that is truly memorable. The film blows its wad early in the aforementioned opening sequence, as our heroes spring Snipes out of a high speed train. Hughes doesn’t show a great deal of flair with his action, but appears to have a good eye for sky-scapes in particular. The film lacks a distinctive visual personality, which is somewhat worrying considering Hughes has signed on for the US remake of The Raid. If this film is anything to go by, then we have more cause for concern than we initially anticipated. The effects are cheap, the Expendables-4editing, at times, is disorientating, and the lack a violent spectable spectacle leaves some scenes feeling very dry and lacking in a final punch. The action sails by on the sheer ridiculousness of it all, and on the self-referential winks, toned down somewhat from the second (which is probably for the best) but still managing to bring a goofy grin across the face of many an action-movie fan, despite a knowing sense of how cheesy and stupid the whole affair is.

Poor box-office receipts and lack luster reviews would seem to signify that this episode is the last we will see of The Expendables on our cinema screens, and that is for the best. The film holds a keen awareness that many of these guys days are numbered in the realm of action cinema. With most of Stallone and company on the wrong side of 60, this period of rejuvenation is most certainly coming to its end. Whilst blood has been spilled, one liners spat, and fun had, it is perhaps time to hang up the six shooter and steroids, kick back with a stogie and be happy with the legacy that has been left behind. And while I doubt The Expendables 3 is one anyone will ever look back on as a highlight, it is a ride that is willing to let you on should you be so inclined. So, check our brain at the station, grab your AA-12, and have a blast.

3/5- Seemingly content in its own ridiculousness and light-handedness, The Expendables 3 offers itself as disposable fun with your favourite action stars, and nothing more. You had me at Kaboom.