Director: Patrick Hughes
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes Antonio Banderas, Dolph Lungren and Kelsey Grammer
Release Date: August 14th
Question: Can a film be the best in its franchise, but still not very good? Answer: Yes, yes it can. The Expendables 3 is more dramatic and sincere than its messy, jokey predecessors, but it shares many of the previous films’ flaws.
It kicks off with a fun (if bloodless) opening scene, with Barney Ross (Stallone) and pals breaking out an old friend from a prison train. The prisoner, “Doc”, is played by Wesley Snipes (who’s barely aged a day). Snipes is in great form – clearly delighted to be back onscreen and making up for lost time. When asked why he was put away he deadpans, “tax evasion”.
The cast also includes badass action stars like Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford and…Kelsey Grammer? What’s Frasier doing here? Was Kurt Russell busy?
Anyway, Barney and friends are on the trail of a ruthless arms dealer and former colleague Stonebanks (Mel Gibson, scenery-chomping). There’s also a recruitment montage as the Expendables hire some young blood, played by four good-looking, mostly interchangeable actors.
Expendables 3 definitely has more conviction and peril than the previous two films, but still not enough. You never feel any fear for the aging action stars as they mow through countless henchmen and emerge from numerous explosions without a scratch.
The star-parade format is also big problem. Many actors only get a few lines each, and little to set them apart. Dolph Lungren, Randy Couture, Jet Li and at least two of the four newcomers have nothing to do. Often characters are given big introductions and then disappear for most of the film, making for a disjointed, messy affair.
Mel Gibson gives it his all, in fairness; initially smirking, then wild-eyed and deranged. His once pretty face is now haggard and craggy and his speech about the hypocrisy of black-op soldiers is the highlight of the film. This could have been a much tighter and more exciting affair if it had been streamlined to be Stallone vs Gibson instead of an over-stuffed reunion party.
The Expendables 3 has a few bright moments, and it generally tries harder than its predecessors, but – as always – it feels like the cast is having much more fun than the audience.