It was inevitable that we would reach this point. The first two films in the franchise were successful enough to warrant a third visit to the world of The Expendables. There was a genuine warmth accorded the release of the films as movie goers of a certain age still hold the numerous stars in high regard. The question that was asked when number three was announced was how were they are going to top the previous efforts. The answer? Go bigger!
Barney (Sylvester Stallone) and what is left of his team is on a mission. They are setting up to free Doc (Wesley Snipes) a member of the team incarcerated for seven years in a Russian prison. After the successful rescue, they stop off for a quick pick up only to be confronted with the sight of Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). He was a founder member of The Expendables and Barney thought that he had killed him. After the team takes a bit of a kicking at the hands of Stonebanks, Barney decides to go after him and finish the job. Deeming it too precarious for his old crew, he dismisses them and hires a new team of expendables who are younger, faster and more comfortable with technology.
It is hard to find anything to like in this film. It is kind of a mess from start to finish and was clearly made just for a cash grab based on the previous films and the reputations of the stars. The story line is poor to say the least. There at least three points in the movie where you end up coming to the assumption that they were making it up as they went along. Some of the plot holes are just plain embarrassing. The audience is left in no doubt about what is going to happen next and just how the film will reach its climax.
With so many stars involved it is inevitable that some would lose out in terms of screen time. That doesn’t excuse the fact the Jason Statham is so underused. He is the best damn thing about the franchise and his move to the side is to the detriment of the film. Jet Li is on screen for all of five minutes and does not participate in any fight sequences. A total waste for someone who is listed as one of the main stars. Sadly some of the actors are really starting to look a bit tired as well. Dolph Lundgren was his usual wooden self and it looks like Mr Schwarzenegger has trouble walking and talking at the same time. He also has the worst hair dye seen on-screen this year.
Wesley Snipes still looks the part of an action star, but he is let down with some ridiculous dialogue and his credibility is hampered by the need to spout a nonsensical catch phrase every time he sticks a knife in a bad guy. There is a running joke where Harrison Ford’s CIA agent berates Christmas (Jason Statham) for his unintelligible English accent. There was a certain amount of irony in that as during the film I found it increasing difficult to understand the mumbling technique of Stallone. Never the clearest of orators, he took it to a new level here. Several times I had no idea what he was saying. The only one to emerge from this well is Mel Gibson who plays the bad guy like a pantomime villain. He knows exactly what he is doing with the role and executes it really well.
Films like The Expendables live or die on the strength of their action set pieces. In order to achieve the lower age rating the action has been completely toned down. In order to meet the censors requirements for a 12 certificate film certain elements have to be avoided like blood and excessive language. What the film has done is to create the action scenes then edit them to remove the offending material. Thus exposing the movie to a larger potential audience. The downside of this approach is that the action beats are all disjointed. They are just not right with abrupt, and strange cuts. It takes the enjoyment out of the moment for the audience. What they do not cut out is the body count. It is massive. The team literally takes an army at one point prior to the inevitable climax. No doubt the cuts will be restored for the ‘harder’ cut of the DVD release.
Overall, the film is something of a mess. The introduction of new characters does not help to lift the film and the action scenes are uninspired and predictable. Avoid.
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