[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00M482XYC][/pullquote] Watching previous instalments of Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables films has been a bit like being shot in the stomach by Barney Ross. There’s an initial surge in adrenaline at the prospect, but ultimately it’s a slow and painful experience. Not so with The Expendables 3, probably the last instalment of this particular iteration of the franchise. It’s an over-the-top action spectacle that doesn’t have time to shoot you in the stomach because it’s too busy punching you in the face, with a metal glove, covered in explosives.
The Expendables team including Lee Christmas (Jason Stathom), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture), Gunner Jenson (Dolph Lungren) and lead by Barney Ross (Stallone) engage in a high-security train heist to release former teammate Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes). From there they are sent to stop an arms dealer from making his next sale, but upon arriving they discover that it’s actually Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a man who Ross thought he’d killed years earlier. After Caesar is shot, Ross retires his old team and enlists the help of Napolean (Kelsey Grammar) to help find some new blood to take the fight to Stonebanks.
It’s your bog-standard action film setup. There’s an evil arms dealer, the good guys try and fail to stop him, resulting in a regeneration of the team in order to evolve and finally succeed. The difference here is that the Expendables films were always designed to showcase the finest action heroes of the last generation, and if you look at the new recruits you can understand why.
Of all the new characters introduced it is the older stars who steal the show. Where moody Smilee (Kellan Lutz) tries to brood his way through a serious drama, aging Galgo (Antonio Banderas) injects surprising agility to both his action and his dialogue. It seems that he, Snipes and the scenary-chewing Gibson understand that this isn’t a serious drama and play it as big, bold and over-the-top as possible. The younger guns, including Ronda Rousey (UFC fighter) and Victor Ortiz (boxer) not only appear to have never acted before in their lives, it’s difficult to believe they were human in the first place.
This is a problem that the franchise has always suffered with, as returning hero Randy Couture proves adequately by failing to deliver even his simple dialogue with anything remotely like charisma. But the film-makers don’t care, and neither should we, because this is an action film and it is here that The Expendables 3 excels. Buildings explode, massive guns fire relentlessly and these high-adrenaline moments are interspersed with some superb knife-fighting and hand-to-hand.
This is not a subtle experiment in character development. This is a rocket-launcher wielding mess, but crucially it is a lot of fun. Unlike the po-faced original, it follows the second film in tone and style, making sure to firmly poke fun at itself, but reminding its audience that these guys are as tough as nails. There’s even a moment where cameo-hero Arnold Schwarzenegger is sat in a helicopter and gets to use one of his iconic one-liners. There are still some cringe-worthy moments like Ross and Christmas’ ˜banter’ conversations in the cockpit of the plane, or Harrison Ford’s entire appearance as Bruce Willis’ replacement. But these can be easily forgiven with a Snipes Jing-a-ling or a Banderas tale of his former squad.
Somewhere in here is the perfect action film. If you lost the non-actors, tightened up the script and had someone else write the script you could easily create a film that stands alongside the greats of the 80s and 90s. As it stands though, there is an odd charm to this one that keeps you entertained throughout.