Monday, 8 December 2014

The Expendables 3

Back in the day I was never really a Sylvester Stallone fan. Nope, my go-to choice for mindless 80's action was none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. From classics such as Terminator, Predator, Conan the Barbarian and Total Recall, to more air-headed action in the likes of Red Heat, Commando, The Running Man and The 6th Day, he is one of my favourite actors out there. Maybe “actor” is a strong word for Arnie, but nonetheless I love almost everything he has done. While I did like the Rocky series, my appreciation for all things Arnie prevented me from getting into Stallone. That changed when I saw both Judge Dredd and Demolition Man in the 90's, two of my favourite guilty pleasure films of all time. So when I first heard about The Expendables series- a series that basically stars as many action legends as humanly possible- I was pretty hyped. I loved it, and also really enjoyed the second one that also featured Arnie. But with Stallone making the third instalment of the series for a PG-13 audience, has the bloody heart of the series been ripped out? Sadly, yes.

Directed by Patrick Hughes and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes The Expendables 3, a film that tries in welcome in younger viewers, but in doing so turns it back on fans of the first two. The plot is pretty simple. Barney Ross is leader of the Expendables, the aged, weathered and battered ragtag group of mercenaries for hire. They're the best at what they do, and after gaining a lot of attention over the years, yet another bad dude is trying to take them down. However, this isn't just any bad dude, this is Conrad Stonebanks, former co-founder of the Expendables. You see, Conrad is an arms dealer, and a world in which the Expendables are alive is a world in which he's losing money on conflicts and wars. For Barney Ross this is his most personal and deadly mission to date, so he'll need to recruit a whole new generation of fresh faced (and utterly vapid) Expendables to help take out Stonebanks. It's action flick 101 shit, but hey, an action film doesn't need a flashy or in-depth premise. It does the job.

As in the first two films, the entire cast in The Expendables 3 is awesome. From series regulars such as Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren, to new faces like Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Kelsey Grammer and Antonio Bandreas, this is the dream cast for any action film fan out there. When watching the film I just got the feeling that everyone was just having a laugh, enjoying themselves and more than happy to be making a throwback to the classic 80's and 90's action films of yesteryear. Apart from the new, younger members of the team, it's hard to not like the cast, as even as it expands to almost featuring too many characters, each one is unique and is integral to the team.

However, beyond the pretty great cast The Expendables 3 is a film that merely teases the viewer. Because the film is rated PG-13 (the first two films were rated R in America) in order to perhaps bring in a younger audience, it has little or no edge. I'm not looking for violence for the sake of violence, but when watching The Expendables 3's kills are just so lifeless and fake looking. Remember in the first film when Terry Crews unleashes his behemoth of a weapon on the bad guys in the tunnel? Chunks of their bodies exploded and flew off. Remember in the second film when Jean-Claude Van Damme roundhouse kicks a hunting knife deep into a guys chest? That made me wince and look away. Well none of that edge is here, and this leads to the stakes feeling disappointingly low. I wasn't looking for a gore-fest of a film, but The Expendables 3 is missing the badass heart the first film, and to a lesser extent the second.

Beyond that the action is pretty decent, but while a lot of it is done using real people and sets, compared to the first film I can see the series starting to use more and more CGI. That, on top of the fact that it's a PG-13 film, cheapen it quite a bit. Sure, The Expendables 3 has guys and girls kicking ass, explosions from wall to wall, Mel Gibson chewing up the scenery, a great cast of genuine action heroes and some good jokes throughout, but it ultimately feels like a more audience friendly, subdued and castrated version of what came before it. Apparently Stallone has learned from his mistakes and aims to make The Expendables 4 more like the first two. I look forward to it, as sadly The Expendables 3 just doesn't satisfy my action flick needs.

The Expendables 3 is expendable and gets a 2/5.


Denis Murphy

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