Title: The Expendables 3
Director: Patrick Hughes
Major Players: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson et al
Out Of Five: 2
Two, as they say, is company, but three’s a crowd. Unless you’re thinking of The Expendables, the saga about a group of aging mercenaries and likely cinematic descendants of the Wild Geese. If you are, then you’ll know one is more than enough.
According to the dictionary, an expendable is somebody of relatively little significance who can be abandoned or destroyed easily. The same goes for the film. In this latest in the series, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) is on a mission with his usual crew – Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren – that goes horribly wrong. But in between dodging bullets and explosions, he discovers that his old adversary, Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) isn’t as dead as he thought he was. He’s very much alive and Barney’s ordered by the CIA’s Drummer (Harrison Ford) to bring him in for trial for war crimes. And he needs a new, younger team to do it.
Sylvester Stallone is pretty much to blame for this one: not only did he come up with the story – presumably on the back of a postage stamp – but he co-wrote it as well. I know because, unlike some of the other people in the audience, I did at least wait until the list of the accused – sorry, credits – had started to roll. Do you get the idea that I wasn’t terribly impressed? Surprisingly, you’d be right.
It’s all rather like watching an inferior version of the A Team, if that can be imagined, but without the laughs. There are plenty of attempts at them but most are drowned out by all the shooting, explosions and general noise. A few manage to break through, although it’s questionable whether it’s worth it, like the obvious ones with Ford not able to understand anything Statham says. Arnie Schwarzenegger has bagged the best of what there is for himself: he last little else to do, after all. He tells Stallone “I’m getting out of this business. You should too.” No kidding! Stallone is looking way too old for this type of film and so does Arnie, even if the twinkle in his eye shows that he’s, wisely, not taking it too seriously.
The worst thing about The Expendables 3 is that it commits the unpardonable sin of being just downright boring. I heard somebody confess to nodding off during the explosive climax and found myself counting the number of explosions. If you’re interested, there were 40 as far as I could tell and most of them were in the finale. The plot is cliché ridden and obvious and the characters close to being made of cardboard. The solitary desperately needed piece of entertainment is one of the newcomers, Antonio Banderas as an overly talkative but well-intentioned Latino. And thank goodness for him.
For all the action, explosion and shooting, it’s a surprisingly bloodless film. The number of bullets sprayed around would keep a munitions factory in business for months and the members of Stallone’s team are remarkably good shots, almost always hitting their targets. Yet, given all the injuries and bodies, there’s very little of the red stuff in sight.
This should have been the proverbial Friday night film: go out with some mates, hang your brain out to dry and watch a movie before the mandatory curry ‘n’ beer. But even if you do leave your brains behind, you hope that you’re going to see something that’s at least entertaining and reasonably well made. Not here. It’s mindless. Yet for some unaccountable reason, Stallone is already talking about a fourth in the series. This time an all-woman version, called The Expendabelles. Gimme strength!
The Expendables 3 is on general release from Thursday, 14 August. If you must.