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The Expendables 3 - Review

The Expendables 3

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE biggest problem with Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables franchise is that it consistently promises more than it ultimately delivers, especially given the talent assembled. That it remains a guilty pleasure is purely down to the combined charisma of his cast of ageing action icons.

So, having recruited Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas and Kelsey Grammer to the fold for this third film, expectations were once again high that this could be the best Expendables yet.

Unfortunately, it’s more of the same, if somewhat watered down in an attempt to broaden the franchise’s appeal to a teen market. That is to say, very little risk. The Expendables of the title still prove to be more irreplaceable than disposable, content to dodge bullets rather than catch them and deliver any edge.

The script, too, remains decidedly lightweight – better at self-referencing than it is at delivering any lasting emotional impact.

But what makes this latest Expendables outing perhaps a little more disappointing is the presence of Mel Gibson, who by Stallone’s own admission was originally a first choice to direct. Now, that would have been a tasty proposition – a hard-edged, risk-filled, full-on movie in the vein of Gibson’s previous efforts (a la Apocalypto or Braveheart) that could well have leant the Expendables the kind of Sam Peckinpah/Wild Bunch vibe it’s long been crying out for.

Instead, Gibson gets to chew scenery as this film’s big villain, Conrad Stonebanks, a former brother-in-arms and Expendables co-founder who has since gone rogue as an arms dealer, and who makes it his mission to try and terminate those he once helped to build.

After one intense and costly encounter Stallone’s Barney Ross decides to disband his group of trusty regulars in favour of recruiting a newer, younger, more tech-savvy bunch of Expendables (including Twilight’s Kellan Lutz and mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey), only to find that they’re also no real match for Stonebanks and having to return to the old-timers for one final stand against his nemesis.

It’s left to Patrick Hughes, of cult Australian Western Red Hill fame, to deliver the ensuing carnage, which by virtue of its 12A certificate feels more audience friendly and a million miles removed from the kind of no-nonsense offerings that used to define these hard men of cinema (that said, a harder DVD cut is on its way).

To be fair, Hughes delivers some decent action sequences (particularly late on), while the camaraderie that continues to exist between the central players is always worth checking out. Indeed, it’s often in the quieter moments that the film really excels, thereby allowing the likes of Gibson (great, especially when going verbally toe to toe with Stallone), Banderas (loony but fun) and Grammer (a nice addition) some moments to shine. Ford, too, seems to be enjoying himself for a change.

Hence, if you can lower your expectations at the door and give into what the franchise has become, rather than what it still could be, The Expendables 3 remains an enjoyable enough ride, albeit much, much less than the sum of its parts.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 123mins
UK Release Date: August 14, 2014