Don’t ask me why, but I was a little worried going into this third instalment of a franchise I have enjoyed so much. Reviews haven’t been great for The Expendables 3, but then again they’ve rarely been great. I was, admittedly, wondering how Sly and the crew could keep serving up something as fun and exciting within the same bounds – a homage to action of days gone by, cheese and all. Fortunately they found a way, and my mind was instantly at ease watching Wesley Snipes blow up a prison and Jason Statham powersliding a truck. The franchise’s success comes down to the fact that it has the stars, complete with badass screen histories behind them. They make the plots and the action, however thin or ridiculous, just work. It’s not about good acting, although for the most part the guys do a bang-up job, it’s just that they’re there unashamedly doing what they do.
This time around the gang are facing their own mortality as an old enemy returns in the form of Mel Gibson, who fits comfortably with the antics going on. He’s a little insane, channeling a bit of Lethal Weapon‘s Riggs, and has a history with Barney, Sylvester Stallone, who feels it best to retire the crew and finish things with a suicide mission. So for the first time we have a new crew, with none other than Kelsey Grammer helping him recruit some young blood for this one-off. The old Expendables aren’t too happy with this arrangement, endangered lives or not, but things play out to have them all fighting side by side against a small Eastern European nation’s army. In other words, fear not for the old gang is still around. As for the young Expendables, they were more interesting for the plot device than their characters, which isn’t saying much. Although with the exception of MMA fighter Ronda Rousey (yes, a girl Expendable!), they were all believable actors at the least.
There are some other new entrants to the fray, including Gibson, and they’re all great. Wesley Snipes as Doc gets to crack some skulls right from the get go as he’s rescued from a prison train. What was he in for? Tax evasion. Harrison Ford was a last minute replacement for Bruce Willis as Barney’s CIA contact, and there are a few jokes at Willis’ expense, no pun intended. I’m glad to report that he’s still got it, maybe not in the sense that Chuck Norris does, but he get some chopper flying action towards the end. And yes, Arnie does get to deliver a few classic lines about this particular helicopter, among other things. Ford is probably the best actor on show too, or maybe it’s just that he gets to play the most sensible character. You can’t forget about Antonio Banderas though, who had me laughing out loud in all of his scenes as the fiery Galgo, who just wants something to do and someone to talk to. These guys all get to kick a fair amount of arse, although
I found it a little strange that the film only received a PG-13 from the MPAA, an M here in Australia, with all the killing and arse-kicking going on. The point has concerned some fans, myself included, although I can’t see there’s any less violence, just a little less blood and gore.
Despite what may be said about it, the film was fun, had plenty of action, and stayed true to that classic 80s/90s action style that made the other two so great. It won’t be winning any Academy Awards any time soon, but it sure as hell deserves to be in your DVD collection, next to Commando and Lethal Weapon. Suffice to say I enjoyed it, perhaps not quite as much as the first two, but still a riot.