With the likes of superheroes, space-warriors and even hyper-intelligent apes now ruling the action genre, one wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking the age of man was all but over when it came to saving the world. Hollywood veteran and action legend Sylvester Stallone supposedly has other plans however, as he and his own private army of golden oldies explode back onto screens once again, as undeniable proof that, although you apparently can’t flog a dead horse, there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a bloody good try.
Once again sailing under the well-worn banner of his ultimate hero team-up franchise The Expendables (now onto their third outing), Stallone reunites action greats Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolph Lundgren (among others) for another top secret suicide mission. This time hot on the heels of a former comrade turned war-lord, the team find themselves joined by a young squad of new recruits on a one-way trip into the very heart of Eastern Europe, where plenty of cheesy one-liners and over-egged gun battles await.
Straight off the bat, it’s very clear that for Expendables fans: there is nothing new here. Stallone leads his greying cast of veteran psychopaths into a series of hyper violent explosion-based scenarios, mumbles a few moody catchphrases and consistently considers retirement throughout. The whole set-up still finds itself firmly rooted in the much-loved 80s action formula that made Stallone and co stars, but what is lacking here is that fierce dedication that made the likes of Rambo so much fun to watch. The Expendables series has become nothing more than a tired vehicle for Stallone and his old friends to spoof themselves on-screen, and when they’re all in on the joke, it’s no where near as funny.
Line after line of cheap, trashy dialogue is muttered through a barrage of sly grins and visible winking to the point where the cast are having far more fun than even the audience are. On top of this, most of the intentional laughs are lost due to a cast filled out with cage-fighters and burly non-actor types, whilst the film’s key focus, its huge-scale action set pieces, are largely chopped to pieces by studio-editors desperate to achieve a lower age rating. All that really remains is a stunted and rather sad-looking low-rent action picture clinging so closely to its roots that it spends more time bordering on parody than it does actually doing anything worthwhile.
Despite its poor-production and generational worries however, Stallone does still know how to put on a show, and for fans of his previous work, there is still quite a bit to entertain here. Whereas his delivery is just as gargled as before, the man knows his way around a weapon, and the same can be said for his comrades. What is left of the action is still relatively absorbing and where this third outing finds supremacy over its predecessors is in its more in-depth set-ups, with a respectable amount of time actually being spent on revealing Mel Gibson’s, dare I say it, excellent villain. Certain new elements (namely Antonio Banderas’ highly-chatty Spaniard Galgo) dance a very thin line between amusing and annoying but for self-confessed fans of the action genre, there is enough here to warrant a viewing or two, if partly through gritted-teeth.
Stallone’s half-hearted attempts to rekindle the former magic of his youth may never really end, but with three well-cast team-up movies now in the can, one can hope he certainly at least thinks about retiring the now-withering Expendables banner once and for all. It’s fun to see your old action heroes prancing about on screen again, but the party has to end someday, and the magic is definitely long-gone from this franchise.
The Expendables 3, directed by Patrick Hughes, is released in UK cinemas by Lionsgate, Certificate 12A. Watch the trailer below: