Whatever your reaction was to parts one and two of Stallone’s collaborative bullet fest that is the Expendables franchise (part four has been more or less confirmed), you can be pretty sure you will feel exactly the same about this one, largely because the formula has just been reapplied once again replete with the expected increase in the amount of famous names gracing the screen and the number of explosions and bodies they strew each scene with. It’s a series of films that never manages to be as good as it should be, with no real tension and a humour level that always falls short of where you wish it would get to.
To be fair, the writers (Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt and Stallone) have more or less done the right thing with the story. Terry Crews is brutally injured during an op gone wrong (presumably penance for appearing in ‘Blended‘) and the team suffers the double whammy of realising an old arch nemesis of Stallone’s is still alive – Mel Gibson (who is arguably the best in the film, relishing in the role of the villain much as he did in ‘Machete Kills‘). Thinking it’s time to protect his, only slightly, aged crew Stallone gives them the elbow and hires new blood in the guise of Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz and female recruit Ronda Rousey – the mixed martial artist and Olympic medallist in her first film role. You can probably guess how the old hands take the news as everything builds to the inevitable finale at Gibson’s complex in, wait for it …. Assmenistan (the suffix ‘stan’, incidentally, means ‘land of’, so this literally means ‘land of the Assmen’).
The action manages to put even the scene in ‘Hot Shots! Part Duex’ (93) where there is a running tally of kills to shame, as enemy soldiers drop like flies every time one of the Expendables points any weapon in roughly their direction. Not content with this basic annihilation though, the various stars of the action genre’s yester year seem to have had a running competition on the go of ‘see who can deliver the most ridiculously self referential line in the weirdest way’ as we witness Schwarzenegger cry ‘CHOPPA!!!’ multiple times and watch Harrison Ford’s government agent Max Drummer say ‘don’t worry about Church, he’s out of the picture’ (Church was previously played by Bruce Willis, but he reputedly asked for a huge fee to come back, and so they just axed him instead. I think they should have at least offered him one dollar for his services first).
The references run the gamut from fun to cringe worthy – as do the one-liners in general. At the beginning the team are trying to break Wesley Snipes out of incarceration, and of course he did just recently get released from jail after a three year stint for tax evasion, so that was a nice touch. Ford saying from a helicopter as he drops a bomb on enemies below ‘Drummer is in the house’ not only must have had the people in the back of the chopper concerned about the sanity of the pilot, but he also delivers it in the sort of matter of fact way you’d say something like ‘there’s milk in the fridge’ – and that kind of sums up the mix that exists for all the cast at one point or another. There’s no Chuck Norris this time around with Antonio Banderas as the other note worthy addition to the crew, and despite some decent action scenes there is a definite lukewarm feel to everything, although given the premise perhaps more credit is due for at least treading water and not letting the series nosedive into complete farce. Here’s hoping the fourth one is more worthwhile.