Back in 2010, Sylvester Stallone came up with an old school action flick which served as a homage to the blockbuster action films of the 1980s & 90s. With an ensemble cast of past & present action stars under one roof and relying mostly on the nostalgic factor plus tongue-in-cheek references, The Expendables went on to kick ass during its theatrical run & pleased the crowd enough to warrant a sequel. Arriving two years later was The Expendables 2 which added even more impressive names to its cast & didn’t hold back any blood, violence or gore in its action elements, for which I consider it to be an improvement over the original & a welcome addition to the franchise. So how does the newly arrived The Expendables 3 stack up against its predecessors? Let’s find out.
When it comes to The Expendables 3, the first major setback arrives in the form of its PG-13 rating; a definite downgrade for what has been an R-Rated franchise until now as Stallone wanted to reach a younger & broader audience with this sequel except that he completely forgot who the main audience for The Expendables series are. It certainly ain’t the 21st century kids but the ones who grew up watching action classics like First Blood, Predator & Die Hard. Another setback comes in the form of the film’s younger cast members who are unreservedly useless in their given roles. What’s even more disappointing (more like adding insult to injury) is that even the story focuses more on this new breed of amateurs no one gives a damn about over the series’ actual veterans.
Following the very band of highly skilled mercenaries we’re now pretty familiar with, thanks to the last two chapters, The Expendables 3 brings Barney Ross & his comrades face-to-face with Conrad Stonebanks; the co-founder of The Expendables who was presumed dead & subsequently became a ruthless arms dealer. However, when one of Barney’s men ends up being gravely injured in the ensuing stand-off, Barney soon disbands the group as he doesn’t want the surviving members to get killed for him & ultimately goes looking for a new team of younger mercenaries in order to get back at Stonebanks, who himself is hell-bent on wiping out Barney & every one of his associates. The film also covers a clash between the old school style & the new tech-savvy tactics in what is the Expendables’ most personal battle yet.
Directed by Patrick Hughes, the action sequences aren’t as bad as I thought it would be but it nonetheless feels severely hampered by the PG-13 rating for there is not one memorable moment in the picture nor any with good amount of blood or gore, something I devoured in the previous chapter. Hughes also fails to provide any sort of tension or unpredictability to the plot as the film progresses, screenplay is terrible plus also lacks the humour that was so wonderfully portrayed in the last two instalments, and when it comes to characterisation, that aspect is virtually absent from the whole picture as the reprising cast has nothing new to build their performances upon while the new characters have no meat on them. Camerawork follows into the footsteps of its predecessors, editing fails to provide proper pace or fine balance to the story, and last but not the least, Brian Tyler ends up chipping with a surprisingly good score.
Coming to the performances, the reprising cast includes Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews & Arnold Schwarzenegger while the new addition comes in Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas & Mel Gibson. The younger cast isn’t even worth talking about so I’m simply gonna skip them & only go through the other new members. Wesley Snipes brings a new energy to the team but it is very short-lived as his character steps back like the others once the younger team is introduced. Harrison Ford fills in for the role played by Bruce Willis in the last two features & does a good job. Antonio Banderas certainly is the one who ends up having the most fun in the picture. And Mel Gibson exhibits a commanding presence on the screen but it’s a shame that his character isn’t given much to do or else it would’ve been an even better performance. Lastly, as far as Sylvester Stallone goes, the actor is finally showing signs of fatigue & it is pretty evident in this chapter.
On an overall scale, The Expendables 3 presents a massive downgrade for the series as this second sequel fails at almost everything it was trying to accomplish & is a certified disappointment in every sense of the word. The direction the entire franchise seems to be heading in with this chapter has been wrong from the moment its production began, the plot is pretty generic yet not properly executed, most of its characters (both old & new) stay dull & uninteresting from start to finish as there isn’t one role in the movie that’s fleshed out enough for a convincing performance, the sustained action moments do offer little doses of excitement yet I can’t help but wonder how much improved or amazing it could’ve been if it hadn’t aimed for the insipid PG-13 rating, not to mention that it totally destroys the final showdown which has to be one of the most pathetic & boring climaxes in recent memory. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to anything more than the reach of its predecessors which at least offered an incredible amount of fun throughout its runtime. And it’s so not the case with The Expendables 3. Absolutely worth skipping.