The writing was on the wall that this would sink, as soon as they sanitized it with a PG-13 rating. I’ve already covered that inane decision earlier this year, but now I’ve officially seen the results. Who did the studios think was going to see all of these old guys (most of the “famous” part of the cast ranging in age from 51 to 72!)–young guys? They might as well have expected the “Frozen” crowd, it would’ve made as much sense. The purpose of this occasionally diverting series is for pushing-50 guys like me, to watch our favorite action stars of previous decades, blow shit up–and blow it up good! Casting a bunch of ‘B’ team youngsters (Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, boxing champion Victor Ortiz–all in their 20’s), and toning down on the bloody mayhem, is simply going to backfire. Which it did–“The Expendables 3” missed breaking a paltry 40 million dollars, domestically. That could be a death knell for the continuation of this series (although there is some talk about a “The Expendables 4”, as the third part performed stronger internationally).
Plot? Who cares?! It’s mostly incomprehensible anyway. The Expendables first intercept a shipment of weapons to a foreign warlord, after rescuing a former member (Wesley Snipes as “Doctor Death”), who’s being transported from prison aboard a train (an exciting sequence). A member of the Expendables is seriously injured on the mission (Terry Crews, returning as Hale Caesar), while group leader Barney Ross (who else but Sylvester Stallone) finds that the trader behind the arms transfer, is none other than former partner, and current “thought-deceased” rival, Conrad Stonebanks (just happy to be working, anti-semite Mel Gibson). So, Ross and his team are hired (by C.I.A. officer Max Drummer–a terribly out-of-place looking Harrison Ford) to capture Stonebanks, and bring him home to justice–but Barney decides to recruit some young blood, so he doesn’t get his “old” friends slaughtered. Anyone want to guess who arrives to save the inexperienced newbies when all goes awry?
The jokes are all still lame, plus they are even losing their nostalgic edge (although it’s a blast to hear Arnold Schwarzenegger yell “get to thee chopp-ah! “Predator”, anyone?). Do even loyal fans chuckle at monikers like Hale Caesar and Toll Road (Randy Couture)? A tighter edit could’ve helped this chapter (it clocks in at 126 minutes), and a more seasoned director (Patrick Hughes, replacing the action-savvy Simon West, of the “The Expendables 2”) wouldn’t have hurt either. Also, the creative team is starting to push the stunts from ridiculous level to the truly ridiculous level…never a good sign (see “A Good Day to Die Hard” for evidence of this…but only if you are a masochist). Hey, cheese we like, but let’s try keeping things a little bit real. There are bright spots too. It’s nice to have Wesley Snipes back in action, after the actor spent some time in jail for tax evasion (do you think they manage to work an inside joke on that into the script?). And Antonio Banderas is all manic, goofy fun as an Expendables wannabee. Even Gibson shines…asshole that he is. But too much of it falls flat. And it should’ve been tougher. And bloodier. And rated ‘R’. Remember that for next time, Sly–if you get the chance.