The third instalment’s mediocre weekend box-office haul in the States ($16 million compared to $35m and £29m for parts 1 & 2) indicates the novelty value of this eighties action stars ensemble is wearing thin – but surprisingly this is actually a franchise best.
It tries to mix it up by throwing in Expendables Juniors – including The Twilight Saga’s Kellan Lutz, female UFC champ Ronda Rousey and ex-WBC Welterweight champ Victor Ortiz – and some fresh new (or is that old?) blood in the form of Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, Kelsey Grammer, Antonio Banderas and Mel Gibson, and for the most part it works.
Sadly this isn’t quite enough to get over ‘franchise fatigue’ as it still doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from the previous two movies, with similar cast type, plotting and locales.
Throw in the bizarre decision to bring the violence down a notch for a younger audience (12A from 15 over here, PG-13 from PG-17 in the States), which goes against the eighties-style violence that most of the cast built their careers on – then you’re going to repel some of the target demographic (even though to be honest it isn’t really much of a problem).
This time round Sly Stallone’s Barney Ross expires his regular team – including new member Doc (Snipes), who they bust-out of jail in an impressive opening sequence – for younger blood (see previous) to take down original ‘Expendable’ and bad guy of the piece, ruthless arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson).
Ironically, even though it does seem like more of the same, the addition of Snipes – who’s on top form and even takes time to make a self-referencing dig at himself for his recent incarceration – and particularly a stand-out Banderas, as mad ex-Spanish special forces sharpshooter Galgo, really do add to what is undeniably another formulaic ‘wham-bam’ high-octane, violence-fuelled actioner.
The new kids on the block (even though Rousey is as wooden as they come) do an okayish job – despite being overshadowed by their more-renowned peers – with Ford’s cranky CIA agent Drummer and Gibson’s decently-menacing villain, also adding much to the enjoyment.
The inevitable Stallone/Gibson fist-fight admittedly underwhelms, and the likes of Statham, Lundgren, Li and Arnie sorely underused, but with some notable action set-pieces – this really shouldn’t be considered expendable for fans of the genre.
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Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, Dolph Lundgren, Kelsey Grammer, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Robert Davi, Jet Li & Arnold Schwarzenegger
Running Time: 2 Hrs 5 Mins
Director: Patrick Hughes[youtube id=”sTte6BQndTQ” width=”600″ height=”350″]