Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li
Director: Patrick Hughes
The most impressive stunt in The Expendables 3 is stuffing so many former A-listers in the same frame. After all, how often do you see a film starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarznegger, Mel Gibson, Harisson Ford, Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas? Sadly, there's not much else that's particularly exciting about this third installment in the action franchise, which feels monotonous and forgettable despite the combined star-wattage of these grizzled veterans.
The lazy plot limps into motion after Stallone's Barney Ross and the old gang breaks Doc (Snipes) out of an armored train in the film's opening set piece. Not long after, Barney discovers that former friend-turned-foe Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), long presumed dead, is alive and kicking and dealing in arms. Determined to go after the former Expendable, but unwilling to risk the lives of his ageing friends, Barney recruits a new set of younger mercenaries to accomplish the mission.
There's a videogame-like quality to the relentless action in this film; it's noisy and unending, but also shrewdly bloodless, possibly so the makers could secure a more lenient rating from the censors. All manner of guns and knives are employed to dispatch armies of villains, who, predictably, are such poor shots, they seldom so much as scrape our heroes.
The younger cast - including real-life MMA fighter Ronda Rousey - don't exactly get a chance to shine in those barely-developed parts. Of the seniors, Ford, playing a cranky CIA boss, looks bored to tears, and Banderas, intended as comic relief, misfires as a way-too-chatty assassin. The only actor who comes out of this mess unscathed is Gibson, who plays the bad guy with a menacing grin and a sly glint that gives the film some vim. But it's the interplay between the actors that remains the main draw of these films, and director Patrick Hughes squeezes in a few good bits, including the tentative relationship between Jason Statham and Snipes' characters.
Alas, these are small mercies in a disappointing film that might have benefitted from investing more in script rewrites than star salaries. I'm going with a generous two out of five for The Expendables 3. Its nostalgia value aside, this is one noisy bore.