The Expendables 3 review: All nostalgia, nothing new

August 23, 2014 07:57 pm | Updated 08:42 pm IST

The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3

T he Expendables 3 does have the odd, oddly entertaining one-liner — but filling in the blanks between all the action-hero small talk is one heck of a lot of bang-bang action.

So the selling proposition of the film is the latter stuff; and that stuff is okay. Not inspired, not high-octane, not innovative, not adrenaline-pumping — just okay. Overall, we’re talking lots of bullets, a high body-count, a couple of set pieces, and a string of indeterminate explosions. The blood and gore is tuned down, and the star count ratcheted up.

When the first film of the franchise came out, it felt fresh, action-packed and clever. Here was a smart premise that worked by undercutting itself: all of the last millennium’s favourite action stars returning to act as, well, a bunch of old-timers, who are technically way past their sell-by date — but feel they have a few battles left in them.

Experience and old-world charm — just as much as the brawn and bash-em-up refrain — won the day for the first film. By the third instalment, however, the novelty has worn off, the action feels tired, and even the storyline is very thin on the ground, despite three writing credits — Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt. Director Patrick Hughes doesn’t seem able to coax out anything unusual from the threadbare plot.

Genre: Action/Adventure Director: Patrick Hughes Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren Storyline: A group of old-timer mercenaries are hired to capture an arms dealer who turns out to be an old comrade gone bad Bottomline: Expendable action film

The aforementioned plot is easily summed up in a line — the mercenary gang called the Expendables headed by Barney Ross (Stallone) is hired to track down a Baddie who, it turns out, was formerly one of their own.

Only if you are on a nostalgia trip is the acting line-up worth the price of entry. You can hear the soundtrack in your head: “Awww, it’s Rocky; ooh here comes the Terminator; wasn’t Hans Solo just your childhood hero; wait, there’s Blade; hmmm-mmm the Transporter….”

These charismatic yesteryear action stars appear at regular intervals, from the terminally cranky Harrison Ford as the shadowy new employer of the Expendables to the maniacal Mel Gibson as Conrad Stonebanks, the main Baddie of the piece.

What’s new? Well, when it appears that the Expendables — including Lee Christmas (Statham) and the newly rescued Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) — are disbanding, a younger crew of dispensables is recruited to complete the job of capturing Stonebanks.

Does the inclusion of this younger bunch — played by Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz and Ronda Rousey (who in real life is the best female mixed martial artist in the world) — suggest another instalment in the franchise, an alternate expendable universe spin-off or a simple way to hook a younger audience? Hard to tell.

There are a few good turns in the movie — especially from Snipes and Gibson who remind us they were strong presences on the silver screen once upon a less-tarnished time. But that’s not enough to justify the on-going series. When Trench Mauser (Schwarzenegger) tells Barney at one stage “I’m getting out of this business, and so should you”, it feels like good advice.

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