Magazine article Screen International

The Expendables 3

Magazine article Screen International

The Expendables 3

Article excerpt

Dir: Patrick Hughes. US. 2014. 126mins

Big guns, big explosions and big muscles (and plenty of them), The Expendables 3 serves up the expected mish-mash of blazing action, set-piece stunt scenes, testosterone a-plenty and a welcome handful of amusing asides - delivered in between fast draws, knife-fights and cigar-chomping - and while there is perhaps too much repetition and exposition it is a film that resolutely delivers exactly what its hard-core fan-base is after. The hefty cast of heavyweight action stars lumber into battle with a certain macho glee, but the bloodletting is downplayed this time round as the franchise seeks to lure the youth market into its celebration of honour, war and big ol' guns.

None of the newbies can compete with Mel Gibson's smiling, snarling bad guy. He plays a formulaic villain with a rushed back-story but Gibson invests some real personality into the role...and personality is a rare thing when it comes to the Expendables films.

This time round we get even more Expendables for our buck. Out goes the increasingly smug-seeming Bruce Willis and in comes Harrison Ford (though he has little to do), and on the bad guy front the dispatch of Jean-Claude Van Damme in The Expendables 2 allows room for Mel Gibson to deliver an impressively judged psycho performance that is up there with his on-screen loopiness in the Lethal Weapon series. The Expendables franchise - and its marketing-friendly star roster - will have an appeal at the box office, but its old-fashioned format will be unlikely to dislodge The Guardians Of The Galaxy from the summer top spot, though it will undoubtedly fare well internationally.

That elephant in the room - the age of these bulky macho men - is addressed to a certain extent (though you can bet none of their screen characters match their actual ages) as team leader Barney (the reliable Stallone) decides to pep up his team with some more tech savvy younger members. He also - shock, horror - adds a woman to this new team (UFC fighter Ronda Rousey) which offers up some smartly staged fight scenes, much flicking of long blonde hair and some inept flirting from some of her aged compatriots.

As the film opens Barney and his boys are busy staging a jailbreak on a train. He has found out the one of his original crew, Doc Death (Snipes, whose 'wittiest' line is when he calls himself "the knife before Christmas" when competing for the top knife wrangler award with Barney's second-in-command Lee Christmas, played with muscular panache as always by Jason Statham) is being held on board, and since he needs another guy for their latest mission they decide to bust him out. But things get dark and more complex when it turns out the arms warlord they have been sent to take out is in fact Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), a man who helped set up the team and whom Barney had thought he had killed years before when Stonebanks went rogue.

When things go bad and one of the team is seriously injured a downbeat Barney heads home and decides to put his old guard to one side and recruit some young fighters - Kellan Lutz (Twilight), Rousey, boxer Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell - with the aid of (rather bizarrely in an Expendables film) Kelsey Grammer, an old buddy who is essentially an Expendables talent scout. With his team of fresh-faced newbies he heads back to tackle Stonebanks (the key thrust being that he doesn't want old friends to die and this new bunch know they may be on a one-way trip), but when things go wrong - again - it is left to the old guard to try and save the day. Plus in the form of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Trench he even calls on the 'even-older guard'. …

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