Smile if you’re in it for less than 5 minutes.

It’s ironic and not just a little sad that The Expendables 3, or hashtagEX3 as its marketing wants you, the kids, to refer to it, seems to want to look to the future because for the most part it is an anaemic recreation of the past (which may actually be what the modern world is like – I’m still not quite sure but will amend this article appropriately should my findings change).

Despite being unable to age like a normal person, Stallone lumbers aimlessly through each scene that doesn’t require him to shout or shoot someone, meeting other remnants of action films from the past. They mumble at each other for a few minutes then shamble off. And then the character pretty much disappears for most of the film’s running time and you wonder if that scene existed or if this is what the early stages of dementia feels like.

What’s most insulting – even to fans of the worst of 80s action cinema – isn’t the way hashtagEX3 thinks it can keep you entertained by trotting out the stars of Christmas past to bloodlessly murder hundreds of generic henchmen, or roll out to recant their most famous lines like they’re in an expensive end-of-pier performance, it’s the way that there’s barely an ounce of passion, innovation or effort made in its construction. The script, written by 3 people (probably at the same time and on the same typewriter) is so trite and predictable that video-shops, should they still exist, would have to create a new bottom shelf in order to have somewhere to stock it.

Most of the blame can be placed on Stallone himself. Now looking like a totemic recreation of a sullen owl, or a hastily constructed replica of the Rocky Balboa statue fashioned from grizzled kebab meat, he seems to be sleepwalking through the role of ‘grumbling old man who likes to kill people’. He also surrounds himself with people who can’t act whilst giving short shrift to those who have talent, screen presence or you might actually want to see on screen.

This is doubly disappointing because others actually seem to give a crap. Arnie appears to be having fun fulfilling the role of an inappropriate uncle at a family gathering. Banderas too, is obviously having a blast playing Puss in Boots with his actual body. Snipes reminds you what a great screen presence he is, whilst Mel Gibson embarrasses almost everyone by utilising something called ‘acting’*.

But for the most part Expendables 3 concerns itself with Stallone and a bunch of children using modern techniques like ‘computers’ and the 12A rating to combat the villains. This comes at the expense of almost everything else – not just the actors you want to see. It seems that logic, consistency, character motivation and coherency are just as disposable as the laughing band of murderous mercenaries that make up the title.

In fact the only thing that appears to be ‘pendable’ is Stallone’s hubris. As ridiculous as it may seem, perhaps the best way to make a Stallone film these days is probably without him stealing the running time and churning out random scenes of recycled dialogue and calling it a script. Maybe we’ll see that in the forthcoming female-centric ‘Expendabelles’ – though I wouldn’t bet against the debut of ‘Sylvia Stallone’ bravely attempting to wrestle the limelight from Cynthia Rothrock.

* That’s without mentioning the fact that for some reason Jet Li is hired only to hang off a helicopter and machine gun people and the excellent Terry Crews spends most of the film lying in a hospital bed. This suggests that he may be even smarter than real life Chemical Engineer graduate Dolph Lundgren who spends most of his time playing a large moron locked in a tank.

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