So, you’ve got this film franchise about pension-age ass-kickers, and it’s called the Expendables, but three movies in, not one of them has been even remotely expended. The true expendables are the endless tide of mooks hurled randomly in their direction like so much skeet. This latest movie is trying to brood on the burden of ageing and the war on terror, but if they want to look clever, they could just include a fraction of the knowingness that underpinned all those scenes in the Austin Powers movies where we cut away to the families and drinking buddies of the latest body count, wondering what was keeping them….
Blessedly, for the first time in weeks, Expendables 3 was not in mandatory 3-D, probably because that would have been at least two more dimensions than any of the characters needed, but possibly just because the cast were trying to do as many of the effects as they could the way that they were used to, which is to say 80s style. Back in the 80s, if you wanted something to blow up, you just had to go out there with a bag of C4 and a bucket of petrol and wire it up for real, and hope that not too many people would get hurt in the excitement.
Just like its two equallystupid predecessors, Expendables 3 starts with a side-quest, has a mission gone wrong in the middle and ends in an extravaganza of property damage and collateral casualties which somehow leaves the principal cast unscratched and with an opportunity to deliver one signature more and one quip each so that everyone in the audience gets whatever they came for, or at least the best possible value from their lobotomy.
The opening romp, where they rescue Wesley Snipes from an “Armoured Prison Train”, is not a patch on the silly opener from the second movie, though they deserve bonus points for even daring to pretend that there’s such a thing as an armoured prison train, particularly in a world where it can be taken down by four idiots in a helicopter despite its armour, anti-aircraft cannons and hordes of armed mooks. Then it’s off to Somalia (the only REAL location mentioned at any time in the movie - I guess they figure the Somalis weren’t going to sue) to meet this movie’s villain, played by Mel Gibson as though he’s been wanting to do this his whole life. Somalia seems to be where the Imperial Stormtroopers recruit and train their staff before putting them in white armour, as brigades of blurry figures line up to be mown down by the Un-Expendables without so much as mussing our heroes’ hair. There’s a moment where a whole platoon of them show up in a school bus and get swept away by machine gun fire before they can do more than brandish their AKs. At that point I was wondering if anyone in Mogdishu had anything else to do but wait around on the off chance that today was the day the Un-Expendables would be passing through.
For the first time in ages, Mel Gibson is the best thing in a movie, though as with some of Tom Cruise’s better moments, you have to wonder how much of it is acting and how much of it is things was the director saying “Just be yourself.” Of course, as with most 80s movies villains, he’s somehow simultaneously a criminal mastermind, a terrible people manager and the worst strategist evar. His cunning plan for the end of the movie involves luring the Un-Expendables into a building wired with enough explosives to blow it to the moon and back. Plan B is to throw a regiment of special forces and a tank battalion at the building. Plan C; shoot your surviving minions and stomp over to the going-to-explode-at-any-minute building and challenge Sly to a fistfight. Mel couldn’t be any more 80s villain if he tried.
Apparently, there’s a bold action movie step right at the end of the movie where Arnie and Jet Li are implied to be gay partners. Hmmm. If you wanted to take our minds off the fact that pretty much everything else is just so worryingly full of <strikethrough>homo-eroticism</strikethrough> manly friendship, maybe you shouldn’t have chosen to climax in “Assmanistan”.