Once more with feeling for Sly and Arnie
Following a spectacular stunt aboard a moving train that opens this third instalment of the action franchise, Arnold Schwarzenegger turns to Sylvester Stallone and wearily confides: “I’m getting out of this business... and so should you.”
Sage advice from the former governor of California.
His words fall on deaf ears because The Expendables is a cash cow for Stallone, who directed and co-wrote the opening salvo in 2010 and has been reliving his muscle-bound glory days ever since.
Australian director Patrick Hughes, who impressed with the gritty low-budget western Red Hill, takes charge of this outlandish mission festooned with bone-crunching hand-to-hand combat, pithy one-liners and deafening explosions. And The Expendables 3 certainly opens with a bang. Several.
Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his crew of battle-hardened mercenaries – Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) – orchestrate a prison breakout.
Their target: original Expendables member Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes), who has been off the grid for several years.
“I heard you killed more people than the plague,” growls Toll Road to his new comrade.
The bolstered team heads to Mogadishu at the behest of chief Max Drummer (Harrison Ford), where a spectacular skirmish at the dockyards brings Barney face-to-face with a ghost from the past.
Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), co-founder of the Expendables, who Barney was ordered to kill, is alive and exceeding well on the ill-gotten gains of the arms trade.
Faced with an adversary, who possesses unlimited supplies of state-of-the-art weaponry, Barney retires the old team and enlists the help of Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and retired medic Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) to bring down Stonebanks.
They assemble a fearless younger crew comprising bareknuckle brawler Smilee (Kellan Lutz), nightclub bouncer Luna (Ronda Rousey), hacker Thorn (Glen Powell), weaponry specialist Mars (Victor Ortiz) and infuriatingly talkative former Spanish Armed Forces operative Galgo (Antonio Banderas).
The Expendables 3 is an entertaining and ridiculously far-fetched tour of duty that sensibly welcomes fresh faces to the fold and provides Banderas, Ford, Gibson and Snipes with sizeable roles to turn back the clocks.
“I haven’t had so much fun in years,” cackles Ford after he lays waste to hordes of enemy soldiers.
The clash between old school brute force and modern day tech savvy provides a rich vein of humour.
Thus when Barney outlines his heavy-handed solution to toppling Stonebanks, Luna snorts derisively: “It’s a great plan... if it was 1985.”
Stallone looks good for his age and sparks brotherly banter with Statham, whose wavering accent is a prime target for put-downs.
They look like proud fathers, passing the mantle to the next generation of action heroes, who could potentially help the Expendables sequels reach double digits while Stallone does his bit for the cause with a zimmer frame rocket launcher.
Action/Thriller. Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Robert Davi, Kelsey Grammer, Jet Li, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Director: Patrick Hughes.