A Year of Unlimited Review #4 – The Expendables 3

This is the fourth in a series of blogs I’ve called “A Year of Unlimited”, which isn’t perhaps the catchiest way to put it, but encapsulates my attempts to blog about every film I see while I’m signed up to the Unlimited service. I’m not linking to every one, so go and find them yourselves!

Nostalgia and a love for B-movies are two combinations in a mixture that seems to be growing more and more common with a lot of people in my generation. We grew up with a steady diet of vintage 80s action and optimistic 90s tosh as our movie education, and as a consequence people including Nicolas Cage, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger have come to be recognised in not perhaps the way they intended to when starting out in cinema.

The Expendables 3 is a film made for a generation of people who remember the madness of 1980s action cinema – like the previous two Expendables movies, a set group of humans worldwide are the target audience, and they’re male and likely between the ages of 20 and 40. And in every way this film meets the very low expectations it’s set for viewers – a critically-acclaimed wonder movie this is NOT.

If you’re at all unaware of the series and what it consists of: Sylvester Stallone, now at pension age and appearing for all the world to be bursting out of his OAP skin thanks to steroids, decided to make a number of films starring some washed-up (Dolph Lundgren) and not so washed-up (Jason Statham) action movie stars. Roping in Arnie, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Mickey Rourke, Jean-Claude Van Damme and a host of newer stars (the exceptional Terry Crews, Luke Hemsworth (aka Thor’s bro)) for the first two films, Sly single-handedly resurrected a genre: the “so shit it’s good” action meathead movie.

A more hilariously-photoshopped poster than Hollywood usually manages to create

These films do not feature plots worth writing about, nor acting in any conventional or recognisable sense, but make up for it with callbacks to classic action films of old and ridiculous action scenes. Additionally, new (or should I say old) blood appears in the form of the shameless Harrison Ford, Kelsey Grammer (why Frasier! Why?!) and Antonio Banderas, as well as the redeemed Wesley Snipes (and the irredeemable, psychotic human pile of excrement formerly known as Mel Gibson), who all appear in vain attempts to remind us they’re still “acting”, amongst all the booms and bangs.

Incidentally, the series has taken a backwards journey from an 18-rated first film to this 12A-rated third – so not one death feels consequential nor actually recognisable in comparison to the first movie’s evisceration-happy splatter. And one of the newer characters is *shock* a woman who can kick arse like nobody’s business. Who gets about as much respect as you would imagine any female character in this series might.

Don’t mistake my sardonic words for dislike – I enjoyed the film, for what it was. But you can’t give this series or any film like it any degree of scrutiny because it would collapse in front of you, much as I imagine Stallone’s knees do on a regular basis (especially after his multiple running scenes, which call to mind a man of advanced age in dire need of the use of a toilet). There are new, younger actors in this film as “fresh blood” to replace the old crew, but not only are they not what the audience is there to see, but Stallone and director Patrick Hughes clearly viewed the audition tapes marked “non-speaking extra” when casting. No peril is ever truly felt, nor is any action stirring enough for emotional response – this is cinema as junk-food.

I don’t really want to say any more about this film other than you’ll know if you want to see it or not. I’m not about to try and convince someone it just isn’t for to watch it, because there are plenty of people out there who know why they want to watch such nonsense and will see it regardless. I don’t really see an obstacle to an inevitable fourth film, other than the fact that Stallone is gonna run out of old gits before too long, and that should it follow the same pattern as the three before it, we’d be treated to a PG-rated Expendables.

Next up: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

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