Unfamiliar faces wash up as the old ones sag down as this consistently bizarre franchise mumbles its way into a third instalment. The dogs have grown old and so offer the proverbial paltry sum of new tricks.
We open on Sly and his buddies descending on some muscular vehicle in order to bust out an old pal (Wesley Snipes). After some brief institutionalized gags our heroes set off for Dangerous Eastern Location A. Soon enough though, things go to shit when an old brethren shows up, seemingly back from the dead (played by Mel Gibson, also back from the dead), to leave the team in shreds. Sly decides it’s time to inject some new blood into the gang and so sets off with Kelsey Grammer to round ‘em up. We’re all looking good to go but when these brand new ‘spendables end up captured and alone, Stallone must recall the old guard and head to Dangerous Eastern Location B (seriously, Azmanistan?) for a final showdown.
No surprise to see the old misogyny and racism back all guns blazing so let’s stick to what’s new: Antonio Banderas joins Jet Li in rolling racial stereotyping of their respective nations back a few years; Harrison Ford shows up to grunt lines like “clear the ruff!”, “You’re goin to Ass-Man-Istan” and “Drummer’s in the house”; and UFC champ and Olympic gold medallist Ronda Rousey takes the token female roll, largely, it seems, for one oddly erotic slaughter with Antonio Banderas, 26 years her senior.
Of course, the enjoyment of these terrible things is not in the level of hamminess but in how much those involved are aware of said hamminess. At one point Mel Gibson’s evil dude ponders a piece of contemporary art. He wonders whether the painter knew that the product of his mere paints and brushes would come to cost so much. He then calls it shit and forks out 3M to the dealer. Are the film-makers remarking on the cynicism of the art market or, moreover, of Hollywood itself?
They might be… but we doubt it.
The Expendables 3 | Directed by Patrick Hughes (USA 2014) with Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li. Starts August 21