THE EXPENDABLES 3. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Mel Gibson, Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Kelsey Grammar, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Kellan Lutz, Directed by Patrick Hughes. Rated MA (Strong action violence). 125 minutes.
Apparently they are not expendable at all. With the original and now two sequels, they are obviously inexpendable. Although, arch-villain, Mel Gibson, says they should all be ‘deletable’. There is no obvious reason for the expendables not to go on and on – except for most of the casts advancing age!
Within minutes, Sylvester Stallone is leading his squad in an extraordinarily daring raid on a moving train, guns and helicopters blazing against him, to rescue Wesley Snipes (who, in a tongue-in-cheek nonchalant remark when asked about why he was in prison for so long, replies “tax evasion”). And that’s before the credits.
There are several missions throughout the film, all gung-ho, all weapons blazing, though with the contemporary nod to computer skills and hacking for defusing bombs with minimal deadlines, and an extraordinarily high body-count, especially in the final mission which culminates with tank and rocket fire, and an imploding building, from which, of course, the goodies escape, Stallone hanging on to an extension from a flying helicopter. But, of course, it is that kind of film and that is what the fans want (reports of millions of illegal downloads 10 days before the American release of the film).
Words came to mind during the preview: macho, belligerently bellicose, hawkish, invincible American action… But what also came to mind were the May-June 2014 exploits of ISIS in Iraqi, a group going into the city of Mosul, their taking all the money out of the banks, rounding up citizens, bombardments and the execution of Shia military. Real life imitating the movies!
This is a film for a very masculine, macho sensibility – though one of the younger protagonists, the new expendables, is a big strong young woman who works as a bouncer at a fairly difficult club but who joins in the spirit of the expendables, though muttering several times in disgust, “men!”.
Arnold Schwarzenegger turns up as a military contact, along with offsider, Jet Li. Harrison Ford appears as a government suit but finally gets into the action himself, piloting a helicopter and letting fly with weapons.
With apologies to Cormac Murphy, this is definitely a country for old men.
It says something about Hollywood promotion that we know most of these performers just by their personal name: Sly, Arnie, Mel, Harrison, Jet, Kelsey, Wesley… For action fans, Jason Statham is instantly recognisable.
We expect this kind of thing from Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, and Wesley Snipes. When Stallone retires his expendables, he accompanies Kelsey Grammar on a search around the United States and Canada and Mexico for replacements. They are good, but do find themselves captured by the villain, Mel Gibson (as villain in last year’s Machete Kills and now as a despicable villain, Hollywood is giving work to Gibson but putting him in roles that elicit no sympathy from audiences).
This means a final mission to a fictitious former Soviet republic to rescue the young expendables.
Interestingly, the film was directed by an Australian, Patrick Hughes, who made a big impression with his contemporary variation on a Western story, Red, Hill. With this showing, and directorial flair, he shouldn’t be out of work for some time.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out August 14, 2014.