The first Expendables film was rubbish. The 2nd Expendables film was slightly less rubbish. The 3rd Expendables film is even less rubbish than the second one, but unfortunately it’s not less rubbish enough to be anything other than a bit rubbish.
The problem with all three films is that none of them have been exciting or fun enough. Sure, there’s a big pile of sweaty action stars with daft character names (Terry Crews plays Hale Caesar!) shooting everything that moves (twice) and firing off limp one-liners (often bastardised versions of lines from their famous, much better, films), but I’ve never thought ‘Oh, this is cool!’ while watching any of them.
That this film slightly better is mainly down to Mel Gibson’s bad guy, Conrad Stonebanks (almost a name a real person would have), who is a proper shit and former Expendable, who parted ways with Sly’s crew when he realised he could make more money on the black market. Gibson actually has the charisma to make you dislike his character, whereas Jean-Claude Van Damme just mumbled his way through Expendables 2, and whoever was the bad guy in the first film was so dull that I have no memory of who played him.
But that’s not enough to push the film into goodness, particularly as it’s pretty shoddily made, with some really poor effects littered throughout the film, particularly in a scene during the (far too long) montage of Sly recruiting new blood with Kelsey Grammer when the pair are talking in an open top car, and it’s so clear that it wasn’t shot outside that they might as well have left the roof of the studio at the top of the screen.
The film also has far too many characters, with the new recruits all being a bit dull and not given enough screen time to really establish themselves, the older guys mostly just grunt at each other, while new recruits Harrison Ford and Wesley Snipes are fun but underused and the joke gets old very quickly with Antonio Banderas’ Galgo.
So three films in, The Expendables franchise remains a series of missed opportunities. The scripts and the action haven’t been up to scratch in any of them, and none of them have come close to matching the best films that any of its stars have made in the past (although most of them genuinely being too old for this shit is an unavoidable factor in that). And maybe that’s the biggest problem, that the older guys ARE too old for this shit, and their limitations stop the films from being as much fun as they need to be.
This film sees a new batch of Expendables introduced, but none of them really look like potential stars (and Kellan Lutz has already definitively proven that he’s not a leading man), but a film in which Jason Statham’s Lee Christmas is the main man, with Stallone and the other elder statesmen killed off or reduced to cameo appearances might result in a much more entertaining Expendables film.
But it seems unlikely that Stallone is ready to step aside just yet, so The Expendables will probably continue to be a series of forgettable disappointments.