Patrick Hughes takes over directing duties, while we see Sylvester Stallone return as Barney Ross, alongside his close associate Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and his collective of ‘Expendables’ – who manage to free a former member, Doc (Wesley Snipes) from confinement. They need Doc’s combat skills to help them overcome their latest adversary, the evil war criminal Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who had been presumed dead. However Barney fears his current crop of veteran warriors are not quite up to task, and so seeks the assistance of a younger crowd – consisting of Smilee (Kellan Lutz) and Luna (Ronda Rousey). Though with the mission that lies ahead, Barney will need as much help as he can possibly get.
Other new cast members include the likes of Harrison Ford, Kelsey Grammer and Antonio Banderas, with the latter stealing the show as the comical, yet ultimately, quite tragic character Galgo, with the Spaniard bringing some heart to an otherwise quite soulless production. Gibson stands out as the antagonist of the piece, adding to the overriding tongue-in-cheek approach by playing up to the current perception of him in the industry, with a barbed, yet comically self-deprecating performance – and one matched by Snipes, who jokes that the reason he’s been away for so long is because of “tax evasion”. Meanwhile, though it’s initially encouraging to have a female presence in the Expendables collective with Rousey, it defeats the object somewhat when the rest of the gang persistently make reference to her gender, and either try and chat her up or look surprised when she shows an aptitude for shooting a weapon. Plus it’s a character that appears to have been crafted with zero personality, which doesn’t help at all.
However the film’s most glaring misgiving, comes in the decision to give this title a 12a classification, therefore dumbing down the violent nature of the piece spectacularly. Firstly, it doesn’t suit the nature of the film – as this entire production is something of a throwback to classic action movies, playing on the theme of nostalgia accordingly. Therefore the audience that are surely most important, in this instance, are the generation of those who grew up watching these films – people well over 12 years of age. It makes no sense to not pander to their needs just to attempt to try and lure in a new breed of fans. It goes against the notion that this franchise is a crowd-pleaser – not to mention the fact that the film also suffers as a result, as the edits seem clumsy, and the gore and hyper-violence is frustratingly conspicuous in its absence. Considering this picture is made up of various action set pieces, with a very thin, barely tangible narrative connecting them together, it’s somewhat detrimental to proceedings.
Of course the argument in favour of The Expendables franchise is that it doesn’t take itself seriously, and must be judged in accordance with that. While that is undoubtedly true, what also comes into play is enjoyment, and you have to question whether this particular offering is actually engaging enough to excuse the picture of its various shortcomings. Sometimes being tongue-in-cheek just isn’t quite enough. Plus at over two hours long it’s a little overbearing – there is only so long this concept can last. Which, in truth, is around 20 minutes. Never mind three bloody movies.