The Expendables 3Thursday 14 Aug 2014
Director: Patrick Hughes
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Kellan Lutz, Terry Crews, Kelsey Grammer, Randy Couture
Duration: 126 minutes
"Nothing is over!" Sylvester Stallone memorably bellowed as he channelled the method in First Blood over 30 years ago. How right he was: Rambo V is due next year and in just four years we're already at The Expendables 3. At this rate, parity will be achieved around 2018. And after the disappointment of the first sequel, 3 shows there's a fair bit of life in the old dogs (of war) yet.
The cast list here is more elaborate than the plot. Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team (almost every screen hard man you care to mention) are on the trail of arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). Of course, it's personal, with the exposition louder than the explosions. Stonebanks, we are told, has "killed more people than the plague" and has supplied "every psycho warlord in Africa and the Middle East". He collects art too - always a wrong 'un.
While the sight of Stallone early on in knee-high boots is quite disconcerting, there's a comfy familiarity to much of The Expendables 3. Barney remains as cuddly and dinosaur-like as his namesake and he and sidekick Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) still bicker like an elderly married couple on a rainy day-trip. The tooled-up-'til-2033 baddies' aim hasn't improved much and, like many an action movie before it, helpful on-screen graphics tell us that Moscow is in Russia. Turns out Las Vegas is still in Nevada as well.
Adding a bit more to the mayhem mix this time 'round, however, are Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford and Wesley Snipes. Shrek's Puss-in-Boots is resurrected here as an acrobatic killer who never shuts up; the Star Wars man's novelty nixer shows he still looks good behind the controls and the Blade bruiser gives more attitude than a teenager at a First Holy Communion. There's also a new gang of young faces - among them Twilight's Kellan Lutz - to bring the average age of our heroes down, and the whole thing is that bit cooler and classier than what we got from the last sequel in 2012.
Where this Expendables ends up running out of bullets, yet again, is when it comes to laughs. While the finale is far more memorable than its predecessors', 3's take-home lines needed more work than the set-pieces. Get director Patrick Hughes back with the right gags for part four and we'll actually have the first film in the series worth watching twice - or indeed owning.
In the meantime, enjoy the best bits of this, while marvelling at how much ass-kicking a 12A audience gets to see these days. And whatever you spend on a ticket, it will be justified by the payback punchline that Stallone delivers like only he can. The quote of 2014 has been found.