Natalie Stendall review: The Expendables 3

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In 2010 Sylvester Stallone reinvigorated the action flick, banding together with his fellow ageing action stars to give us over the top explosive fun loaded with self-awareness.

Now, in 2014 and its third time around, the stars are not the only ones getting old.

Even Stallone’s screenplay with Olympus Has Fallen writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt seems to admit this. Stallone exchanges Statham, Lundgren, Crews and Couture for the young and IT literate. After a gun-toting, train-crashing, explosion-laden prison break with his heroes, Stallone shops around for new comrades in mini character showcases that slow the action to a crawl.

Why does the plot take this unexpected character switch? The team’s next assignment is an apparent death mission and Barney Ross (Stallone) needs some disposable action guys.

They’re ‘deletables’ and that’s not good news for the movie.

With his band of 80s action buddies largely absent, Stallone has little opportunity to bounce the gags around and the second act of The Expendables 3 is lethargic and stale.

A short-lived moment when new-meets-old provides a nice opportunity for some self-aware sarcasm and a brief reminder of what made the franchise great.

Villain Stonebanks - a founder of the Expendables operation turned rogue - is neatly set up with a malicious turn by Mel Gibson but even his animated performance fails to breathe energy into the tired plot that fails to build on The Expendables’ unique selling point: its ageing heroes. Instead The Expendables 3 feels like a franchise that’s lost its identity.

Likening the relationship between Ross and Stonebanks to Cain and Able, The Expendables 3 takes itself a tad too seriously while sprinkling in a mere handful of cheese.

Eventually The Expendables 3 trundles towards the final action sequence everyone’s waiting for.

It’s big and crazy - monumental demolitions and colossal leaps of faith - but the previous instalments set the action bar so high this third attempt struggles to compete.

The future of The Expendables remains ambiguous. Is the introduction of young blood designed to provide foundations for the future of the franchise?

In truth it feels more like filler. Even the best new blood here is noticeably mature. Antonio Banderas is the reason to watch The Expendables 3, getting all the best lines, the lion’s share of silliness and a back story that neatly, and sympathetically, unfolds.

Landing on the idea that both young and old have something to offer the team, The Expendables 3 forgets its greatest strength. This third outing feels old and tired not because the idea is worn out, but because it neglects the ageing heroes we’ve grown to love.

The Expendables franchise was never about solid, believable plots or discovering new talent.

It was about rekindling a sense of 80s nostalgia in action thumping flicks for a modern age.

Fun. Energy. Explosions. The Expendables 3 falls short on all counts. A measly three action sequences does not make an Expendables movie. Expendables 4?

More cheese please.

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 126 minutes

Verdict: 2/5