While others might be lining up to get their nostalgia kicks from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this Fille is getting hers on via an old school 80s beatdown, otherwise known as The Expendables 3. In perhaps his most inspired career move since penning the original Rocky, Sylvester Stallone returns as ageing captain badass, aka Barney Ross, who, along with his fellow ageing action cronies, is back to spray the world with bullets, deliver one-liners, and blow shit up. Because they can.
While action heroes become darker and more conflicted, there is something delightful about the f-you whimsy of this franchise. It’s genius because it is so ridiculously macho, but with everyone in on the joke, it just feels so good. Characters have silly names like Christmas and Dr. Death because it doesn’t matter what the script calls them–their real life names are what really matter, hence why the promos are peppered with last names meant to send your inner 80s and 90s twelve-year-old into a frenzy. Who needs subtlety and character development? That stuff is for wussies.
This go around, Ross and fellow Expendables face off with an ex-colleague gone dark, Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). Following a bungled mission, Ross rethinks his old team and replaces them with a younger, unseasoned crew, including boxer Victor Ortiz, MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, and former sparkly vampire Kellan Lutz. Pretty as these young ‘uns might be, the lack of star power mirrors the lack of experience. Stonebanks captures them like scared rabbits. Time to call in the originals.
Some old friends return, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trench, and some new ones jump on board. The award for best debut as an Expendable results in a tie between Wesley Snipes as a slightly unhinged, yet dapper knife expert, and Antonio Banderas, essentially playing Puss in Boots as an actual person, who dominates his scenes with rapid fire replay that reminds you how much you have missed him. Harrison Ford is a close runner up, if only for his wry amusement at the entire enterprise. Plus he flies a helicopter. Because he can.
Much discussion has been made in the past year about separating the artist from the work, specifically should and if it can be done. Casting Mel Gibson must have certainly engaged those conversations pre-production. It turns out to be a smart move. Rather than trying to rehab his image by having him return to his hero days, The Expendables 3 unleashes him for Gibson Gone Wild, allowing him to swagger, monologue, and snarl his way through the film. The movie’s climax is an old school bare knuckle brawl that proves deeply satisfying. If there is a madness within Mel Gibson, the film makes no attempt to hide it. And perhaps that is the biggest success of any of The Expendables films–they give the people want they want without trying to dress it up as anything else.