Stallone & Co. are showing their age in third testosterone fest
The Expendables 3
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger & Mel Gibson
Directed by Patrick Hughes
In the opening scene of this slam-bang, testosterone-fest reunion of aging action-movie icons, Sylvester Stallone’s character points to a frankfurter-sized finger of his meaty fist and a skull-shaped glob of silver—his Expendables “lucky ring.”
The Expendables franchise, about a group of super-covert, battle-scarred warriors hired to do the U.S. government’s dirty work, has indeed been lucky for Stallone. He’s had both his bank account and his ego fed by the success of the previous two movies, which he also had a big hand in either directing or writing.
In the movies, his team is “expendable” because their work is so dangerous, and their missions so secret, no one knows—or can afford to care—if they live or die.
How ironic—since the Expendables don’t seem expendable at all. They just keep coming back, again and again, and Stallone and his co-stars are a veritable, tried-and-true Hollywood guy-movie who’s who. These are some “dependable” Expendables.
And if anything, they just keep getting more “expandable.” In this excursion, the grizzled, gung-ho wagon train links up former E-team stalwarts Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Wesley Snipes, Jason Statham, Randy Couture and Jet Li with new add-ons Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Kelsey Grammer (yes, Dr. Crane from Cheers and Frazier!) and Antonio Banderas, and a group of younger Expendables-in-training—Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, boxing champ Victor Oritz and mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey, the sole female invited into the boys’-club sandbox of bullet-spraying machine guns, missile-launching bazookas, exploding trains, airborne boats, dive-bombing helicopters and ka-booming army tanks.
There’s a wisp of a subplot about the old-school Expendables (with their knives and guns) vs. the new young high-tech Expendables (with their computers and cameras and drones). But now, four years and three movies into the franchise, the just-plain-old Expendables are beginning to wear visibly thin, the plots have ground down to near nothingness, the wisecracks aren’t wise or crack-y anymore, and the original stars mostly lumber around like middle-aged slabs of spa-toned beefcake. And this movie, in particular, is so bloated with actors, there’s not much space for any of them. Some, like martial arts champion Jet Li, are relegated to little more than a cameo.
When the first movie came out, in 2010, it was an homage to Hollywood’s long tradition of Dirty Dozen-style, action-caper, military-mission flicks, as well as an adrenaline shot of career-rejuvenating mojo for Stallone and some of his action-movie pals from the ’80s and ’90s. Now, as Neil Young’s “Old Man” plays and Stallone’s character proudly watches his young protégés carouse in a barroom, it seems like the original Expendable is thinking about finally easing out of the picture—or at least making much more room for a younger, leaner, greener set of espionage and counter-terrorism experts.
At one point, Trench (Schwarzenegger) tells Barney (Stallone) he’s through. “I’m getting out of this business,” he says, “and so should you.” Maybe it’s finally time for Stallone to take that Expendables advice to heart.
—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine