After this recent outing the latest outing of The Expendables franchises, I thinks it’s fair to say this nostalgia train has run its course. If it was up for debate before it’s fairly certain now Stallone’s action flick is firmly grounded in the trend of films that use nostalgia as vehicle and excuse for extremely lazy and quite pointless filmmaking. The previous entries in the series had their moments and were on the whole fun trips down memory lane and I particularly liked the first entry which had its moments with Mickey Rourke but this film will give you one limp movie experience.
The whole thing kicks off guns and biceps blazing as we see our team setting up for a rescue mission on a speeding train. The guy they’re out to rescue is Barney’s old pal Doc (Wesley Snipes), an original member of the expendables I’m assuming and just as lethal as the current crew. Some beers, chucked Knives and a cheesy tax evasion joke later they are in the heat of another mission which goes south when they run into Stonebanks, the target of this mission and a man Barney thought he had killed years before. In the ensuing action, Stonebanks shoots Caesar and Barney feels at fault for the whole debacle which leads to him disbanding the Expendables.
At this point, it’s clear Barney has some unfinished business with Stonebanks and with the CIA giving him a mission which is largely a “care of” for Barney’s bad blood, he recruits a new band of expendables to carry out this seemingly another impossible task. These new charges are younger, combat ready and also tech savvy. This mission also goes south and his new team are kidnapped and in a classic and extra cheesy 90’s throwback, his new team are back at his side for the impossible white action men finale.
The plot doesn’t take enough of the films focus for the 2 plus hours. Gibson’s Stonebanks is a decent enough villain and the film only feels like it is moving forward when he’s onscreen but the film seems too distracted with subtle nods to the good old days and it starts to feel like it’s over pandering to what it think we want. This is especially peculiar considering the PG-13 rating which will supposedly open it up too much younger audiences. How many young people really have an affinity for the 80’s and 90’s action stars? How many will recognise Antonio Banderas and Stallone’s appearance as nod to Assassins and do they even remember Demolition Man? Schwarzenegger repeats his catch word from Commando “I lied” but do we really care at this point? Maybe I’m selling the young ones short but I felt the film kind of pushed the boundaries with over bearing nostalgia angle and it’s aware of the past connections of the stars.
The cynic on me sneered at the whole decision to lower the rating. It smacks of a series knowing it’s near the end and action made sure really the film was on my bad side before I started watching. The action scenes are clearly affected and they have lost some bite and blood and now regressed to basic body count violence. The Inclusion of the young blood also sent the same messages and we may have direct-to-DVD feature(s) on our plate or even worse a TV series considering that appears to be the only meaningful purpose the addition of that section of the cast served.
The rest of the cast is the usual roll call which has mostly overstayed its welcome and is now frankly borderline inane. I spent maybe 70% of my two viewings of the film having inward debates about the claims of various stars as valid action stars. I also pondered over how big a Rambo-Commando collaboration would have been in say 94 and it would have been nothing short of a landmark of action cinema and then my emotions shifted to disdain for the fact didn’t make the wet dreams of action movie fans a reality before they became expendable to Hollywood.
For those unlike me who weren’t put off by the films over reliance on nostalgia or other prejudices, there are things in there to enjoy. Snipes give us a nice dose of butt kicking early on which may rouse some warm memories in some or like me, long for the times of New Jack City and Jungle Fever when Snipes was a legitimate and quality drama actor (I’m still whinging, I know). Gibson has his time in the sun as their chilling adversary he seems to be enjoying his criminal monologues and is the one star here I have truly missed on the big screen. Antonio Banderas also gets a nod in what I initially thought was a very amusing cameo role but he shows up later on as a cross between Zorro and El Marriachi.
The explosive finale had an air of a swan song for our old heroes as we watch Barney sprint or his life through an exploding building about it and it’s a pity I felt nothing at the end of proceedings as these once great icons slowly transition from the expendables to the deletables.