There's an armoured prison transport train thundering down these desert tracks, taking an extremely dangerous prisoner to his destination of a high security jail. But someone has other ideas about him reaching that: cue a large helicopter flown by mercenary Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) which swoops down from the skies while his cohorts, also known as The Expendables, take aim with their automatic weapons. They are spotted, but Ross avoids the heavy duty artillery on the train thanks to some fancy flying, then a well-placed cable knocks the guards from the top of the carriages, leaving it possible for the team to free the prisoner. Who is he? Only Doc (Wesley Snipes)!
Who? Well, it's not the character that's important, it's the actor, as this was an Expendables movie and that meant each performer carried a lot of baggage, film-wise. However, something was different this time, it seemed the diehard fans of these action heroes were disgruntled, and it was all to do with the rating this received for cinema exhibition: PG-13 in the United States, and 12A in the United Kingdom, basically the studio had toned the feature down to make it more suitable for kids. By going after the Fast and Furious market, they hoped to widen the possible audience, not realising that meant the followers of the franchise who relished its more grown-up, ageing he-man appeal was what made these what they were.
There was a television show back in the nineteen-eighties, the true heyday of not only many of the cast but the action genre too, which also traded in bullets, explosions and wisecracks, and that was The A-Team. Viewers lapped it up for its first season, this was what they wanted from their home entertainment if they couldn't get to the video rental store, but then a funny thing happened when those viewers noticed not only was there but one plot to every episode, but nobody really got hurt as the violence couldn't be bloodthirsty, they had to keep it family friendly. Nobody got killed, basically, so where was the peril? The Expendables 3 suffered that syndrome too, fair enough anonymous extras in balaclavas were shot dead (not literally), but the violence was far from brutal.
On the other hand, if you had shown the cut version of the movie to a fan and never told them the rating, they might have difficulty noticing the changes, this was very much of a piece with the others, so much so that if it was not for the new cast members you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching the same film again. So perhaps it was familiarity breeding contempt, or maybe it was Mel Gibson who played the villain? True to form, within a couple of minutes of appearing he had gunned down the first black man he saw, Expendables regular Terry Crews, which is supposed to be emotionally wrenching but he only had a couple of lines before being shot anyway. The actual reason for Crews spending the rest of the movie in hospital was down to his other commitments, but with Gibson wielding the rifle it was just as well we were supposed to be booing him.
Not that this setback toned down the banter, as ever the key to action flick quips was to pretend that men were ladies, so the cast set about their dialogue as if they were Polari-spouting homosexualist gentlemen bitching in some nineteen-sixties Soho gay bar. But what was this? An actual woman in the cast? It was true, martial arts champ Ronda Rousey was our token female, pausing briefly on her way to a Fast and Furious entry more appropriate to her talents, but she was part of writer Stallone's try at introducing fresh blood, so she appeared alongside a younger team of Expendables Ross assembles when the oldies fail to impress him. Naturally, these young bucks are quickly foiled when capturing Mel Gibson (whose pontificating becomes swiftly tiresome) so it turns out they were only there to illustrate the old geezers were far more able than the younger generation, valuing experience over youth. Not too much of a shock, but yet another reason this was mismarketed, an elderly Harrison Ford in a choppa wouldn't cut the mustard with ver kids anymore. Music by Brian Tyler.