Sequel Saturday: The Expendable Expendables, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
The Expendables is a series that I should like for a number of reasons. I enjoy much of the cinematic works of Sylvester Stallone. The lure of seeing aging action stars join together to fight off the bad guys one last time is a fun concept. And yet, after watching the three films released to date (don’t worry, we’ll be getting The Expendables 4 and the long-rumored all-female spin-off The Expendabelles in the next few years), I don’t much care for them. Like a dead raccoon on the side of the highway, the series is interesting to look at but ultimately just another bump in the road.
The Expendables was a novel idea at the time with less bloat in its cast than the sequels; Mickey Rourke is especially fun as Tool the tattoo artist. Writer-director Sylvester Stallone keeps the tone dour, making the whole affair too dark for its own good. The cast has a nice chemistry even if the film is a bit boring. Putting Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the same scene only to have it be reams of exposition comes off as a colossal waste.
The Expendables 2 loads up the cast with more laughs than before. The idea of Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme appearing in this film is more entertaining than the roles they are given. Arnold Schwarzenegger in particular seems intent on trotting out lame variations on nearly every catch phrase from his career. There’s a fleeting sequence with Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis firing guns side by side that’s nearly iconic, but it can’t save the film.
The Expendables 3 is the only PG-13 flick of the bunch. The body count is as high as ever with none of the blood. The cast is bursting at the seams (did we really need Kelsey Grammer in this?). I may like Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas, and Wesley Snipes, but that doesn’t mean I need to see them all in the same movie. Mel Gibson makes for the strongest villain of the series to date. With a storyline that boils down to old dogs fighting better than young pups, the movie is pandering to say the least. Fan-favorite characters from the first two movies make the briefest of appearances. A real let-down.
It’s not that the Expendables trilogy is unwatchable. If you sit back and watch them while drinking a beer or three, you might even crack a smile now and then. The more these legendary action movie stars age while still running around in slow-motion firing off their guns, the more I realize they are getting way too old for this shit. Time for some new blood to take over.