Ok, you’ll have to bear with me for a few moments here.
First, and most importantly, imagine a world where it wasn’t a forgone conclusion that The Expendables 3 would be a steaming dung-pile. I don’t want you to forget the first two movies exist. I just want you to ignore the fact they’ve more or less convinced you the third is a relatively meritless endeavour.
I know it’s hard. I needed a wee sit down after. Take your time…
Right, for better or (more likely) worse, Expendables 1 and 2 happened. Say one thing for these bloated facsimiles of bygone action cinema, say their tone is inconsistent. Actually, that’s putting it too mildly – they’re all over the sodding shop!
They’re stuffed with gags (note. I didn’t say quality gags) but they’re covered with blood. They’re relentlessly over the top, but simultaneously convinced by their own narrative. Cusses are dropped right and left but the dialogue is utter dross.
And not the intentional kind eithers.
The kind with Luke Goss.
Unlike Rambo and Rocky Balboa before it, Sly Stallone lost the plot (and much of his raw understated skill as a filmmaker) sometime around 2010. Dazzled by the sheer number of washed up entertainers he could call under his banner, like a glassy eyed child in a penny sweet shop and a pocket full of change, he seemed to lose what tentative grip he had on reality. Or filmmaking. Whatever.
And so, be it studio enforced or not, this deliberate push for a PG-13 rating might actually help focus the project… at least tonally.
I have long since given up hope that Terry Crews or indeed Jason Goddamn Crank will get their proper dues when geriatrics Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas and Kelsey Grammer need screen time. And the only reason I’m happy to see Wesley ‘The Sssssssniper’ Snipes is because I’ve so dearly missed his tax-dodging face!
However in the absence of intermittent swearing, sexual content, frequent bouts of blood spatter and the occasional limb flying off and braining a cameraman, The Expendables 3 has a chance at both narrative and tonal cohesion.
Without the usual arterial red safety net to catch them, Sly may be forced to go big and broad. Not that this is a recipe for dynamite cinema, but it’s a proven formula. They may be forced to rely on Statham’s unmatched presence, Grammer’s veteran timing and, if there’s any shitting justice in the world, Crews’ infectious manic energy. And, most tantalizingly, as they can’t cut away every second frame to showcase some instance of face melting violence, Team EX3 might finally just let the REAL pros go at it for a while.
Let me be clear. Set a tripod and let Jet Li tear the place up. Give the Stath a reason, any reason will do, to stick the head on a geezer. Or sixty. Hell, what’s the point in having MMA legend Randy Couture on staff for three straight films if you don’t, you know, show some goddam mixed martial arts.
It’s not THAT boring.
The Expendables 3 boasts perhaps the most bloated cast yet. There’s no getting away from the fact it’s most distinguishing characteristic doubles as its greatest weakness. But at least, with a more modest classification, all one hundred thirty seven thousand cast members can work towards the same goal. Hopefully an intentionally goofy, boisterous, almost good-natured one too.
But, as I was at pains to point out originally, that’s just not gonna happen, is it?
Coz it’ll be muck.
Silver lining – perhaps the end credits will be one long reel of Terry Crews dancing. Couldn’t hurt.