THE EXPENDABLES 3 (PG13)
126 minutes/Opens tomorrow/**
The story: The soldier-for-hire team headed by leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) stage a daring rescue of former team member Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes). The goal is to form a team strong enough to kill a powerful warlord, but they are thwarted by Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a founding member now out for revenge against Ross and his companions. Ross enlists the help of Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) to recruit young warriors capable of defeating Stonebanks.
Yes, the granddads with guns are back, with tans more orange, veins more bulging and catchphrases with twice the bad*** quotient. Pay attention and you will hear Arnold Schwarzenegger toss his legacy into the slagheap by repeating catchphrases from his earlier movies, as if more proof were needed that if you stick around long enough in Hollywood, you will end up cannibalising yourself.
While the weapons are predictably locked and loaded and the pandering is set to high in this third movie, what sets it apart from the first two orgies of bloodletting is the PG13 rating, an attempt by the producers to increase the audience size.
In Singapore, The Expendables (2010) came with an M18 label, this dropped to NC16 for the 2012 second film. In the yet-to-come PG-rated fourth movie, the bad guys are expected to die even before the heroes start shooting.
That a movie about men mowing down row after row of humans with automatic rifles and bombs can acquire a PG13 rating leads to the question of which is more corrupting of young minds, a film that shows flesh ripping when bombs hit, or one in which bombs fall and men pass out cleanly and quietly?
Other than the more kid-friendly format, the computer-generated special effects have been amped up to ludicrous science-fiction levels, perhaps to compensate for the lower adrenaline levels and less on-screen blood.
The opening sequence, in which Ross (Stallone) pilots a helicopter gunship to snatch Doc (Snipes) from a prison train features unforgiveably cheesy, poorly- rendered computer-graphics objects.
Another runaway aspect of the production is the size of the cast, now enlarged with younger actors, recruited during a lengthy scene that resembles an audition for a new wrestling franchise.
But the oldies should not have bothered recruiting new members, for a simple fact: The bad guys still cannot shoot straight, while the good guys never miss and the villain army still recruits soldiers only from the tribe that likes to run into the blazing barrels of their enemies.
With enemies like these, who needs friends?