The Expendables 3 review – Sly Stallone and co return for another macho bout of sparring

The Expendables 3

If they're expendable, why won't they die?

This action franchise, in which Hollywood OAPs go OTT, is as tough as a piece of gristle. Speaking of which… Sylvester Stallone returns to lead his ragtag group of mercenary mates into another skirmish in a fictional eastern European country that might as well be called Un-America. Joining Sly this time round are a chatty Spaniard (Antonio Banderas), a black man who says "Damn!" (Wesley Snipes) and – shock of shocks – a woman (Ronda Rousey).

They're on the tail of Conrad Stonebanks, a rogue Expendable deemed super-Expendable after hospitalising one of the crew. He's played by Mel Gibson, who is greeted with a tuba blast of doom every time he appears on screen. We apparently need musical cues to tell us Mel Gibson is a wrong 'un. This is pretty basic stuff.

Still, there's something in the macho sparring, the wanton death toll and the massive explosions that taps into the reptilian brain. Plus, Sly's not shy of giving the heartstrings the odd, brief yank. "We're not the future anymore," he tells his crew, staring glumly down the barrel of senescence. Seconds later, he's shaken the malaise and is back to murdering foreigners. You're only as old as the henchmen you slaughter.

Powered by article was written by Henry Barnes, for The Observer on Sunday 17th August 2014 00.09 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010