Here is yet another example of a film distributor colluding with the BBFC in order to obtain a certificate which is grossly and grotesquely inappropriate for the content and context of the film. There is no way that an Expendables movie should be anything other than a 15 certificate at the very outside; indeed, given the sheer amount of carnage, as well as its casual throwaway nature, one really feels it should be worthy of an 18. But they want the teenie dollar and if that means artistic compromise (inasmuch as an Expendables film has any significant artistry in the first place), then what the hell? At this rate it wouldn’t surprise me if the guest star in The Expendables 4 was Buzz Lightyear.
In addition to turning the violence down to a point where unaccompanied eight year olds can watch it, Sylvester Stallone and the producers have also sought to capture the youth market by reducing the average age of the cast up to somewhere below ninety. Granted, they’ve brought in a shaky-looking 72-year-old Harrison Ford to replace Bruce Willis, who’s only 59 but apparently wanted too much money, but the other regulars (Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Albert Steptoe) are sidelined for much of the time. Initially the oldsters are on what looks like a routine interception mission, but once it turns out that the chief villain is Mel Gibson, Stallone fires his crew and hires fresher, younger blood. Inevitably it doesn’t go according to plan and the oldsters have to get back together and rescue them...
All of this is perfectly enjoyable as these things go: lots of explosions, lots of anonymous, faceless henchmen cheerily thought bloodlessly mown down, elderly men beating the tar out of each other and the occasional funny line. In terms of mayhem and destruction The Expendables III is good crash bang wallop popcorn knockabout. But the issue of the 12A will not go away and the knowledge that this film is available to children sits very uncomfortably. Surely it's better that impressionable children are taught the true horrific consequences of violence, and not sold it as a family friendly entertainment in which most of the people indiscriminately murdered are not even given the courtesy of a close-up to suggest they might actually be real human beings rather than a collection of pixels from Call Of Duty? I really do feel the BBFC have their hat on backwards on this issue.