Here's the thing about The Expendables franchise. If you're going to go big, go really big. For example, let's look at the cast tagged in the first Expendables – "Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Couture, Austin, Crews, Rourke, Willis." Of those names, the ones action junkies really care about are "Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Willis." Couture, Austin, Crews, Rourke? Being an MMA, wrestling, ex-NFL or Academy Award-nominated/cult film favorite is all fine and cool, but it doesn't truly define a long-standing action genre icon...although definitely, they're able to fill out the fringes on the poster.
Flash forward to The Expendables 2. Two years and $100 plus million later, we have a new stellar line-up on the marquee – "Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Norris, Crews, Couture, Hemsworth, Van Damme, Willis, Schwarzenegger." The cast is more solid this time, but here's who really matters – "Stallone, Li, Lundgren, Norris, Van Damme, Willis, Schwarzenegger." Go ahead and take aim, but nowadays, Statham doesn't really make the A-list cut. He's had too many subpar actioners (Killer Elite, Blitz, In the Name of the King, The Mechanic, etc.) on his shooting schedule.
So basically, we've gone from five badass action idols in one movie to seven in the sequel. That's awesome. But note to Sly and producer Avi Lerner (the men behind the men) - feel free to shoot even higher for the next outing. Lots of wish list guys may have balked in the past. But if Expendables 2 hits like we think it might (outrageous? absurd? sweet!), there'll be more coin in the till to corral the hold-outs.
Here's our advice to the makers of The Expendables 3, and it's a simple 3-step.
1) Ditch the non-action movie stars in the secondary roles. Couture, Crews, Hemsworth, and Statham (due to his output of insignificant action flicks). Replace with any of the following (if you, the filmmakers, love the Statham bunch and can't stand to lose them, maybe they can be in another movie off on another mission)…these guys are more solid - Tony Jaa, Michael Biehn, Chris Hemsworth, and The Raid: Redemption's Iko Uwais (plus Harrison Ford and/or Clint Eastwood in cameo appearances as the head guys back at control doling out assignments). Basic rule of thumb: No co-stars who are known more as athletes (Howie Long and Brian Bosworth included); no co-stars whose egos are bigger than their action stripes (Vin Diesel included); and no co-stars under 35 who can't carry a minimum weight of 215 pounds of muscle (Liam Hemsworth, out; Chris Hemsworth, in).
2) Split the teams. We love JCVD being the baddie in Expendables 2, but he needs more A-list action talent behind him on the dark side. And there's plenty of awesome firepower yet to be utilized for good and bad. For the good guy team as new headliners alongside Sly and company, we suggest Kurt Russell, all of the guys mentioned above as secondary lieutenants, plus fellows such as Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Carl Weathers, Chow Yun-Fat, Keanu Reeves or Matt Damon if they're willing to suit up, and Linda Hamilton or Rene Russo (see point 3). On the bad boy team, we recommend as the two head villains the sorely-missing super bad boy Steven Seagal (with pony tail and lots of gym time to prep) and of course the one and only Mel Gibson (this will be a perfect career comeback where he can go down in appropriately crazy, cartoonish, over-the-top fashion). More folks for baddie consideration: Wesley Snipes, Vin Diesel (here, it makes sense), Sigourney Weaver and Roddy Piper. While we're at it, maybe have Jet Li change sides, too.
3) Add legitimate female brawn. We don't need damsels in distress. And we don't need models or actresses who look like models day-playing as action heroines, unless they're Kate Beckinsale. Throw Linda Hamilton in with the good guys, Sigourney Weaver in with the bad guys, have them go mano a mano, and voila, you've got a must-see action match-up. Meanwhile, intercut with cool one on one battles between Snake Plissken and Mad Max, Rambo and Blade, the Terminator and Gino from Out for Justice, and so on and so forth.
Ok, those are our thoughts. But we'd like to get your opinion on these things, too, via the ten critically important, action-packed polls/questions below, and our comments section. Comments-wise, did we miss anyone you're dying to see in the third Expendables? And what would be your pointers to make the franchise even more mind-blowingly awesome?