In September 2020, Dan Crenshaw released a campaign ad so over-the-top and absurd that it transcended politics. Titled “Texas Reloaded,” the ad ran nearly four minutes, introduced a slew of Republican congressional candidates running in competitive (or at least semicompetitive) districts across the state, and used CGI to give the Houston representative a bionic eye. Crenshaw leapt out of a helicopter! Candidate Wesley Hunt chomped on a cigar while sitting behind the cockpit of an Apache helicopter and flashed a Hollywood-ready smile! Representative Tony Gonzales played the “guy in the chair” who’s critical to any secret mission! Candidate Genevieve Collins flipped a dude while training in a . . . yoga studio (or something?)! 

Critics called the ad Putin-esque propaganda, built from conflating machismo with political strength. But those of us who’ve watched an endless array of eighties action-adventure movies skipped the semiotic exploration and acknowledged that, whatever you think of Crenshaw’s politics, the whole thing was pretty badass. 

In advance of the U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia in 2021, Crenshaw released a spiritual sequel, “Georgia Reloaded,” which had the congressman stride through a secret underground command center to get a briefing on the two races being determined that January. The ad saw Crenshaw strip out of his congressman clothes to put on a sleek black-ops combat uniform as he answered questions like “Who do you want to bring?” by spitting back, “Bring everyone.” After that, he leapt out of another helicopter and landed directly on, uh, antifa’s car, at which point he proceeded to shatter the windshield with his bare fist! Divisive and inflammatory? Perhaps, but still: it was the product of a clear creative vision. 

For the Texas primaries in February, Crenshaw released yet another spot in the series: “Texas Reloaded II,” with the Roman numerals there to indicate that this wasn’t just crass commercialization—this was art, baby! “Reloaded II” was shorter than the original, at 97 seconds, but it introduced only two congressional candidates: Morgan Luttrell, who at one point in the ad emerges from a swamp with a rifle while wearing a camouflage ghillie suit, and a returning Wesley Hunt, running this time in a new district drawn just for him, doing pull-ups in a cage with big weights chained to his legs. 

Were the returns starting to diminish a bit? Perhaps, but this was a primary ad, featuring two candidates who were heavy favorites in districts recently redistricted to be GOP strongholds. 

Last week, Crenshaw returned with still another installment: “Texas Reloaded III,” highlighting the three lone competitive-ish congressional races happening in our freshly gerrymandered state. (They’re all in South Texas.) Fans couldn’t help but wonder: What would he be leaping out of this time? Would one of the candidates toss a guy out of a window? Would someone get a cybernetic arm? 

Alas, the answer to all of those questions is no. If “Texas Reloaded” was Robocop, “Texas Reloaded III” is Robocop 3, a pale version of the original with none of the passion, none of the creative fire, none of the intensity that made the first edition such a classic. This time, the ad is mostly built around stock footage, occasionally overlaid with the sort of filter you get for free on Instagram, and the whole thing is over in just 45 seconds. 

Congresswoman Mayra Flores strides along a portion of border wall. Does she have a laser cannon strapped to her back or anything? Buddy, she doesn’t even have a rifle. Cassy Garcia, who’s challenging incumbent Henry Cuellar in the Twenty-eighth Congressional District, briefly enters a helicopter, but it’s an R44 Raven II—hardly the tough-guy Apache we saw with Wesley Hunt, who actually flew the things when he was in the military—and then we cut quickly to candidate Monica De La Cruz, who just smiles while wearing a puffer vest. The entire ad resembles something shot on an iPhone. 

Look: We have no problem with Crenshaw using his position and his ample fund-raising to make campaign ads that recall The Expendables. He’s got an artist’s soul! Indulge it. These spots have certainly been more fun to watch than 99 percent of the other campaign ads floating around. Or at least they were, prior to “Reloaded III.” But this time, it’s clear that Crenshaw is just going through the motions at a point in the campaign cycle when any sort of diversion would be downright welcome. 

Unfortunately, just when we—when America—needed Dan Crenshaw to unleash his full creative spirit in the service of saving us from another dull campaign ad, he’s delivering a lazy take on his franchise that might as well have been crapped out by the same consultants who’ve homogenized every other ad. Where’s the spark, the passion, the pathos, Congressman? You’ve let us down.