The Expendables 3 review

The Expendables 3 is a mostly successful blend of the franchise’s first two films. It’s filled with the wanton mayhem and destruction of the second film, but also plenty of terrible dialogue and overall cheesiness of the first movie. Despite those flaws, the Patrick Hughes sequel works because it’s constantly fun and features a story that builds off the fact the franchise was in danger of getting stale, leading it into a new era. Read the rest of our Expendables 3 review below.

When the first Expendables came out, the joke of it was it starred aging action stars. In The Expendables 3, that’s finally caught up to the narrative. As the film begins, the core team (Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren) complete a dangerous mission that has Barney (Stallone) questioning everyone’s mortality. Maybe everyone is just getting too old and he doesn’t want to lose more friends. That sets up a story where he leaves his friends behind to recruit a new, young version of The Expendables (newcomers Kellen Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell). They’re tasked with taking down the baddest bad guy yet, played by Mel Gibson and things, of course, go horribly wrong. I bet you can’t guess who is called in to save the day.

That idea of old vs. new, coupled with Barney’s guilt, gives the film a not-so-subtle, but welcome, emotional core. There’s both the generation gap to deal with as well as the idea of friendship and family being more important than business. It’s nice that the film has even an inkling of pathos to go along with the trademark humor and action.

The script by Stallone, Creighton Rothenberg and Katrin Benedikt gives every member of this cast multiple times to shine. New additions such as Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes and Harrison Ford, all have pretty sizable parts with plenty of scenery to chew on. (Kelsey Grammar is the one person who gets the short end of the stick, unfortunately.) It’s Gibson though, as the heavy of the piece, who is the star among stars. He’s channelling some of that Lethal Weapon wackiness blended with William Wallace’s charisma and it’s great. You really miss having Gibson as a movie star in The Expendables 3.

But it’s not all smooth sailing. The film is filled with an incessant amount of awful one liners and the whole second act is bogged down by its own creation. The Expendables 3 is built around this great self-aware narrative idea but that idea back them into a few corners. First, the self-awareness frequently goes too far. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character actually says “Get to the Chopper” instead of just winking at it. Plus, because Barney has to recruit a new team, we’re forced to relive the same scene four times to introduce all these characters. Once they’re on board, you have these new, young characters who are smart and modern. That means, when they go on their first mission and use a bunch of new technology, the ease of it almost feels lazy when compared to the big boom of the old Expendables.

That’s not to say the new team is boring. They have a swagger and energy that’s nicely opposed to the old team. However, they’re seriously short changed on backstory and their entire second act feels like nothing more than an obvious, dialed down place holder to bridge the gap between the opening and the climax.

Despite the predictability of it all, the third act is probably the best overall action scene in the entire franchise. It’s massive and the way everyone gets a heroic moment is commendable. The stunts and explosions are off the charts and though they get punctuated with some really eye-rolling dialogue and unbelievable set pieces, it’s just fun to see how this massive cast can come together in a way that makes narrative sense.

Much was made about the fact The Expendables 3 was rated PG-13 and not R, but you don’t really notice. More people die in this movie than most R rated movies. You just don’t see the blood. And despite what may or may not be available on the internet, The Expendables 3 is a must see on the big screen.

Overall, The Expendables 3 is a your basic, solid, fun, summer action movie. It’s exactly what you expect and while there are plenty of bad parts, the good ones more than balance them out. It’ll be nice to see how the franchise moves forward now that it’s been infused with this new blood.

/Film rating: 7 out of 10

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.

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