Expectations are usually set in concrete by the time the third entry of a franchise is reached, and The Expendables 3 is no exception. You know you’re in for a lot of action, cheesy one-liners, and the kind of plot that can be hung from a clothesline. On that level, it delivers despite some narrative speed bumps, questionable acting from the rookies, and iffy visual effects.
Barney Ross (Stallone) and the Expendables are back, this time on a mission to take down former-Expendable-turned-arms-dealer Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson). After a falling out with his old comrades, Ross assembles a new, updated squad featuring tech wizards and experts in the latest military gear. It’s a who’s who of action films, and their mission will take them all over the world.
Since you can pretty much slaughter however many people you like and still get a PG-13 as long as little to no blood is shown, The Expendables 3 does not suffer much as it makes the transition from its predecessor’s R rating. Director Patrick Hughes stages a handful of impressive action sequences, despite being edited with a dicer. The energy level is high and the screenplay, loaded with hit-and-miss jokes, rarely pauses for needless exposition. The series has always maintained an aura of nostalgia for old-school, no-nonsense action films, and that continues here. Just as much, it’s about an all-star cast having fun and winking at the camera as much as possible. Tolerances for this style will vary widely, but it’s not like there haven’t already been two films to marinate on.
The cast itself is fantastic. Highlighted by Antonio Banderas as a hyperactive warrior that believes he’s only thirty years old and Mel Gibson as an over-the-top, grizzled villain (he starts shooting his own men after wondering how tough it could possibly be to kill ten Expendables), everyone is in on the joke. Arnold Schwarzenegger, firmly in the cigar-smoking-scenery-chewing stage of his career, seems involved only to utter classic lines like “Get to the choppah!” and “I lied!” Stallone himself is still a fine presence even as he pushes seventy.
The Expendables 3 serves a need for the demographic that misses big, dumb action movies. With the genre largely taken over by superheroes, Stallone and his pals are doing their best to keep the memories and vibe alive. It’s totally harmless and brainless, just like always. It’s also a lot of fun, just like always.
Length: 126 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language.
Theatrical Release: August 15, 2014
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Written by: Sylvester Stallone & Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt. Characters by Dave Callaham.
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson