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'The Expendables 3' is fun when it remembers its 80s action film roots

The Expendables 3

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Action film icon Sylvester Stallone had an idiot proof formula with his “The Expendables” film franchise that should have been used in “The Expendables 3:” Cast a bunch of fellow action film icons from the 80s in a modern day action film and let them shoot and/or fight there way through an adrenaline fueled action film of today that reminds audiences of the excess of the action films of the 80s.

"The Expendables 3" August 11 Premiere-slide0
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The first “The Expendables” did exactly that but screws it up with tacked on bits of drama between family members, loved ones, and broken friendships that managed to drag the film down. The second “The Expendables” trimmed the drama regarding a fallen comrade in arms and used that drama as a driving force to send Sylvester Stallone and the Expendables crew through various action scenes and quips with its 80s stars. Having perfected the formula with “The Expendables 2,” the third “The Expendables” film that is creatively titled “The Expendables 3” should be Sylvester Stallone's magnum opus with a tight plot and enough action that brings us back to the heyday of the 80s.

When “The Expendables 3” decides to be an Expendables film with its action and quips from various stars such as referencing old action film one-liners or referencing real world situations that the film's actors have gone through such as Wesley Snipes' tax evasion or the replacement of Bruce Willis, it's a great film. “The Expendables 3” pits Sylvester Stallone's character against former Expendables co-founder played by a Mel Gibson who looks like he's having fun. After the first assassination fails and one of the Expendables is taken out, a guilt-ridden Stallone fears losing his friends & fellow 80s action film stars and decides to take on Mel Gibson new team of young recruits who he finds expendable.

This attempt to bridge the 80s nostalgia with creating new potential Expendables becomes the weak point of “The Expendables 3.” The replacing of Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Wesley Snipes with some guy, another guy, a boxer, and some girl who might have been Jennifer Lawrence feels like false advertising. Audiences came in to see their old action film stars tearing through armies to beat the bad guy instead of seeing these new people do Hollywood hacking to sneak into the stronghold. The emotional baggage that Sylvester Stallone's character carries consisting of guilt and the morality of the job drag the film just as his baggage during the first film. At least new film veterans like Antonio Banderas and Kelsey Grammer throw in some needed humor and panache into the film.

Thankfully, the new crew isn't as competent as the original Expendables and the original Expendables crew somehow come in to show the young ones how it's done. When that does happen, “The Expendables 3” feels like the film that was being marketed. It's a shame that it takes slogging through an unimpressive second act for “The Expendables 3” to remember its 80s action film roots.

“The Expendables 3” is scheduled to hit theaters August 15 in glorious 2D.