The novel appeal of the previous two installments of “The Expendables” (particularly in “The Expendables 2”) was bringing the triumvirate of 80s mega-action hulks Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis together at last. As such, the “blow-’em-up” plot didn’t really matter, as the films were, ultimately, just a way to see the reinvigorated guys from your movie-viewing youth shoot stuff. A lot of stuff. And, blow stuff up. Repeatedly. And, following the nearly $200 million dollar combined gross from the previous films’ successes, “The Expendables 3” continues its parade of famous AARP members to the “oohs” and “aahs” of audience members waiting for the next “where are they now” cameo.
In this installment, plot again matters little. Stallone continues his role as Barney Ross, the mercenary emeritus with a heart of gold for his elite team of killers (including returning characters played by Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, and Randy Couture). When an off-the-books government job arranged by CIA bigwig Drummer (Harrison Ford in his first series’ appearance) to stop an arms dealer goes wrong, Ross finds out that a dangerous man from his past (Mel Gibson as Stonebanks) is behind the illegal doings. In response, Ross soon unceremoniously dumps his team of esteemed black-ops men, hoping to protect them from further sacrifice. Hellbent on a seeming suicide mission to destroy Stonebanks, Ross assembles a new team of money-hungry youngsters with talents in MMA-style fighting (Ronda Rousey), computers (Glen Powell), and hard-core combat (Kellan Lutz), and attempts to leave his old pals in the dust to eliminate his senescent nemesis.
“The Expendables 3” is more of what the audience has come to expect from these franchise films, although the acting ante has been upped a bit with the addition of Harrison’s gravely gravitas and Gibson’s seething badness. The film, surprisingly the best of the “Expendables” bunch, is a action film for those who miss the old-style, decades-past action heroes who operate within a near-cartoonish atmosphere. There is no subtlety of plot, no shades of nuance here. It is a fairly fast-paced, predicable, mildly diverting outing with a big, bloodless body count.
Of note, screenwriter Stallone, ever the shrewd businessman, has helped slide “The Expendables 3” to a PG-13 rating by the MPAA (other installments were “R”), making the very major carnage throughout the film appear oddly without gore. Although certainly a relief to the casual viewer, this largely bloodless film is much closer to a R-rating than a PG-13. Viewers may wish to take this into consideration. “The Expendables 3” is rated 3 - out of 5 stars.
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