[Screen It]

"THE EXPENDABLES 3"
(2014) (Sylvester Stallone, Mel Gibson) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action: The leader of a group of mercenaries replaces older members of his team with younger ones, all in hopes of bringing down an international arms dealer he thought he killed years earlier.
PLOT:
After freeing one of their original founding members, Doc (WESLEY SNIPES), from a train headed toward a secret prison, Barney Ross (SYLVESTER STALLONE) and his team of mercenaries -- Lee Christmas (JASON STATHAM), Gunnar Jensen (DOLPH LUNDGREN), and Toll Road (RANDY COUTURE) -- head to Mogadishu where they unite with the other member of their Expendables crew, Hale Caesar (TERRY CREWS), to capture a bad guy for the CIA. They're shocked to discover that he's actually Conrad Stonebanks (MEL GIBSON), also one of the original founding members who then went over to the criminal side and became an international arms dealer. Barney is most surprised since he believed he had killed Stonebanks years ago and the villain gets away again, but not before severely wounding Caesar.

After getting his new marching orders from CIA Field Operations Officer Max Drummer (HARRISON FORD), and realizing he's already lost too many of his past team members, Barney essentially fires Christmas, Jensen and Toll Road. With the aid of mercenary recruiter Bonaparte (KELSEY GRAMMER), Barney starts assembling a younger team, knowing all too well that they might all be headed on a perilous, one-way trip. After passing on the over-eager assassin, Galgo (ANTONIO BANDERAS), he settles on the quartet of former Navy SEAL John Smilee (KELLAN LUTZ); martial arts expert Luna (RONDA ROUSEY); hacker Thorn (GLEN POWELL); and tough guy Mars (VICTOR ORTIZ).

But when their grab and snatch job on Stonebanks goes amiss, Barney finds himself needing the help of his former adversary, Trench (ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER); his newest associate who used to work with The Expendables, Yin Yang (JET LI); and the rest of his formerly fired team to rescue the youngsters and bring down the notorious arms dealer.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
Unless one is considering a period costume drama or AARP friendly films such as "Cocoon," "Space Cowboys" or "Grumpy Old Men," it's not likely that the top five most recognizable actors in a movie would have a combined age of 324, especially if said movie falls into the action genre.

Yet, that's exactly the case with "The Expendables 3" where Sylvester Stallone (68), Mel Gibson (58), Harrison Ford (72), Arnold Schwarzenegger (67) and Kelsey Grammer (59) are joined by "youngsters" Antonio Banderas (54), Jason Statham (47), Wesley Snipes (52), Jet Li (51), Dolph Lundgren (56), Randy Couture (51) and Terry Crews (46) for yet another installment of this geezer fueled franchise that kicked off back in 2010 and then delivered a sequel two years later.

Considering that "who's who" cast of mostly action stars from the 1980s and '90s, it's too bad they didn't throw in Kevin Bacon. That's not for his action film pedigree, but simply because so many faces would perhaps complete the entirety of the so-called "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" (where everyone who's anyone is tied together by some association with the former "Footloose" star). I only go off on that tangent because it's far more interesting than anything this third installment has to offer during its slightly more than two hour runtime.

Just like the first two entries in the genre, this ever-growing collection of recognizable faces is nothing more than a gimmick. That said (and considering I remember just about nothing from either preceding flick beyond the former marquee names), I think I enjoyed this one just a smidge better than its predecessors. But that has little to do with the script -- courtesy of Stallone and Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt -- or the direction of the various action scenes and so-called drama from helmer Patrick Hughes.

Instead, it mostly stems from the addition of Banderas who plays an over-eager assassin turned chatterbox who provides some much needed real humor in this flick that, like the earlier offerings, tries perhaps a bit too hard to be cute in terms of winking at its stars and their past action trademarks. (Although it's surprising the powers that be didn't include Snipes' former "Always bet on black" line when he and the team stumble on a long-abandoned casino in a long-deserted city).

That's where the big finale takes place and it's the best thing the film has to offer in such regards. With some hired eastern European army -- working for the lead villain played by none other than Mel Gibson (who's fairly good in a role that's just a tad too under-written to be truly great or intriguing -- laying siege to the building they're in, Stallone (who looks tired much of the time) and company try to battle their way from the inside out. That's all while Han Solo, uh, Harrison Ford, pilots the Millennium...um...a military chopper with Arnie and Jet Li blasting away with large caliber machine guns.

Strangely enough, Li is not allowed to use his martial arts prowess. Instead, that falls to Jason Statham and new to the fold and UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey to provide the kicks. While she's not much from the drama side, her action scenes are fun, especially when she's simultaneously interacting with Banderas' talkative and flirtatious character. In addition to her, the filmmakers have thrown in "Twilight" actor Kellan Lutz, fellow actor Glen Powell, and boxer turned movie actor Victor Ortiz as new Expendables team members.

That's presumably because their older co-stars are obviously getting a bit long in the tooth for any potential "Expendables 4, 5 or 6", a fact pointed out by bits of dialogue including Schwarzenegger telling Stallone, "I'm getting out of this business. So should you" and Sly later stating, "It's a young man's game." Even so, Banderas' character points out that "age is just a state of mind," and viewers who grew up on or simply enjoyed watching all of these old guys back in their heyday might just have fun with another round -- and maybe the last -- of seeing them kick butt and fire enough ammo for several action pics.

Yet, there's no denying that gimmick is likewise getting old when not being stretched far too thin. Notwithstanding the closing, multi-minute action sequence, much of the action footage is nothing more than okay, and even that conclusion isn't that thrilling. And the "heartfelt" moments feel just as old and tired as some of the performers who are not particularly trying that hard to breathe some life into them.

Better in the second half but still way too long for a pic like this, "The Expendables 3" has its moments, but it's rocking chair time for this franchise. It rates as a 4.5 out of 10.




Reviewed August 13, 2014 / Posted August 15, 2014


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