Movie Review: “The Expendables 3”

Grade: C-

Movie Review: “The Expendables 3”

Can over a half-billion dollars in box office receipts be wrong? In the case of the newest addition to “The Expendables” franchise, the answer is an unmistakable “Yes.” “The Expendables 3” is clumsily shot, poorly written and unabashedly tacky. The film franchise’s change to a PG-13 rating takes the life out of the action scenes, subtracting from the exuberant brutality of the previous films.

“The Expendables 3” looks great on paper. Directed by Patrick Hughes (“Red Hill”), the movie unites a veritable who’s who of action pioneers and rising stars, several of whom make their feature film debut. The third installment recruits veterans in the action genre such as Antonio Banderas (“Puss in Boots”) and Harrison Ford (“42”), as well as newcomers to film, including boxer Victor Ortiz and Mixed Martial Arts fighter Ronda Rousey. Mel Gibson (“The Passion of the Christ”) plays the villain, a menacing, ruthless, darkly-comical arms dealer named Conrad Stonebanks, a co-founder of the Expendables.

However, the film misses way more than it hits, both in comedy and action. Most of the characters’ catchphrases wear thin after being used once or twice, never more noticeable than with Glenn Powell’s catchphrase, “Ba da boom.” The opening scene, in which the Expendables’ leader, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone, “Grudge Match”), and his team help Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes, “Brooklyn’s Finest”) escape from a heavily guarded train, fails to thrill and prepares the audience for more mundane action. This action is occasionally hard to follow, especially when Ross and company battle a score of Somali militants.

“The Expendables 3” embraces its B-movie roots with unintentional humor and over-the-top action. These features are evident in the film’s dramatic scenes and ending, in which 10 men take on an army and leave unscathed. The movie sometimes works, especially when it includes self-referential humor and uses cameos from renowned actors like Kelsey Grammer (“Transformers: Age of Extinction”) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Escape Plan”) to keep the audience engaged. Bad acting – especially from Stallone – and annoying, inconsequential characters undermine these positivities.

If you choose to go see “The Expendables 3”, do so for Antonio Banderas. As Galgo, the lovably annoying former member of the Spanish Armed Forces, he offers the right amount of self-deprecation and humor to parody the action genre. Though Banderas’ slim build contrasts with the brawn of Dolph Lundgren (“The Expendables 2”) and Jason Statham (“Homefront”), his comedic flourishes always connect and his on-screen persona is by far the most charming and captivating. Banderas is flat-out hilarious as he nonchalantly runs away from a barrage of helicopter fire, and he is even funnier when he declares the rush he gets from fighting.

For fans of both “The Expendables” franchise and other action movies, the third installment may fall too short of their expectations. For those seeking an unadulterated shoot-em-up featuring some of the biggest action stars of the past several decades, look no further. However, don’t expect to see a great motion picture.

“The Expendables 3” (PG-13, 126 min) opens in theaters nationwide on Aug. 15.

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