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THE EXPENDABLES 3: 3 STARS. “machismo floating in a sea of testosterone.”

expendables-3-wooMore people die in the first five minutes “The Expendables 3” movie than in any other two war movies combined. There is death by bullet, bazooka and bomb. It’s a wild but oddly bloodless beginning to the movie. Perhaps its because they have scaled back the rating to PG1the from the hard Rs the last two Expendables enjoyed, but removing most of the over-the-top violence leaves an absence of the over-the-top fun of the originals. Why arm Stallone and Company up the wazoo and then skimp on the fake blood and faux carnage?

A mission to stop a shipment of bombs brings grizzled mercenaries Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Caesar (Terry Crews) face to face with their toughest adversary yet, arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). Determined to bring down Stonebanks, Ross retires the oldtimers—“We aren’t the future anymore,” says Ross, “we’re part of the past.”— and recruits a fresh group of soldiers—Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell—but just may find that his old dogs have some new tricks.

“Great plan,” says Luna (MMA fighter Rousey) of Ross’s old-fashioned bulldozer approach to mercenary work, “if it was 1985,” and this might have been a great movie if it was 1985. Despite the lack of overly gratuitous blood and guts, it feels like one of those direct-to-video action movies from the Reagan years. With no sense of nuance and clichés aplenty, it ploughs ahead, relentlessly reveling in its own stupidity. Kind of the like everything, but especially the action movies, in the 1980s.

But for much of the movie, that’s OK. How could you not love Wesley Snipes saying that his character was put in jail for tax evasion? It’s art imitating life! Or something.

Most of the other performances aren’t so much performances as they are action star posturing. Kelsey Grammar, as a recruiter for a new batch of Expendables, stands out because he does some actual acting. So do many of the obvious stunt doubles. The rest are all bulked-up chunks of machismo floating in a sea of testosterone.

Still, as an old-school action movie, it works well enough, despite the lack of gallons of fake plasma. I liked the attempts of creating new catchphrases—which are a must in these kinds of films—like Crews yelling, “It’s time to mow the lawn,” before spraying thousands of bullets into a dock packed with baddies. Also, the action scenes are shot clearly and effectively, and unlike last week’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” you can actually see who is shooting-punching-blowing up-kicking-garroting-etc who. It makes it easier to cheer for the good guys when you can tell who the bad guys are.

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