REVIEW : “The Expendables 3”


The entire Expendables franchise started as a nostalgic rekindling of the once prominent over-the-top action genre. It wasn’t afraid to parody itself or play with the familiar action cliches of the 1980s and early 90s. And half of the fun was just seeing these actors together hamming it up and shooting a ton of bullets. The first film was entertaining and it set the table for the second installment which I thought was funnier and more self-deprecating while clinging to the all-important nostalgia. Now we have an inevitable third film which tries to keep the ball rolling.

“The Expendables 3” is made for a PG-13 audience (at least so it says), but don’t be misled. The body count is still astronomical and bullets fly aplenty. But the blood is reined in just enough to somehow keep it from an R rating. Unfortunately its desire for a broader audience, while noble in purpose, is undermined by the fact that the movie simply isn’t as fun or nostalgic as either of the first two pictures.


Sylvester Stallone and his action ensemble returns minus Bruce Willis who declined because he wanted more money (one of the film’s funnier jokes takes a shot at the publicized dispute). And in keeping with the franchise’s trend, several new stars are added into the mix. Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, and action star extraordinaire (sarcasm absolutely intended) Kelsey Grammer. These are some interesting names and it would be fun to see what the movie would be like if they were all that was added to it.

But in an attempt to inject some youth and potentially pass the torch, a group of new Expendables are added to the group. This is one of the film’s major blunders because none of these youngsters are the slightest bit interesting. They are cardboard cutouts and sometimes their acting makes Stallone’s look good. In case you don’t know, that is no compliment. They are walking talking cliches and they zap the movie of its fun and playful energy.

But the film’s main dish is the action and as I mentioned there is plenty of it. The problem is it lacks the pop that we’ve seen in the other flicks. What I mean is the action scenes rarely energize the movie. In the earlier films regardless of whatever narrative problems they would be having you could count on the action to liven things up. Here it often feels generic and monotonous. There are moments when they do pull off one of those great over-the-top stunts that feels right at home in the 80s. There are other moments that just feel like a boring grind.


Thankfully some of the old action veterans do save this from being a disaster. Mel Gibson is deliciously maniacal as the head baddie. While his grand scheme and ultimate motivations are murky, Gibson has a ball with the character and I loved every minute he was on screen. Harrison Ford was also a hoot as a grumpy hard-nosed CIA officer. Arnold Schwarzenegger is also fun and every line he has seems to be poking fun at himself. Same with Wesley Snipes. But many of the cast gets lost in the shuffle and rarely get their signature moment in the film. Too many characters and not enough screen time to go around.

In the end “The Expendables 3” lacks the fun, the excitement, and the charm that the franchise built itself on. The action isn’t good enough this time around to save the film from its clunky and paper-thin plot. And while some of the old guys are a lot of fun, namely Gibson and Ford, too many characters are shortchanged thanks to the introduction of an insipid younger crew. It’s unfortunate because I have always enjoyed these movies as entertaining nostalgic escapes. “The Expendables 3” has left me wondering if this ship has run its course.


19 thoughts on “REVIEW : “The Expendables 3”

  1. Great review 🙂 I watched this movie yesterday and wow, it really is incredibly bad. Of the franchise I loved the second film the most – it was cheesy and quite fun to watch.

    • I agree with you. The second film was a step up from the first. Unfortunately this is a huge leap back and it’s hard to see the series going forward after this one.

  2. I really enjoyed Antonio Banderas as the comic relief in the film. You are right about the younger actors, they barely register. They exist solely as a story telling device.

    • Yep, and not a very good storytelling device either. They offer absolutely nothing worth investing in. Totally boring which is really unfortunate.

  3. I’m with Richard on this one. Seen it twice now, its theater release and watching the underrated cut on Blu-ray. Each time I came to think on Mel Gibson’s performance. Why, even after all the antics and bad press, he’s still so watchable. And yeah, their young replacements are all attitude…and less filling.

    • Simply put, Gibson is a great actor. His alcohol induced tirades and mental lapses certainly hurt his career and Hollywood has no interest in being forgiving when it comes to him. So I doubt he’ll ever reach that top level again. But I always like watching him on the screen.

  4. I still had fun with this one. The action was silly enough to keep me in nostalgia mode. I put it in my so bad it’s awesome category. You’re definitely right about there being too big a cast. Lots of characters were just along for the ride and didn’t contribute as much. Great review.

    • Thanks Wendell. For me a much better movie was in their grasp if they had just left out the young gunners. They really did dampen the entire thing for me.

  5. Nice review Keith, and one I would pretty much expect when the franchise decided to soften to a PG-13. I still need to see the second installment but I really really enjoyed the first for what it was. These are never going to be more than silly action escapes, but what’s so wrong with that? 🙂

    • You’re right. They are just fun, nostalgic escapes. The second one really packaged that well. If you get a chance you really should check it out.

  6. I get your points on this one, Keith. I found this a lot more “fun” than you obviously did, and that’s okay. Nah, it’s not filled with the same “oh, look who they got to be in this” nostalgia of the original (or even the second), and I felt the whole “handing the baton” to the new brigade didn’t work as well as it could have, but I think that final forty minute combat sequence is one of the most intense things I’ve ever seen in a PG film, bar none.

    • Thanks for the comments. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one. There were just too many things that I couldn’t connect with. I think the intentions were sound but it just didn’t work for me.

  7. I enjoyed this one slightly more than you did, actually think it is the best in the series for whatever that is worth, but I agree that it lacks the pop truly needed to make this film memorable.

    • Interesting. For me its playfulness wasn’t as effective as the other two and they really seemed to struggle recapturing the nostalgia. I just found it to be a flat below average action flick.

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