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Review: The Expendables 3

With the action more spread out, the jokes of both the intentional an unintentional variety coming later on, the latest and metaphorical last chapter in the geriatric mercenary series The Expendables wants to take a moment to reflect. The series will continue, and even looks to spin off into an all-female composite, but herein marks a finale, stating early and often that at some point, everything must come to an end.

It’s hard to do though when it’s all you do, and in one way or another, a series of characters, given more or less the personalities of the actors who inhabit them, deal with finality. Strangely somber and far more sober, The Expendables 3¸ once more written in part by Sylvester Stallone, who plays the lead mercenary while still sharing the screen, is more an epilogue and surely the weakest of the three installments.

Granted, there is still a massive body count, a plethora of explosions, and a lack of blood in order to gain a PG-13 rating; this is an exaggerated, nostalgic action film after all. But still, as Stallone’s Barney Ross fires his regular crew of big boy bad-asses for a cadre of young and attractive blood after one member gets (maybe fatally) shot, there is a constant discussion, somewhat earnestly, about knowing when it’s time to quit.

It is now. Stallone, along with Schwarzenegger and a lesser extent Harrison Ford, taking up the role of suited-clandestine employer played previously by Bruce Willis, aren’t going away with a whimper, but the bang isn’t as loud as it was in the most entertaining, bombastic part two.

‘What is this, 1985?’ remarks one of the new recruits, the only female Expendable at the moment played by UFC Champion Ronda Rousey. She, along with Kellan Lutz and Glen Powell, and perhaps Victory Ortiz, are the potential future of the franchise. Rousey especially finds the camera on her a lot, and while she doesn’t have much to say and can’t say much with any effectiveness, she represents what is to come (even the massive poster features her center right alongside Stallone).

Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, and Randy Couture (introduced her in order of descending charisma), make their return as the jocularity core. Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas are newcomers to the franchise, and both inject some much needed charm, though the latter borders on annoying as his loner character can’t help but monomaniacal seek people to either befriend of kill people. Also, in case you didn’t know he was Spanish, salsa music plays in the background whenever he comes on to babble.

He is the manic side of the internal struggle Ross (and Stallone) face. At some point it’s all over, you’re too old to do this, and it’s time to turn it over to the next generation. But if this is all you know to do, what else is there? Schwarzenegger on the other hand, is more relaxed, as is Ford, and they are happy to return just one last time.

Nonetheless, there is a fight to be had. A personal vendetta becomes more personal, and Ross finds these new kids with the help of a rather entertaining Kelsey Grammar in a typical recruiting sequence that features some inefficient country criss-crossing and moments of an awkward buddy cop comedy.

Ultimately, it’s a frenetic, excessive, rather cheesy action flick that at one point boasts 13 different Expendables fighting against one crazed arms dealer (Mel Gibson, not mad enough) and his local army, with proper attention given to all those involved.

That comes at the lengthy, satisfying conclusion, one that takes a bit too long to get to but features some winking allusions and impressive sequences. It feels like it is all one last push, a desperate finale to a labored film that is doesn’t have the novel absurdity or energy of its predecessors. It’s been a ride, but it’s time for it to come to a end.

[star v=25]

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.