Expendables 3 a surprising blast

by Mark Burger

The Expendables 3 is the latest and purportedly last film in the popular franchise initiated by Sylvester Stallone, but the law of diminishing returns in sequels is not enforced here. Fans of the series will not be disappointed and, indeed, may very well be pleasantly surprised.

The story, which is hardly of paramount concern, pits the tough (and venerable) crew of heroic mercenaries on yet another mission to save the free world from the forces of evil, personified this time by Mel Gibson as an Expendables founder gone rogue. He’s dealing arms – to the wrong people, of course – prompting his former comrades into action.

The gang’s all here – again: Stallone (retaining a story and screenwriting credit), Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Coutoure, Terry Crews and Jet Li (who’s as wasted here as the last time out).

New to the team are the ever-charismatic Wesley Snipes; Antonio Banderas, who shows up late in the game but bids to steal every scene; Kelsey Grammer, not shooting but wise-cracking; veteran tough guy Robert Davi (in a brief appearance); and a good-humored Harrison Ford. The veterans are joined by “youngsters” Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, and martial-arts champ Ronda Rousey, who’s as fetching as she is fierce. (Although supposedly the finale of the series, a spinoff is quite conceivable.)

The most successful addition to the cast, however, is Gibson. The actor (reportedly also offered the chance to direct) enlivens every scene he’s in and gives Stallone and Company a run for their money.

In a movie such as this, a good baddie is a prerequisite – and Gibson clearly revels in playing it mean ‘n nasty. (He’s also got most of the best lines.)

The earlier films boasted their share of humor, with the advancing ages of its main characters a running gag, but The Expendables 3 is positively giddy. For all the violence and mayhem – tempered to a PG-13 rating this time around – it’s never to be taken seriously for a moment. At 126 minutes, this is also the longest of the Expendables films, but thanks to its appealing star power and Patrick Hughes’ unobtrusive and efficient direction, it’s an engaging popcorn diversion. !

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