The Expendables 3 movie poster
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The Expendables 3
The Expendables 3 movie poster

The Expendables 3 Movie Review

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The choppa. Oh, to hear those words again, uttered—no, declared with pride—by Arnold Schwarzenegger. And twice in the same movie. Those two moments alone make The Expendables 3 worth it, but the over-the-hill action movie has enough excitement, humor and silliness to make it worthwhile.

I wasn’t expecting that. Were you?

The Expendables franchise has never lived up to its potential. Once the novelty of seeing a bunch of previously popular action heroes on screen together wore off, which was about 10 minutes into the first movie, you were left with bad acting, bad writing and either nonsensical or forgettable plotting.

The Expendables 3 still suffers from some of those problems, but the filmmakers have finally learned to embrace its faults. Well, sort of.

The first third and final third of the movies are pure entertainment, full of massive gunfights where no one runs out of bullets, the heroes never run out of faceless soldiers to kill and things are just all around ludicrous.

The Expendables 3 begins by reintroducing Wesley Snipes to audiences, and he is on his game. Snipes is hilarious and kicks some major ass; too bad he largely disappears during the second half of the movie. Statham and Stallone are also at the top of their game; their banter is significantly better than in the first two movies. The first act also features a couple entertaining action sequences.

Sadly, just went you think the movie is nailing it, the second act comes around and things come to a screeching halt. The old team is put on hiatus as Stallone, for some inexplicable reason, seeks to recruit a new team of young, unrecognizable people no one cares about. The film then spends what seems like 20 minutes introducing each of the new characters, when the same could have been accomplished in a minute-long montage (this also would have helped the ridiculous 126-minute running time). There are a few good moments between Stallone and Kelsey Grammer, but even their exchanges get stale quickly. One highlight that comes from this drag of a middle section: Antonio Banderas, who is even funnier than Snipes.

The movie largely recovers in the third act as the original team gets back together and they go to war with an army. The climax is long, violent and generally exciting, even if by now it’s been established that Stallone and crew are unwilling to kill any of the protagonists. Nonetheless, action fans will not be disappointed.

It’s also fun to see Mel Gibson back on screen. Despite his off-screen issues, Gibson is a terrific actor and he serves as a decent villain. While his performance is good, the filmmakers failed to take full advantage of him; Gibson can do crazy well, and he could and should have been a lot zanier than he is here.

The Expendables 3 features some solid action scenes and offers a fair amount of laughs. The additions of Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas and Mel Gibson inject some much-needed entertainment value (and acting chops) to the production. If only the filmmakers had excised the middle act, The Expendables 3 could have been a real winner.

But really, it’s all about getting to the choppa.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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