Three out of five stars
With enough gratuitous violence to make director Michael Bay blush, the Expendables are back in "The Expendables 3."
This time around, Sylvester Stallone’s Barney Ross and his band of merry mercenaries have to take out a major arms dealer. Unbeknownst to them, that arms dealer turns out to be Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), Barney’s ruthless former “Brother” and co-founder of "The Expendables," whom Barney also believed was dead.
The mission goes wrong, leaving Caesar (Terry Crews) near death and Barney at a crossroads. His new CIA contact, Drummer, played with typical casual cool by Harrison Ford, would like Barney to finish the job…with a younger team. So Barney fires his old friends -- Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and new addition Doc (Wesley Snipes), an original Expendable they break out of an armored prison train at the beginning of the movie, but whose only real purpose here apparently is to deliver the movie’s funniest line, one that’s also a fantastic reference to Snipes’ recent personal life.
Barney now has to assemble a new team, so he turns to mercenary recruiter extraordinaire Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer), and together they go on a ROAD TRIP! Bonaparte comes up with Kellan Lutz (the "Twilight" franchise, "The Legend of Hercules"), mixed martial arts champ Ronda Rousey, boxing champ Victor Ortiz, and relative big-screen newcomer Glen Powell. These young whippersnappers offer a completely different skill set than the “old guys” -- namely, they’re all tech savvy and impossibly good-looking.
At the very least, "The Expendables 3" is easily the most entertaining film of the franchise. The humor from the first movie was mostly derived from calling back scenes or lines from many of the action stars’ most famous films. Like the franchise itself, it was gimmicky but amusing. In the second movie, however, the gimmick got old fast. Here, we get the gift of Antonio Banderas, an unemployed, frustrated mercenary named Galgo who can’t get a gig because he talks too much. Banderas’ presence does the near-impossible: every scene he’s in briefly turns "The Expendables 3" into an intelligent, funny and somewhat original film. That is, every scene Banderas is in that’s not jammed with over-the-top action (Dear MPAA: Seriously, what were you smoking when you decided to slap a PG-13 rating on this sucker?) Kelsey Grammer also has some moments, as does the maligned Mel Gibson, who’s very good in this role and, after Snipes, is responsible for the movie’s second-funniest line.
"The Expendables 3," like the first two, is an action farce. It’s just a far more effective action farce than its predecessors, one we mostly laugh with instead of at.