The Expendables 3

I liked the first “The Expendables”, but somehow more in theory than in practice. Sylvester Stallone and other old school action stars getting together and kicking ass? Count me in. Now, to me, “The Expendables 2” awesomely built up on that concept and actually delivered a classic action flick, with tons of bloody thrills and hearty laughs. Unfortunately, this third episode doesn’t continue to improve on the formula. It rather feels tired and repetitive, despite the numerous attempts at shaking things up.

After facing off against Jean-Claude Van Damme, the gang must now battle with Mel Gibson. Sounds good, but Mr. “Lethal Weapon” doesn’t seem to be nearly having as much fun playing the villain as JCVD did. Likewise, I can’t say that replacing Bruce Willis with Harrison Ford as the team’s CIA liaison works out very well. Ford really seems bored on screen, like he’s just cashing in a cheque. I’m afraid the same can also be said of the returning Arnold Schwarzenegger, who doesn’t make much of an impression through the film.

Faring a lot better are the two new Expendables: Wesley Snipes (who Stallone costarred with in “Demolition Man”), who’s actually an old Expendable who just spent 8 years in prison, and Antonio Banderas (Stallone’s “Assassins” costar), a chatty, overexcited late addition to the crew.

And then there’s the “kids”, i.e. four new Expendables who are recruited by Stallone (and Kelsey Grammer, for some reason) during the misguided second act, where the other old guys are forcefully retired. I don’t have a problem per se with newcomers Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell and Victor Ortiz, but I am bothered by how the screentime they take up means benching Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Randy Couture and Terry Crews for way too long.

Thankfully, they -minus Crews, unfortunately- do come back for the action-packed third act, which is ultimately exciting enough to make the movie worth seeing after all. I’m not a fan of the decision to tone things down from an R rating to a PG-13, but to be honest, even though we don’t see any blood or anything, the non-stop shootouts and fights are still pretty intense.

So there you have it: “The Expendables 3” remains a good enough time at the movies, it just doesn’t have the novelty factor of the original or the sheer effectiveness of the second one.