'The Expendables 3': Action franchise is over the hill, reviews say

'The Expendables 3': Action franchise is over the hill, reviews say
Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas in "The Expendables 3." (Phil Bray / Lionsgate)

Fine wine or a favorite pair of blue jeans may get better with age, but the same can't be said for '80s and '90s action heroes — at least not according to reviews of "The Expendables 3," the latest installment of Sylvester Stallone and company's testosterone-powered film franchise.

Although "The Expendables 3" finds its maturing mercenaries drafting some new recruits, including Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell and Ronda Rousey, critics say they fail to save the movie from drab mediocrity.


The Times' Kenneth Turan says that with an increasingly grizzled roster, "'Expendables 3' has tried to make a virtue of necessity and construct a film about younger types muscling their sclerotic compatriots out of a job. That may sound interesting, but it's really not."

He continues: "Instead, as directed by Patrick Hughes and written by Stallone and Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, 'Expendables 3' is a kind of ho-hum experience, wherein a lot of bullets are expended and a lot of structures exploded to minimal dramatic effect."

USA Today's Claudia Puig offers a more pointed review, writing, "'The Expendables 3' is as boneheaded and disposable as it sounds. Despite its star wattage, it might be the most dismal movie of the year." She adds, "The movie tries to trick viewers into thinking they're being entertained just by watching all of these famous grizzled action stars in one explosive place. But it forgets to give these geezers a reason to be gathering for the detonation fest. Sequels are often lazy rehashes, but this third go-round is particularly egregious."

The New York Post's Lou Lumenick quips, "Most of us have probably seen episodes of 'Antiques Roadshow' more exciting than this PG-13-rated, interminably boring 'action' fiasco." He adds, "The first two 'Expendables' were hardly great movies, but they contained enough moments of campy fun to make them passable entertainment in the dregs of August. This installment's an unremittingly leaden slog."

Lumenick's recommendation? "Time to pull the plug on this brain-dead franchise."

Variety's equally unimpressed Justin Chang writes, "You need 'The Expendables 3' like you need a kick in the crotch, and while this running-on-fumes sequel may not be quite as painful a thing to experience, it will waste considerably more of your time."

Chang adds that while the previous movies "were at least enlivened by a sly awareness of their own awfulness, and got by on the strength of their no-nonsense, R-rated brutality," No. 3 "has opted for a more audience-friendly PG-13 rating — a gutless decision that drains the action of its excitement, its visceral impact and its glorious disreputability."

The Toronto Star's Peter Howell says, "A franchise that was once mildly enjoyable for the novelty of bringing together aging but still popular action heroes … has turned into a cattle drive of subprime beef, with more grunts and stares than dialogue. This is what an earthbound 'Guardians of the Galaxy' would be like if every character was Groot, the tree guy."

And the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle complains that "We have no rooting interest here. We're simply presented with the spectacle of guys slaughtering other guys, and we're expected to get on board with it, as though the sight were akin to puppies or young love, something everyone likes."

At least the movie has a decent villain, LaSalle says: "'The Expendables 3' has only one thing going for it, beyond the unremarkable novelty of seeing lots of celebrities in a lousy movie. It has Mel Gibson, who is at his grim, tormented and quirky best here, playing someone who has crossed a moral line and has no regrets."

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