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The Expendables 3

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Aug 15, 2014
Harrison Ford stars in 'The Expendables 3'
Harrison Ford stars in 'The Expendables 3'  (Source:Lionsgate)

What do you do when the bones are creaking, you're feeling physically sluggish and mentally foggy, and you're generally running out of steam? More and more men are turning to hormone therapy, getting scrips for infusions of testosterone. That's more or less what happens in "The Expendables 3," only the man-juice isn't delivered via gel or nasal spray. Rather, it's delivered on the hoof, in the form of a whole new, much younger team.

The film pays so little attention to narrative that the plot (not really very different from that of the second movie, 2012's "The Expendables 2") scarcely registers. How could it, with so many action sequences crashing up against one another? This is two hours of sheer mayhem, strung together with a bit of tenuous blather about globe-trotting rescue missions and CIA-backed operations -- one of which goes wrong early on, sparking Action Hero in Chief Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone, who also co-wrote the film) to dissolve his close-knit band of brothers (fellow action movie idols Jason Statham and Dolph Lundgren, along with Randy Couture and Terry Crews). It's too bad, too, because Wesley Snipes has barely joined up as Doc, a long-imprisoned member of The Expendables who boasts surgical skills with just about any sort of bladed weapon.

But Ross isn't headed for retirement. He has a score to settle with an old pal named Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who, along with Ross, originated The Expendables before launching an independent career as a weapons smuggler and war criminal. Ross' vendetta dovetails uneasily with new orders to bring Stonebanks in, alive, to stand trial in the Hague.

Cue the global search for fresh young talent, and the new supply of androgen-hardened flesh -- including the team's first female member, Luna (Ronda Rousey), who's happy to wipe the floor with half a dozen brawny dudes while cracking her knuckles and tossing off a contemptuous, "Men." (She might as well be saying "Meh.") Kelsey Grammar hops on for the ride as Bonaparte, a recruiter who spots hard fighting, ripped hunks with a talent for outrageous stunts. In addition to the new girl, Bonaparte has Smilee (Kellan Lutz), Mars (Victor Ortiz), and Thorn (Glen Powell) lined up for Ross' approval. Oh, and Galgo (Antonio Banderas), a guy whose motor mouth is the nonstop equivalent of a superpower. Harrison Ford even finds a place in the fray as Drummer, the CIA handler who replaces Church (Bruce Willis) from the earlier movies.

This is summer fun at its loudest, dumbest, and most ridiculously, cartoonishly violent. It's sure to be a big hit. (With "Expendables 4" already in development, it better be.) There's zero value here as anything other than a display of (often unconvincing) fight choreography and big explosions, with one notable exception: The film's sheer visual mastery, with camerawork, editing, and cinematography creating a ballet out of what's otherwise a big, bloody mess.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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