Sequel to the vehicle for aging action-film actors
The plot doesn't really matter in The Expendables 3 (all right, it's another suicide mission for the off-the-books CIA squadron, if you must know). Story is superfluous because this Sylvester Stallone franchise has devolved into the clown car of action movies: a casting gimmick to see how many AARP actors you can cram into one vehicle.
The core warriors - Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews - return to help Stallone's cigar-chomping Barney Ross face the usual overwhelming odds. And Arnold Schwarzenegger eventually reprises his role as the mercenary Trench. (Stallone and Schwarzenegger look so creaky together physical therapy seems a far wiser option than combat.)
Then it's bar the door, Katie, as just about every actor who has ever needed a body double turns up: Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, and Antonio Banderas. You even get Kelsey Grammer (although he really appears to have wandered onto the wrong set).
As in The Expendables 2, there's also a curiously brief appearance by Jet Li as Yin Yang. Apparently, the producers of this franchise have calculated to the second how little Li they can get away with and still make this film appeal to Asian moviegoers.
Barney is just warming up. After one of his crew is gravely injured (a leg wound that somehow in the next scene has jumped to his chest), Barn enlists a whole new roster of rowdies to go into battle, including Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz, and Glen Powell.
Rousey, an MMA star, makes a memorable big-screen debut, decimating a group of thugs while attired in a tight red dress, high heels, and prim librarian glasses. If only Rousey can master how to make facial expressions that are appropriate to the scene, she has a great future as an action star.
The plot is incoherent, and the large-scale skirmishes are so jittery and poorly lighted that at times you can't tell who is fighting. It's just Brownian movement with really loud sound effects.
The Expendables formula obviously has no expiration date, but it isn't getting any better as its cast continues to age. This film serves only one purpose: It makes "Six Degrees of Bacon" ridiculously easier to play.
The Expendables 3 1/2 (Out of four stars)
Directed by Patrick Hughes. With Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson. Distributed by Lionsgate Films.
Running time: 2 hours, 6 minutes.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes).
Playing at: Area theaters.