The Expendables 3 (2014) – Patrick Hughes

Dropping their hard R rating, The Expendables are back for a third go round, and Sylvester Stallone returns with a star studded cast that kind of makes up for the lack of gore, but you still find yourself wishing for it anyway.

This time it’s personal when Barney Ross (Stallone) leads his mercenary team on a mission only to come up against one of the original founding members, now turned arms dealer and villain, Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). He eschews his regular team, Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunnar (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Road (Randy Couture), newly released Doc (Wesley Snipes) and Caesar (Terry Crews) – after Caesar is wounded.

Recruiting a new team, commissioned by Drummer (Harrison Ford) who replaces Bruce Willis’ Church, Barney is intent on taking the fight to Stonebanks even if it turns into a suicide mission. While it’s cool to see some new and younger faces, it’s the older ones that illicit joy for the action fans. Showing up this time around with the rest of the cast is Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li (both returning again), Kelsey Grammer, and Antonio Banderas.

It’s a fun ride, if lacking the sheer scale of violence and blood that the first two films were drenched in, and the story makes sure to ensure that every character gets a moment to shine, even as they riff on familiar characters and action tropes.

Stallone gets rid of the facial hair that he sported in the first two films, and he and his team fall into that easy camaraderie that made the first two so enjoyable. The other thing that seems to be missing is the classic rock that showed up through the first two films.

It’s a fun ride, a fine conclusion to the trilogy, though I still question the need for fresh faces in the series – I would argue that misses the point of what the films are all about.

The film is loud, rambunctious and has some great sequences, Li is wasted in the film, as his appearance is little more than a cameo and he doesn’t get to show off any of his skills, everyone else however shows off to the extreme, and damned if it isn’t an enjoyable popcorn fiesta.

These films are just enjoyable escapades, well aware that they play with action tropes, and familiar scenarios, that way the audience knows what to expect, they’re just there to see how things play out for their heroes, their favourites, and who is going to show up next.

Perfect popcorn viewing for a rainy day.

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