The Expendables 3 starts off with a rescue mission involving a helicopter, machine guns, an armored train, Wesley Snipes with crazy eyes and like parts I and II, some bad CGI. Turns out that Snipes' character Doc was an original Expendable along with the faceless Hammer and Woodsman, that the team started with 5 and grew to 22 before Doc was captured after attempting a political assassination. Now, free and teamed up with Barney Ross, Lee Christmas, Gunnar Jensen, Toll Road and Hale Caeser (Played by franchise staples Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Terry Crews) they're off to stop an arms dealer from purchasing some big ass bombs. Said arms dealer is revealed to be Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), also a former Expendable who went dark and thought killed by Ross. After Stonebanks shoots one of the team to torment Ross, Barney thinks it's time for the team to go on with their lives before someone punches their ticket. With the help of crusty mercenary recruiter Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer), he then slaps together a new, young and hungry team for a suicide mission to capture Stonebanks for the C.I.A. but instead of Bruce Willis' Church from I & II we're introduced to Max Drummer (Harrison Ford). Things go bad on the operation and of course, the old Expendables bail out their buddy Barney and take on Mad Mel's army.
On the action front, the PG-13 rating does negate some of the brutal impact displayed in the first two flicks so it will be interesting to see the R rated cut with bullet hits, throat slashing and all that good stuff. For the most part it's a guns and grenades affair with some fast, spin move filled fisticuffs from Stallone, Rousey, Statham and Mel Gibson's stunt double. But the truck chases, boat crashing, night club brawls, shootouts, collapsing rooftop, tank barrage, motorcycle jumping and helicopter chases all add up to an exciting time. I enjoyed the flick as it's not as serious as the first or as jokey as the second. There's still plenty of "what the crap" moments like Arnold squeezing in several of his famous lines and the random use of certain characters (Jet Li, cough, Jet Li). But in the end the 3rd installment feels very modern and stylish in it's execution. While Brian Tyler score seems to be mostly recycled from the first two films, instead of using 70's rock tunes, the film is filled with modern tracks.
Unfortunately, The Expendables 3 hit theaters on a wave of critical drubbing, PG-13 backlash and millions of illegal downloads. It opened up with a not fantastic $16 million, limping into 4th place after parts I & II opened up # 1 with $34 and $28 million. The flick did earn an A- Cinemascore which means audiences are enjoying the film. Mine was great as we applauded each introduction, one liner, big explosion, etc. After pumping up the international release with appearances in Cannes, United Kingdom, Spain and Germany, global takes are down 45% in some territories so this may indeed be The Expendables' last ride. Chalk it up to a crowded market, franchise fatigue (3rd movie in 5 years) and not really bringing anything new to the table, The Expendables is a victim of it's own surprise success as they haven't messed much with the formula, keep cramming in more faces and haven't taken much risk. It's kind of like watching episodes of G.I. Joe, the good guys fight the bad guys, the good guys never die and we get new characters along the way. Only instead of selling toys, we're selling legacies.