'The Expendables 3': What the Critics Are Saying

The Expendables 3, with a cast so big it barely fits on a billboard, hits theaters Friday. Kelsey Grammer, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas and Harrison Ford are just a few of the new faces (read: muscles) to join Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Terry Crews and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the franchise's third installment, directed by Patrick Hughes.

In addition to potential franchise fatigue, a pristine copy of the movie leaked on the Internet earlier this month, and the film opened to a muted $875,000 Thursday night from more than 2,200 locations. The Lionsgate and Millennium Film is expected to take in $20 million to $25 million for the weekend — a series low.

Read what top critics are saying about The Expendables 3.

The Hollywood Reporter's film critic Justin Lowe says in his review, "Although The Expendables 3 remains faithful to the series' B-movie roots, what becomes increasingly clear is that the issue of franchise fatigue isn't so much attributable to the initially inspired template that put highly recognizable, aging action stars back in the game as it is to increasingly formulaic plotlines. With no higher purpose than generating cash and allowing for a few shared laughs among old buddies on repetitive assignments to take out tyrannical despots and nefarious arms dealers, the Expendables lack the dimensionality of enduring screen characters, despite the iconic roles many of these actors have played in other films."

He continues, "The biggest misstep involves sidelining the original cast members while Ross (Stallone) convenes a new group of Expendables, which consumes an unwarranted amount of plot with commensurate payoff. None of the newcomers has the experience or credentials of the film's real stars, which are the factors that make their performances so effectively economical and ironically amusing." 

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times says, "With some of their members looking old enough to apply for joint membership in the RED (Retired Extremely Dangerous) action franchise, 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. … In addition to a great deal of bloodless (which is kind of a relief) PG-13 action, Expendables 3 has a surfeit of the kind of tedious macho dialogue these films are known for. When Drummer (Ford) returns to action and tells the gang, 'I haven't had so much fun in years,' it's not likely the audience will be in full agreement." 

The Boston Globe's Tom Russo was one of the few critics with kind words; he says The Expendables 3 "gets the franchise back on track. … Rather than trying to pique our interest by being the slightest bit selective, Stallone takes the view that more really is more. … It's a preposterously overstuffed strategy that, go figure, not only works, but even cures a thing or two that ailed the previous movies. They were decent guilty pleasures, but didn't offer much in the way of story. Flat, lunkheaded banter between Barney Ross (Stallone) and sidekick Lee Christmas (Statham) was passed off as humor. Here, there's a more compelling narrative, as well as some legitimate comic relief thanks to Banderas, Snipes, and — so that's what he's doing here! — Kelsey Grammer." 

The New York Times' Nicolas Rapold offers a short and sweet takedown of the movie and says the director "pours these gunfire barrages, explosions and a few leaping stunts into rambling set pieces, as if turning an action hose on and off. A little pizazz comes from Banderas as a gabby Spanish killer and from Snipes as a loose cannon, reconfirming his potent screen presence. … It's all a bit like a classic-rock tribute concert, or playing with all your action figures at once, or maybe Cannonball Run, with the strained buddy-buddy back-and-forth. It's also a leisurely action movie that feels as though it's spread pretty thin across its more-is-better cast." 

The  Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips references the reported $90 million budget and says, "It looks more like $30 million. I think the audiences respond to the general air of cheapness in this franchise; it's part of the fun, the tinny, macho ridiculousness of it. He continues, "The climatic and semi-endless assault features tanks, helicopters, motorcycle stunts only a digital effects specialist could love and some terrible staging and editing. Even so, the movie's less a failure than a shrug, and it's pleasant in a numbing way to see everybody again, killing, killing, killing." 

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