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Third take on the 'Expendables' franchise garners one whole star

Friday, August 15, 2014 - Updated: 7:13 AM

By DERRIK J. LANG

The Associated Press

In its third incarnation, "The Expendables" has become, well, expendable.

Despite some ruthless new tactics, there's no saving "The Expendables 3," the overpopulated third outing of Sylvester Stallone's all-star action ensemble.

Perhaps recognizing its own mortality, "Expendables 3" goes for a kitchen-sink approach. There's the injection of AARP-eligible action stars like Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford into the already bursting-at-the-seams cast, as well the addition of some junior Expendables. Those extra bodies don't add any oomph to the stiff dialogue or predictable plot.

After liberating a long-lost Expendables comrade (Snipes) and watching another (Terry Crews) go down in a battle with Gibson's maniacal arms dealer, the third installment finds team leader Barney (a more puffy yet still personable Stallone) booting his pals (Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture) in favor of younger, prettier models.

Barney plods across North America with a guerrilla recruiter (Kelsey Grammer) to assemble the Expendables 2.0: an angst-filled soldier (Kellan Lutz), a lippy hacker (Glen Powell), a cocky weapons guru (Victor Ortiz) and a lady bouncer (mixed-martial artist Ronda Rousey), who is unfortunately reminded every time she's on screen that -- yeah, bro -- she's female.

The unmemorable Millennials are kidnapped almost as quickly as they're introduced. Obviously, it's up to the old-timers to save the day. It doesn't really matter how or why they do it though. Ultimately, it feels like every one other than series shepherd Stallone is merely here to be another face on the crowded 16-person poster, not to actually play any sort of character.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Antonio Banderas provide the film's comic relief. Banderas does so intentionally as a motor-mouthed, out-of-work assassin who really wants to be on the team, while Schwarzenegger's return as Expendables associate Trench is just laughably bad. Of course, acting isn't why anyone goes to one of these "Expendables" movies.

It's the explosions, fights and chases featuring the likes of Terminator and Rambo!

Yes, the shoot-'em-up action from director Patrick Hughes and cinematographer Peter Menzies Jr. is as tight as a "Call of Duty" match-up, especially the brainless, bloodless climactic battle through an abandoned Eastern European hotel complex. However, the film's sporadic set pieces simply aren't captivating enough to forgive all the movie's other faults.

It's frustrating because the cast and crew are definitely old enough to know better.

"The Expendables 3," a Lionsgate release, is rated PG-13 for language and violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes. Running time: 126 minutes. One star out of four.

     

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