“The Expendables 3”: I love the smell of Cialis in the morning

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“The Expendables 3” is now playing at Point, Eastgate, and AMC Star Cinemas. PG-13, 2:06, two and a half stars out of four.

Having not seen the first two “Expendables” movies, I found it surprisingly easy to jump straight into the third installment of Sylvester Stallone’s action franchise/jobs program for old action stars. Not a lot of backstory here.

We’re not 60 seconds into the movie before a helicopter is slathering machine-gun fire an armored prison transport (labeled “Armored Prison Transport” — thanks, subtitles). It’s the usual mishmash of CGI explosions and bloodless PG-13 carnage, until we see who the prisoner is that Barney (Stallone), Christmas (Jason Statham) and the rest of the leathery Expendables crew are rescuing.

It’s Wesley Snipes, playing a cheerfully cracked medic/assassin named Dr. Death. Before he became a second-string action hero, Snipes was a pretty interesting actor in movies like “Major League” and “White Men Can’t Jump,” and his loopy charm here (he even makes an in-joke about going to prison for tax evasion) opens up some possibilities. This could be fun.

And “The Expendables 3” is dumb fun, off and on. The franchise goes for a PG-13 rating rather than an R this time, and it seems to free up Stallone and the crew to be a little lighter, even giddier, this time around. It’s a shift some hardcore action fans may not like, but, honestly, you probably shouldn’t have been taking this stuff so seriously in the first place.

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After the great Snipes robbery, the team stops off in Somalia to try and catch a mysterious arms dealer. The mission is blown, and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) is gravely injured, but not before Barney realizes the arms dealer is really his old partner turned nemesis, Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). Worried that taking his old team back to nab Stonebanks will be a suicide mission, Barney pink-slips his old team and hires a bunch of newbie mercenaries to do the job. Instead, the newbies get captured, and guess who has to saddle up and ride to the rescue?

The cast is a Who’s Who of the “Action” section at your local video store in 1989, including the aforementioned slabs of finely-aged beefcake plus Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Davi, and Harrison Ford, who subs in for Bruce Willis (who wanted too much money) with a terse “He’s out of the picture.”

But the real scene-stealer is Antonio Banderas, of all people, in a wildly comic performance as an Expendables wannabe named Galgo who yaps around Stallone like that little puppy in the old Warner Bros. cartoons. The best “Shrek” movie was a Banderas spinoff, “Puss in Boots” — I could go for a Galgo spinoff.

The action is decently staged — that Somalia shipyard raid, including a truck chase and shipping containers falling over like dominoes, is a lot of fun — although the finale at a crumbling Eastern European casino hotel goes on way too long, and forces director Patrick Hughes to juggle too many elements. More entertaining, honestly, is the banter between the missions; Stallone is not exactly a master of deft comic timing, but Snipes and Banderas are, and often carry the film over its rough patches.

 

 

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