The Expendables 3 movie review (2014) | Roger Ebert (2024)


The Expendables 3 movie review (2014) | Roger Ebert (1)

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Had directorSteve James replaced the brief shot of topless women with hundreds of men beingmachine-gunned to death, “Life Itself” might have gotten the PG-13 rating “TheExpendables III” hilariously brandishes. To quote The Waco Kid, Sly Stalloneand his band of merry old action stars “kill more men than Cecil B. DeMille,”yet somehow this is more kid-friendly than bare breasts. In fact, no one in “TheExpendables III” takes his shirt off, presumably because Terry Crews’ obscenelymassive pecs alone would almost guarantee an R.


It is genuinefarce to follow the gore-soaked prior installments of this franchise with onewhere people manage to get shot 72 million times yet never lose an ounce ofblood. Throats are slit and villains are impaled on impressive-looking cutlerywith suitably gruesome-sounding effects, yet the bodies may as well be filledwith air or Lucky Charms marshmallows. When one considers that “The ExpendablesIII” plays as a torch-passing from my generation of action fans to the currentgeneration, that PG-13 is an old man’s sly jab at the toughness of youngwhippersnappers. The audience for the first "Expendables" grew up on the hard-Rbrutality its stars dished out in the '80s and early '90s. Once the younger actorsof today get tossed in the mix, the series suddenly takes a kinder, gentlerapproach to its extreme violence.

This has tobe an intentional wink from Stallone and his contemporaries. They know theirdays are not only numbered as action stars, but probably should have ended longago. It’s no longer just about old-school smashmouth displays of force in today’sactioners. Tech-savviness is the new black. As crazy as this sounds, this isn’ta hypothesis crafted from thin air; it’s actually the plot of “The ExpendablesIII.”

Barney(Stallone) hires a new, younger crew after his usual cronies botch a mission.Barney feels his old band of brothers have given enough to the Expendables, sohe retires them. Part of the change of heart stems from Barney’s realizationthat Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a man he once thought he killed, is the target ofthe botched mission. Stonebanks shoots Caesar (Crews), sending Barney on theguilt trip that leads to his disbanding of the team.

Afterdemanding that his crew enjoy the rest of their lives, Barney embarks on asuicide mission with his younger charges, all of whom are skilled not only incombat but also in those computer thingees Barney just doesn’t understand. Ofcourse, the new kids on the block manage to get kidnapped by Stonebanks,forcing Barney to call his old team back into action. This is a glorious panderto my middle-aged brethren.

We’ve cometo the part of the review where I’m supposed to justify my favorable rating bytelling you to “turn your brain off” in order to enjoy “The Expendables III.” I’mnot going to do that, because that’s an insult to you, me and the movie.Instead, I want you to pay close attention to “The Expendables III“, because ifyou’re on its wavelength, you’ll discover an incredibly self-aware streak of obsessivecompulsion running through it. When it comes to nostalgic detail, this is aRussian nesting doll of a movie. Allusions beget deeper allusions, tying thelevels together in an almost endless game of “Six Degrees of Action Movie Separation.”There’s a Marvel Universe-sized dollop of slavish devotion for fans ofStallone, Schwarzenegger, Statham and Gibson.


For example,Antonio Banderas co-stars as Galgo, a candidate for Barney’s new crew. Banderasand Stallone last appeared as antagonists in the Wachowskis’ “Assassins”.Rather than recreate that character, Banderas instead plays a cross betweenPuss ‘n Boots and Joe Pesci’s Leo Getz character from the “Lethal Weapon”series. Gibson repays the favor by repeating a line from Banderas’ “Desperado.”In the climactic action sequence, Gibson also gives viewers the chance to see Riggsfrom “Lethal Weapon” battle Rambo for the belated title of “Craziest Tough Guy:‘80s Edition”.

Schwarzeneggerrepeats catchphrases from “Commando” (“I lied”) and other movies, while WesleySnipes makes his entrance on a literal money train (minus Woody Harrelson)before reuniting with his nemesis from “Demolition Man.” Even that PG-13 evokesmemories of the rating on the third installment of the R-rated Mad Max series(starring Stonebanks himself). Practically every line and every combination ofthe older Expendables characters evokes this type of connection, and the movieknows it’s doing so. That contributed greatly to my good time.

If you choosenot to get trapped in the movie’s spider web of nostalgia, there are stillpleasures to be had. Gibson sinks his teeth into his big villainous monologue,and seeing him with his mouth taped is sure to inspire applause. Snipes gets agood joke about tax evasion and several action scenes to remind us that weshould “always bet on black.” There’s charming chemistry between Statham andStallone, and a helicopter-flying Harrison Ford shows up to use the type oflanguage Spielberg and Lucas wouldn’t let him use as Han Solo nor Indiana Jones.


The youngerExpendables are given the Muppet Babies treatment; they’re portrayed asmini-versions of their original counterparts. Standing out from this bunch isMMA fighter Ronda Rousey who displays a leadership quality that aligns her withBarney despite her stereotypical entrance fighting several men while dressedfor maximum hotness. I hope I live to see the day when a woman open a six-packof Whup-Ass while decked out in curlers and furry Mommy slippers rather than aminiskirt and heels.

As dopey andbloodless as the action sequences are, they keep the film moving at a briskerpace than its 2-hour-plus running time indicates. The film culminates with ascene so preposterous that, if it is indeed Stallone’s swan-song in the action moviegenre, it’s a worthy exit. We’ve seen hundreds of instances of heroesoutrunning Joel Silveresque fireballs. Stallone outruns an entire building asit collapses from strategically placed bombs. It’s no spoiler that he survives,but after this, there’s nothing left to prove and no place to go but down.

Unlike mostfilm series, “The Expendables III” sows the seeds for its own youthful reboot.Let’s hope “The Expendables 4” is filled with “Rocky III”-style montages ofStallone and company imparting expertise before riding off into a calm,explosion-free sunset. This series has run out of nostalgia to coast on, butwhat a final burnout it had.

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Film Credits

The Expendables 3 movie review (2014) | Roger Ebert (9)

The Expendables 3 (2014)

Rated PG-13for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language

126 minutes


Sylvester Stalloneas Barney Ross

Jason Stathamas Lee Christmas

Terry Crewsas Hale Caesar

Randy Coutureas Toll Road

Antonio Banderasas Galgo

Jet Lias Yin Yang

Wesley Snipesas Doc

Dolph Lundgrenas Gunnar Jensen

Glen Powellas Thorn

Mel Gibsonas Conrad Stonebanks

Harrison Fordas Max Drummer

Arnold Schwarzeneggeras Trench

Kellan Lutzas John Smilee

Kelsey Grammeras Bonaparte

Robert Davias Vata

Ronda Rouseyas Luna

Victor Ortizas Mars


  • Patrick Hughes


  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Creighton Rothenberger
  • Katrin Benedikt


  • Sylvester Stallone

Director of Photography

  • Peter Menzies Jr.

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The Expendables 3 movie review (2014) | Roger Ebert (2024)


What movie did Ebert walk out of? ›

Caligula (1979)

Caligula remains an exception for Roger Ebert in that he walked out after experiencing two hours of the film, rather than deciding to leave right away.

Why did Bruce Willis leave Expendables 3? ›

Reportedly (via The Hollywood Reporter) Willis was due to make 3 million dollars in a four-day shoot in Bulgaria, but he demanded an extra million for his troubles. Sylvester Stallone, at the helm of the project that had a 100 million dollar budget, refused to budge and Willis was replaced by Ford within 72 hours.

Why is Stallone not in Expendables 4? ›

Yes, Sylvester Stallone has backed out of making the fourth instalment in the 'Expendables' franchise, reportedly over creative disputes with Avi Lerner, series producer and head of production house Nu Image/Millennium Films.

Was Expendables 3 a success? ›

The unexpected triumph of The Expendables, as is often the case, spawned numerous sequels and an entire franchise. Nevertheless, the franchise faced a setback when The Expendables 3 failed to resonate effectively with viewers, resulting in a disappointing box office performance in 2014.

How old was Ebert when he died? ›

On April 4, 2013, one of America's best-known and most influential movie critics, Roger Ebert, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, dies at age 70 after battling cancer.

What did Ebert do 1919? ›

In the first German presidential election, held on 11 February 1919, five days after the Nationalversammlung (constituent assembly) convened in Weimar, Ebert was elected as provisional president of the German Republic.

Who refused to be in expendables? ›

Van Damme turned down a role in 'The Expendables 1′ because his character was “a flat and undeveloped” Jean-Claude Van Damme himself was the one who revealed in an interview for the medium Filmstalker that he turned down a role in the first film of the saga 'The Expendables', directed and starring Sylvester Stallone.

Why was Terry not in Expendables 4? ›

Terry Crews won't be in Expendables 4 after producer threatened trouble - IMDb. Terry Crews has played the role of Hale Caesar in the first three installments of The Expendables franchise, but it doesn't look as though he'll be back for the upcoming fourth film.

Why was Expendables 3 bad? ›

Taking the rating controversy out of it, The Expendables 3 had numerous storytelling and casting faults. There were far, FAR too many characters, making the fact that nobody gets killed - or "expended" - all the more bizarre.

Why was Terry Crews barely in Expendables 3? ›

Crews Left Following A Heated Call With Producer Avi Lerner

The character was set to die in Expendables 3, but Crews "begged" Stallone to keep the character alive. Crews eventually left the franchise, claiming producer Avi Lerner tried to pressure him into dropping a sexual assault case against WME producer Adam Venit.

Did Harrison Ford really fly the helicopter in Expendables 3? ›

As his character in the film, Harrison Ford is a skilled pilot in real life. In fact, Ford has conducted some search-and-rescue missions, just like his character does in the film. Sylvester Stallone tried to get Wesley Snipes to play the role taken by Terry Crews in The Expendables (2010).

How much did Bruce Willis want for Expendables 3? ›

The daily gossip: Bruce Willis wanted $1 million a day to appear in The Expendables 3, and more.

What was the last movie Ebert saw? ›

The last review by Ebert published during his lifetime was for the film The Host, which was published on March 27, 2013. The last review Ebert wrote was for To the Wonder, which he gave 3.5 out of 4 stars in a review for the Chicago Sun-Times. It was posthumously published on April 6, 2013.

When did Ebert stop being president? ›

Friedrich Ebert
Ebert in 1925
1st President of Germany
In office 11 February 1919 – 28 February 1925
Succeeded byHans Luther (acting)
10 more rows

What was the last movie Roger Ebert watched? ›

Terrence Malick's To the Wonder was Ebert's last review and showcased the director's iconic style and departure from his previous period pieces. Ebert defended Malick's filmmaking choices and believed that not every film needed to explain everything, highlighting the film's ambitious portrayal of spiritual longing.

How many movies did Ebert see? ›

Roger Ebert started writing reviews in 1967. As a professional, he watched over 500 movies and he reviewed about 300 movies each year. Over his 40 year career, he published about 10,000 movie reviews.

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