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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

The Expendables 3 movie review: like you care what I think

The Expendables 3 red light

There’s just no point in even bothering. In the vast conspiracy of stupidity that has overtaken pop culture, the disparagement of this movie by a film critic becomes an endorsement of a sad, twisted sort.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): the franchise had worn out whatever welcome it might have had before the end of the first movie

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

There’s just no point in even bothering. I could huff and puff and moan and groan and explain why The Expendables 3 is a terrible excuse for a movie… even for a dumb cheesy 80s-throwback action movie. I could go into great detail about the laziness of the writing, about how perfunctory the directing is, about the blatant obvious cheapness of the FX.

It doesn’t matter. There is nothing I can say that will convince those who have already been won over by the Hollywood entertainment meatgrinder that this movie is not worth your time. In the vast conspiracy of stupidity that has overtaken pop culture, the disparagement of a movie like The Expendables 3 by a film critic becomes an endorsement of a sad, twisted sort. And if it’s a chick critic? If it’s a middle-aged chick film critic? That’s just gold. That just proves that this is precisely the kind of movie for everyone who doesn’t give a shit what overintellectual dried-up ladybrains are blathering on about now. If she hates it — or so the equation goes — it must be awesome.

It doesn’t matter that I and my overintellectual dried-up ladybrain could explain that I really do feel, deep down in a visceral, action-movie-loving way, that some of the stars here have appeared in some of the greatest examples of manly action movies in the history of cinema. Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon). Harrison Ford (Raiders of the Lost Ark). Sylvester Stallone (Rocky… okay, not quite action, but very very manly). Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator). Jason Statham (Crank). Antonio Banderas (The 13th Warrior). All that matters now, in 2014, is that The Expendables 3 gets to trade on their names — and the names of many others. Dolph Lundgren! Wesley Snipes! Is the movie cool yet? If you think it is, there is nothing I can tell you that will change your mind. I could tell you that almost every one of those cool names does little but stand around gawping and occasionally shooting a gun, and it wouldn’t matter.

the most ridiculous movie poster ever

the most ridiculous movie poster ever

Did I say meatgrinder? More like beefcake grinder. I could complain about how there are 16 actors (plus their names) — all but one of them male — featured on the movie’s poster. In that way that movie posters tell you: “These are the famous people in whose presence you will bask.” In that way that movie posters tell you: “These are the people the story will be about.” And then I could complain about how all these people are all actually crammed into the movie in a way that guarantees that none of them gets much of anything to do. Jet Li speaks two lines here. That’s it. Is that cool?

If you say, “But Jet Li!” then you are admitting that you will respond, and happily, to the most vulgar sort of pandering to your most unthinking, most reflexive instincts. Hollywood is, in fact, counting on you to do so.

There’s no point in even mentioning the barest outlines of the plot — Stallone’s Expendables (who never seem to get expended) go after Gibson’s billionaire arms dealer — because it doesn’t matter. It’s barely a plot anyway. “But who needs plot? It’s about the action!” There’s nary a reasonable reason why the action ends up in a conveniently abandoned Eastern European city (“Stop overthinking it!”) that becomes the expansive battleground for something that looks like an enormous game of paintball with real bullets. (“It’s supposed to be fun! Just relax and enjoy it.”)

Every possible negative criticism becomes a demented kind of approval. If I call this movie “black ops porn,” well, that makes it sound appealing to some. If I say it condones a sort of uber-American geopolitical vigilantism, well, that makes it sound patriotic to some. (So much for “liberal” Hollywood.) If I say that even the teeny bit of winking self-awareness that the first movie had is long gone (it was nowhere to be found in the second movie, either)… well, I’m not sure how that can be spun as a positive thing, but I’m sure someone will let me know.

This is what Hollywood thinks of action movie fans these days. The Expendables 3 is directed by Patrick Hughes. His next movie will be the pointless remake of Indonesian-language ultraviolent martial-arts flick The Raid. That movie needs to be remade because Hollywood believes that the audience for movies like these is so dumb that even in a movie that’s mostly blood and gore and shootouts and hand-to-hand combat, and very little plot or exposition, a few subtitles are an insurmountable obstacle to one’s enjoyment of it.

But mostly the reason why there’s just no point in even bothering is because no one involved in The Expendables 3 is bothering. They know they’re pumping out brainless crap, and they don’t care, because they know there’s a built-in audience for brainless crap. I could ask you not to be that built-in audience, but there’s no point.

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The Expendables 3 (2014)
US/Can release: Aug 15 2014
UK/Ire release: Aug 14 2014

MPAA: rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
BBFC: rated 12A (frequent moderate action violence, infrequent strong language)

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    Yeah, I take your point. But darn it, it’s not just nostalgia that means I enjoy The Terminator and Die Hard but I don’t enjoy films like this; after all I enjoyed both RED films, which on the surface look like similar vehicles for ageing stars to do action sequences.

    Because the action here isn’t backed up by plot? That might be a part of it. Even Commando had a basic skeleton to string things out on (Arnie has to find out where his daughter’s been taken, then rescue her, before the bad guys realise he’s not where they think he is). There were times when shooting people and blowing stuff up was not the right thing to do.

    So this is what Hollywood thinks of action movie fans. Judging by the box office on the previous two instalments, I suspect Hollywood is right. And that’s even more dispiriting.

  • It’s certainly better than part two, but EXPENDABLES 3 is still a pretty lame action flick…

    And for a movie that is supposed to be about seeing all our old favorites in action together, it expends (heh) an awful lot of effort trying to keep them off screen. I’d have to check but I am pretty sure 40% of the movie is Stallone’s character meeting and working with new characters that not only haven’t appeared in the previous films, but are played either by actors who are not known for action (GRAMMER) or complete unknowns.

    I mean, I sorta get how long-in-the-tooth franchises like DIE HARD or JAMES BOND try to shake things up with new, younger characters… but isn’t that what the EXPENDABLES thing was supposed to be railing against? How is it you have Jet Fucking Li in your movie and you don’t have him kung fu fight anybody? His fight with Dolph in part one was the highlight of the movie (except for how it was shot in the dark for some reason and you couldn’t see most of it).

    You know who stole the movie though? BANDERAS did. He was pretty funny in this, and if he hadn’t shown up I’d have given up on the movie for sure.

  • Sand Ripper

    We live in an era where “You just need to turn your brain off!” is considered to be an endorsement of a movie. It’s probably always been like that, but the internet makes it easier to get that message out.

    I like a cheesy action movie just as much as the next person, but I won’t stand for a mindless one. I hated The Raid for the same reason, and yet there are people who think it’s a “Masterpiece” and will get angry at those who don’t like it. Obviously these are people who have never seen the likes of Die Hard or Hard Boiled. ;)

  • RogerBW

    The thing – OK, one of the many things – I don’t get is: why not shoot a smart script? Maybe you end up with a couple fewer guys getting gunned down, but in return you can expand your audience by all the people who wanted a smart movie as well as catering for the ones who just wanted more of what they already get on their Xbox screens.

  • I think the best answer to your question is that they thought it was a smart script.

  • I agree about mindless movies. And while I don’t think THE RAID was a masterpiece, I’d argue it was “simple” but not mindless.

    Though, I’ll forgive a movie a ton of sins if it just has solid, well-constructed and comprehensible action pieces. Which is why THE RAID is so beloved in action cinema circles.

  • LaSargenta

    I enjoyed the first one, didn’t find the trailer for the second interesting at all, and have no interest in this one. There’s potential in this for a fun movie. This looks like I’d be bored.

  • LaSargenta

    PS: This movie needs to be reviewed by a cat, too.

  • Yes, it will be.

  • David

    What is wrong with you?! This movie is awesome! You’re probably just upset cause it features real men killing things instead of a bunch of unicorns jumping over rainbows. This is an action MOVIE! not a goddamn oxyclean commercial!?! I’m so jazzed up after seeing this that all I want to do is punch a gorilla in the FACE! You probably think MEN shouldn’t shoot bad guys but instead love and send them Valentine Cards, Hold hands and sing campfire songs. That’s what sissies do, not bad ass motherfuckers like the EXPENDABLES! Anyone who thinks like this needs to Ranger the Fuck Up!


  • Josh Board

    I’m a movie critic in San Diego (Fox 5 and KOGO 600 AM), and I will say this — there won’t be a better review of this movie that you will read. This might be the best movie review I’ve ever read of an awful film. It ranks right next to Roger Ebert’s famous “I hated, hated, hated, hated….” review. Bravo! It was such a piece of crap film.

  • PrivacyInA9M80

    I’m sad to hear this is such utter crap. I really, REALLY wanted to see Mel Gibson get his career back on track, especially as a villain.

    I’m going to sound like a crazy person, but I honestly thought the first movie was pretty good, even from a technical standpoint. However, the second movie was complete schlock. After reading the reviews on E3, it seems like they’ve gone even more in that direction from E2. Guess I’ll have to sit this one out.

  • RogerBW

    Mel seems to do all right as a ranting villain in Machete 2.

  • John

    Absolutely agreeing with you. The writer must be stupid if she’s expecting to see Eat prat love in an Expendables Movie! The movie Rocks!

  • That video is a bazillion gillion times better than The Expendables 3. But I am probably just a dried-up old hag who needs to get laid by a real man. Preferably Antonio Banderas, please.

  • From the bottom of my rainbow-bedazzled ladybits, I thank you.

  • What RogerBW says. If you have not seen *Machete 2,* stop whatever you’re doing and watch it right now.

  • Bluejay

    This might be the best movie review I’ve ever read of an awful film.

    Have you read her review of Transformers: Age of Extinction? I think it’s at least a tie.

  • Sand Ripper

    If you were trying to be funny: Well done.

    If you were being serious: I weep for humanity.

  • wogman

    She’s right. There’s no point. I am working on a doctorate after earning undergraduate and graduate degrees, and I am going to happily give my intellect a rest and enjoy another chance to see my fave actor (H. Ford) on the big screen. Ahhhh, the bliss of not having to think for a couple of hours.

  • bronxbee

    “Eat prat love” using this phrase proves that *you* are the prat.

  • LaSargenta

    I frequently manage to not think for more than just a couple of hours…and I also manage to do it without giving up $14.

  • Danielm80

    Really? I find it very difficult to not think. Even while I was watching the last Transformers movie, I was thinking about the way sexist tropes are casually accepted and even treated as heroic; and I was thinking about parallels between CGI and the development of hand-drawn animation.

    Not thinking clearly, on the other hand, is very easy for me. I do it several times a day.

  • LaSargenta

    Well, I had help in learning how not to think…some people call it meditation…clear the mind by letting thoughts come, not dwelling on them, letting them go, eventually they stop coming, sit in beautiful not-thinking until you start thinking about your tailbone…it is a great skill. And cheap. Ultimately LOTS more satisfying than this movie looks.

    Otoh, I’m with you on the not-thinking-clearly. I’ve been suffering from that all day today.

  • LaSargenta

    And it is a purrfect review, too.


  • LaSargenta

    That. Video.

    I mean!

    Sky-diving Jesus is Awesome!

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    The Poe is strong with this one.

  • Blink, and you’ll miss your fave actor.

  • Rich Hiskens

    Hilarious peeps, it’s just a bit of comedy for God’s sake. One thing however don’t criticise a film you clearly have not seen. That just makes you look even more stupid and pointless than a chocolate teapot.

  • Danielm80

    What a bizarre thing to say. The past few weeks, any time MaryAnn has written something negative about a popular movie, someone has popped in to say, “You clearly haven’t seen the film,” even when she’s described the movie in detail. I guess the logic is: Anyone who’s seen the film would like it as much as I did. That’s sweet in a way. It shows a real love for the movie. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Anybody who’s spent much time talking to other human beings must know that people have wildly divergent opinions about films–and about pretty much everything. I don’t understand why people are so threatened by the idea that someone might disagree with their subjective opinions. Is their self-image really so fragile that it depends on a stranger’s feelings about a movie?

  • To whom is this addressed? What’s “a bit of comedy”? (If you mean the movie, could you tell us what you found funny, or what parts you think were at least intended to be funny?) Whom do you think hasn’t seen the film?

  • Bluejay

    I think it has something to do with the advent of the Internet and social media, and how it’s intensified everyone’s need for external validation.

    Upvote if you like this comment.

  • RogerBW

    It’s very useful: whenever I hear about something, if the words “twitter” or “facebook” are involved, I know it shouldn’t be mistaken for real life or even the real Internet.

  • Bluejay

    Now, now. Wael Ghonim and Hosni Mubarak might disagree.

  • Danielm80
  • Beowulf

    Ah, so this means, I assume, that while Harrison Ford is in this movie, he’s only barely in this movie? Tell me this is the case so I feel better.

  • Except for Stallone and, to a lesser degree Banderas, everyone who is in this movie is barely in this movie. The runtime is over two hours — which is already, as they delightfully say here in the UK, taking the piss — and there’s still not enough time to give everyone something even slightly significant to do.

  • Beowulf

    Your order has been received and processed. Be ready this coming Tuesday to be available between 6pm and 11pm. An adult signature is required.

  • bronxbee

    if she’s not at home, please feel free to deliver to my place!

  • Ahmed


  • Disguested


  • Rich Hiskens

    The whole film was funny. Mel Gibson reminded me of those halcyon days when be joked a lot with Danny Glover, or going back further I think from memory when he portrayed Hamlet. He managed to combine nuts and indifferent really well. If you all want to see Mel act his socks off as per usual check out Meet The Gringo, such a quality actor. The comedy came thick and fast Kelsey Grammer talking in the truck, Mr tax evasion himself put in a fun performance reminiscent of Demolition Man. Banderas I was expecting to turn into Puss in Boots.
    Where the comedy hit fast and furiouserer than ever was the end. Who didn’t enjoy the young and the old kicking ass. If you got the humour brilliant, if you didn’t, “I pity the fool”.If you got that last quote you already know who I would like to see in the fourth movie, yes its being written as I write my diatribe of junk via FB. I could have gone on about the humour but I feel it would have taken longer to read than watch the expansively long film. I wish it had been longer, or a mini series,

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