Expendables 3
Credit: Phil Bray

The Expendables franchise still has some muscle, but its biggest challenge moving forward might be finding new recruits that can provide the same charge for fans of 1980s action movies. In the original film, the draw was the Big Three: Sly, Arnold, and Bruce Willis together, blowing things up old-school. This time around, they’re joined by Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, and Kelsey Grammer, among others. (Tom Selleck, limber up.)

But the latest Expendables adventure does have a secret weapon, a scenery-chewing villain who is worth a dirty dozen or more middle-aged action stars: Mel Gibson. “Whatever you might think of Gibson, let’s at least acknowledge that it’s a pretty inspired idea to cast him as a villain in a big, splashy summer movie,” writes EW‘s Chris Nashawaty, in his review. “The actor seems to understand this better than anyone and he plays up his sadistic, loose-cannon villainy like he’s on a Hawaiian vacation. He’s an unrepentant baddie tossing off manic arias of profanity and dishing out bareknuckle beat downs. In a way, he’s the perfect movie villain—someone we can all feel good about loathing. And for the record, he’s excellent.”

Expendables 3 knows its audience, and the team’s mission is clear. Sylvester Stallone’s ringleader is still shredded, Arnold still puffs on his stogie, and filling the absent Willis’s shoes—at least in nostalgia value—is Harrison Ford’s CIA fixer. The franchise is about creative destruction—or just destruction—and the old-school casting has single-handedly made the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game moot. Hmmm… Kevin Bacon would make a great Expendables 4 villain.

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below.

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)

“Let me just say that this latest rah-rah red-meat installment is the biggest and best surprise of the series. It has its flaws, but it’s mostly a big, dumb, gruntingly monosyllabic hoot.”

Justin Chang (Variety) ▼

“You need The Expendables 3 like you need a kick in the crotch… It’s an obvious, half-hearted ploy to keep the beleaguered series going, when it would be far wiser to heed one character’s advice: ‘You know, I’m getting out of this business and so should you.'”

Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times) ▼

“There is no other reason for this movie to exist other than to celebrate the art and science of killing. This might well be the most violent PG-13 movie ever made. It’s definitely in the Top 10.”

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (The A.V. Club)

“[The] Expendables franchise finally becomes the live-action Saturday morning cartoon it was always destined to be. … The character’s ridiculous names—Hale Caesar, Yin Yang, Toll Road, Trench—finally make sense: This is an off-brand G.I. Joe movie, only with more scenes where characters talk about their feelings.”

Will Leitch (Deadspin)

“The ability to stuff so many people in one film isn’t just the selling point—it’s the project’s one impressive achievement. The Expendables 3 is easily the worst of a series that was never particularly good in the first place: more slapdash, lazier, mostly dull. But a review is sort of beside the point.”

Claudia Puig (USA Today) ▼

“It’s rare that a film is both frenetic and dull, chaotic but simplistic, and inane without ever being funny. The plot could hardly be less involving or more poorly structured. … Patrick Hughes’ direction is so awkward that the movie emerges as an incoherent blur.”

Tom Russo (Boston Globe)

“[The previous movies] were decent guilty pleasures, but didn’t offer much in the way of story. … Here, there’s a more compelling narrative, as well as some legitimate comic relief thanks to Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, and—so that’s what he’s doing here!—Kelsey Grammer.”

Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times)

“As for Stallone, he looks remarkably fit for a man of 68, but the actor’s varnished persona has so raised impassivity to an art form that killing people seems to come easier to him than actually talking to them.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle) ▼

“Really, The Expendables 3 has only one thing going for it, beyond the unremarkable novelty of seeing lots of celebrities in a lousy movie. It has Mel Gibson, who is at his grim, tormented and quirky best here, playing someone who has crossed a moral line and has no regrets.”

Liam Lacey (Toronto Globe and Mail) ▼

“[In] his second villain role in a year (after Machete Kills), [Mel Gibson] tears into the part of an embittered psychopath with screw-you relish. Despite the self-inflicted personal setbacks that may have knocked him out of leading-man contention, Gibson may have a future in Hollywood yet.”

Nicolas Rapold (New York Times)

“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 Expendables 3

Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 35

Rotten Tomatoes: 33 percent

Rated: PG-13

Length: 126 Minutes

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson

Directed by Patrick Hughes

Distributor: Lionsgate

The Expendables 3
  • Movie
  • 103 minutes