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Movie Review

Barney Ross and his crew of Expendables have been flying under the radar with their haggard hero brand of deadly demolition for a good number of years now. And the price of that brand just keeps going up. Barney, in fact, keeps a jingling collection of weathered dog tags hanging in his beat-up old crate of a plane: They're a constant reminder of the brothers-in-arms who have fallen.

Lately, though, that jangling collection has been more than just a reminder. It's become a tin drumbeat. There's no secret that his cadre of grizzled cohorts isn't getting any younger. They're all as tough as nails. But they're not as fast as they used to be. Not as whip-like sharp or flexible. When one of their number goes down with a bullet hole in his chest—at the hands of Stonebank, Barney's former Expendables partner, no less—Barney realizes he needs to rethink things.

No, no, he's not going to quit! What he needs to do is put his old friends out to pasture and pick up some younger, fresher faces. Not because he doesn't care for guys like Lee Christmas and Gunnar anymore, but because he cares too much. A new cast of young, hungry characters will actually be much more … expendable in the field.

As good as the new recruits are, however, Stonebank is even better. And he's got a gaggle of bulked-up "kids" of his own. That means everything starts heading south in a hurry, and Barney soon comes to realize that old friends may just be the best friends after all.

Positive Elements

At the heart of things, Barney comes to understand that the guys in his Expendables crew are indeed his friends and therefore not expendable at all. "If we keep this thing up," he tells them, "the only way this ends is us in a hole in the ground." And even when the younger crew is captured, Barney realizes he can't just turn his back. He must attempt to rescue those guys too, even if it's on his own. "You've got a conscience, that makes you weak," Stonebanks tells Barney mockingly. (But you know that's not true, don't you?)

In the end, it's teamwork, friendship and even a sense of family that wins the day against enormous odds.

Spiritual Content

A former Expendable named Doc prays for a fallen man. He also crosses himself. Barney invests in the belief that his "lucky" ring will keep everyone safe.

Sexual Content

A shapely woman in a formfitting dress kisses Stonebank. The sole female in Barney's new crew wears a body-clinging dress and shows off her cleavage from time to time. Jokes compare a big gun's limited ammo to premature ejaculation.

Violent Content

Early on, the CIA agent, Drummer, shows Barney a file on Stonebank that contains a picture of five or so people lying in splashed pools of their own blood. It's said to be evidence of Stonebank's crimes against humanity. And it's worth noting that Barney and another character both blanch when seeing the picture—even though they themselves subsequently blow away and butcher others in far more brutal ways.

And that's the hard-running, scenery-detonating name of the game for the Expendables and for their film from start to finish.

Death-dealing is constant, and scores and scores of men are killed in huge, fiery C4 explosions, by the impact of hurtling tank shells, and with both heavy and small arms fire and large sharp blades. Floors collapse and whole buildings are demolished, raining deadly debris down on people below. Automatic rifle fire and pistol shots hit enemies in the forehead and upper bodies, splashing red on impact. A man is shot in the back by a high-powered sniper rifle, the bullet opening a bloody hole in his chest. Minigun fire tears viciously into men and vehicles on a dock.

A thermal bomb obliterates pretty much everything at one point. Several helicopters and tanks are detonated. One helicopter hits an industrial smokestack and shatters into flaming and smoking bits. A rocket launched from a helicopter blows up a van on the road below, and people fall out of the tortured and twisted vehicle. Barney is blown backwards off a bridge by an explosion. He splashes into the water below and thumps his head on a rock; we see his noggin bleeding profusely when he pulls himself out of the water. A man is crushed by a hurtling train. Several men are ripped off the top of a train by a suspended steel cable.

Up-close pummeling, thumping and stabbing struggles result in arms and necks getting snapped as men are flipped and thrown. Hard punches to the face produce blood. Knives puncture chests and throats. People's faces are slammed into walls and table edges. Men and a woman alike are suspended by their arms and beaten.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word and more than 20 s-words join 10 or more uses each of "d--n" and "a--." We hear a handful each of "h---," "b--ch" and ""b--tard." God's and Jesus' names are misused eight or more times, with God's being combined with "d--n" at least twice.

Drug and Alcohol Content

A number of people in a club drink wine, beer and champagne. After a successful campaign, the whole Expendables crew drinks numerous shots and bottles of beer. Gunnar regularly gulps from his pocket flask. A woman drinks a glass of champagne while welcoming Stonebank home. A couple of guys puff on cigars.

Other Negative Elements


Psst. Come closer, 'cause I don't want everyone hearing this.

You may have already been thinking something like this, but I figured I might as well bring it up in the review.

Because it definitely applies.

I've noticed that Hollywood has continued to elbow its way ever closer to creating a new genre of film with all its overblown, hard-thumping and explosive adventure flicks. Call it "action porn," if you want, but that's your term, not mine.

Anyway, action porn might sound a little strong at first. Especially since this third Expendables pic is the first in the franchise to snag a PG-13 rating—welcoming even the kiddies to see Stallone grind up his cigar right along with any and all human scenery in the vicinity. But that doesn't really change anything when it comes to how accurately this flick hits that brainless bull's-eye.

I'm saying that this is a movie that wantonly creates an impossible, consequence-free, adrenaline-rush of a world and fills it with as much vivid violence as possible. It throws in some winking banter for anyone who still might be listening after the first 10 minutes. But it's really the perpetual pound-pound-pound of a parade of aging yet still extremely pumped-up preeners that's the draw here—bulging-muscled antiques, if you will, whose gnarled features are covered in equal measure with deep wrinkles and gray stubble.

Old bones don't calcify and collapse in this fantastical troll-under-the-bridge world, and a gaping chest wound amounts to little more than a two-week rest at the local hospital as these seasoned senior soldiers run raging out into the face of several armies-worth of men—killing them all while demolishing buildings, tanks and armored personnel carriers with whatever large-caliber weaponry might be used to make things go bam or boom.

The film never stops. It never breathes. It never wants anything other than one more exhilarating slam-crash-pow.

Of course, for some moviegoers a rebuke like that will actually be seen as something of a thumbs up. Or as the reviewer from flickfilosopher.com put it:

"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."

So if you have friends who might resemble that remark, you can keep this review to yourself. Just tell them Plugged In gave the PG-13 variation on The Expendables excursion a 1.5 (out of 5) rating and walk away.

But you'll know what we really thought.

Pro-social Content

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Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

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Episode Reviews

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Readability Age Range



Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross; Jason Statham as Lee Christmas; Harrison Ford as Drummer; Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trench; Mel Gibson as Stonebanks; Wesley Snipes as Doc; Dolph Lundgren as Gunner; Kelsey Grammer as Bonaparte; Antonio Banderas as Galgo


Patrick Hughes ( )





Record Label



In Theaters

August 15, 2014

On Video

November 25, 2014

Year Published



Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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