Say this for The Expendables 3: It's arguably a fraction better than the two previous installments in this AARP-endorsed franchise. Then again, I'd hate to live on the difference.

The series has always been promoted as an all-star action romp in which all these muscular marquee fillers have equal rights, but really, it's been a Sylvester Stallone vanity project all along. That's never more apparent than in this entry, which finds Stallone's Barney Ross deciding that his fellow mercenaries (among them Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and newest old kid on the block Wesley Snipes) are, in the vernacular of Roger Murtaugh, too old for this shit.

Of course, Barney doesn't apply this line of logic to himself, so he axes the other oldies and surrounds himself with four young 'uns (including Twilight player Kellan Lutz and Olympic and MMA star Ronda Rousey in her film debut) as he goes after Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a former colleague who has long journeyed over to the dark side. Yet when these whippersnappers get captured by Stonebanks, it's up to the seasoned soldiers to pop in their dentures and come to the rescue.

Stallone (who also co-scripted) as usual hogs the spotlight, though Snipes at least gets some quality time at the start and Antonio Banderas, as a motormouth assassin who wants to join the team, steals second-half scenes whenever he can.

Gibson makes a more effective villain than he did in Machete Kills, while Harrison Ford, likely the lone liberal in this Limbaugh-loving logjam, has the only laugh-out-loud line (involving Statham's British accent) as he essays the role of a snarling CIA suit, in essence replacing the previous pictures' Bruce Willis (who, in true capitalist form, wanted $4 million instead of the offered $3 million for his handful of scenes and was told by Stallone and the studio to piss off).

Otherwise, this is disposable Kleenex entertainment, with Patrick Hughes faring no better than previous directors Simon West (Ex. 2) and Stallone (Ex. 1) in shooting action scenes that largely fail to snap, crackle and pop. Jet Li has been brought back, but only to fire weapons, not engage in martial arts maneuvers (what was the point then?), and Arnold Schwarzenegger, looking nearly as immobile as the visages on Mount Rushmore, contributes his usual obligatory scenes.

Aren't there any more Planet Hollywoods for these guys to run into the ground?

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