A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Expendables 3 is the third movie in Sylvester Stallone's over-the-top action franchise. The first two were full of bloody, gory violence; while this one still has wall-to-wall shooting, stabbing, fighting, chasing, and explosions, it feels more cartoonish and is far less gruesome (hence the switch to PG-13 from the earlier installments' R). Language is still strong, with one "f--k," plus "s--t," "a--hole," "p---y," and others. In the other movies, one character was shown to be a drug addict and an alcoholic; this time around, he's shown drinking from a flask in one or two brief scenes, as if falling off the wagon. Characters drink socially in other scenes, and some smoke cigars. There's brief innuendo, some of it centered around mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey, who's sometimes shown in revealing outfits. Teen fans of the first two films will want to see this one for sure, but beware of a distinct drop in quality.
What's the story?
After rescuing an old team member, "Doc" (Wesley Snipes), the Expendables -- led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) -- proceed to tackle a new mission. Unfortunately, not only do they fail, but also they learn that an old foe, Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), is still alive. When a team member is shot, Barney decides to disband the group and recruit some new, younger members to go after Stonebanks. But when that mission fails, too, it's up to the original team, as well as some other adventurous outsiders, to charge to the rescue. Can the new and old Expendables work together well enough to survive?
Is it any good?
This sequel unfortunately moves back in the wrong direction. Based on pure nostalgia, with a nod to teamwork and not much else, Stallone's The Expendables (2010) was a junky-looking downer, but it was a huge hit. The Expendables 2 (2012) was somehow a marked improvement, with better action and more downtime between characters ... but it was less of a hit.
The violence may be less gruesome in this installment, but it's also jagged, jarring, and disorienting. The sheer number of characters doesn't help; in certain scenes, there are half a dozen things going on. With action taking up the bulk of the movie, character interactions feel abbreviated and truncated. With a couple of fleeting exceptions, characters don't really get a chance to do or say much. Certainly Stallone and Statham's chummy banter has diminished. Perhaps worse, the entire idea of recruiting "kids" to protect the older teammates feels wrong. The future of action looks pretty... inactive.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Expendables 3's violence. How did it affect you? What impact did it have? How does it compare to the type/scale of violence in the first two films? Why do you think they changed it this time around?
What's the appeal of these action heroes, whose careers range over several decades? How do they compare with the younger characters in the movie?
What did Barney learn over the course of the movie? Did any of the other Expendables share his journey? Are they heroes? Why or why not?
- In theaters: August 15, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: November 25, 2014
- Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas
- Director: Patrick Hughes
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 126 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
For kids who love action and adventure
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.