Antonio Banderas pretty much steals The Expendables 3. But at this stage in that winded franchise, that amounts to petty theft.
Adding the chatty, animated and action-friendly Banderas and Wesley Snipes as new Expendables and Mel Gibson as an arms-dealing villain amounts to a significant trade-up from the likes of Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris, mercifully missing in action.
Banderas is hilarious, mainly in the third act, and Snipes is welcomed with a decent action opening. He plays a guy they break out of some former Soviet prison. His offense?
And Harrison Ford lets only a hint of embarrassment sneak into his turn as the new guy who gives the C.I.A.-hired mercenaries their missions.
But it's when the film deviates from the "bunch of has-beens trying to be hard" formula that Expendables is most disposable.
After one of their number takes a bullet, Barney (Sylvester Stallone) lays them off and rounds up younger recruits — played by Kellan Lutz, MMA star Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell — to go catch the murderous arms dealer (Gibson) that Barney thought he'd killed years ago.
The recruiting the new team bit is dull and jokey, as Barney rides around the country with some "finder" played by Kelsey Grammer. And the new kids' trial by fire is strictly routine.
But Banderas, as a Spanish chatterbox named Galgo, is the wild card, a man hungry for a mission. He's like the Toshiro Mifune character from Seven Samurai, the comical self-inflated warrior that nobody wants. Galgo is also too old for this sort of work.
"Ees like I dee-SCOVER the FOUN-tain of youth!" he exults. Every scene, every Puss in Boots line, the guy kills. Even when he's killing, and there's a lot of that, because this movie has the highest body count this side of World War Z.
Gibson dives into the bad guy trash talk.
"I'll open up your meat-shirt" and do something "with your heart," he hisses. We buy it.
But we also buy what Trench, the Arnold Schwarzenegger middle-man character says, midway through the picture.
"Hurry up. It's boring."
Traipsing from former Soviet republics to Mogadishu and Bucharest, there's too much talk, too many lapses in logic in between the three epic firefights, the last of which is just laughable.
It's obvious that the stunt men are doing most of the heavy lifting here. The one person truly at home in her fights is Rousey, and she's too green to be anything other than a stiff as an actress.
Running gags about who is best with a knife, Christmas (Jason Statham) or Doc (Snipes); or Drummer (Ford) griping that he can't understand the Brit Christmas' accent; Dolph Lundgren moments; Terry Crews gags — none of it adds up to much.
That is until Banderas pops back up — fighter, parkour stunt jumper, flirt. He has the best lines and he makes the most of them.
"I am the BRIDEgroom ... of DEATH!"
But it's not really scene-stealing when everybody else just shrugs and takes their "expendable" label so literally.