‘The Expendables 3’: Enough killing to bore you, not enough for an R

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According to the geniuses at the Motion Picture Association of America who set the guidelines for movie ratings, Richard Linklater’s brilliant, life-affirming, transformative masterpiece “Boyhood” is rated R for “language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use.”

Now comes “The Expendables 3,” which the MPAA has tagged with a PG-13 rating for “violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language.”

This is what I would like to say to the people at the MPAA:

You’re f—ing idiots.

Whereas “Boyhood” is a film suitable for anyone over the age of 12, and in fact I encourage young teenagers to sneak into the movie if you must, “The Expendables” is a wall-to-wall love letter to gratuitous violence, with dozens if not hundreds of on-screen kills, many of them capped off by an ostensibly witty one-liner from the mercenary who just pulled the trigger, plunged the knife, snapped the neck or dropped the bomb.

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.

It’s not as if I don’t love a violent tale well told. When listing my favorite movies of all time, I’m starting with “Godfather” I and II, followed by “Goodfellas,” “True Romance,” “Pulp Fiction” and a dozen other hard-R films. But ridiculous rating aside, “The Expendables 3” is a lousy movie because it’s a wasted opportunity. Here we have some of the most beloved action stars of the last half-century, many of them chomping on cigars and clearly having a great time as they flex their aging muscles, struggle to emote against the Botox and play with oversized knives and guns — and they’re mired in a live-action cartoon with witless dialogue, a nothing plot and endless action sequences featuring what appear to be half the stunt performers in the world.

This movie wears out its welcome faster than a drunken party guest who knocks over his drink, hits on your wife and tells off-color jokes to the kids.

“Expendables” creator Sylvester Stallone is of course back as Barney Ross, who leads his dwindling band of aging action heroes in a daring rescue of Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes), the first of many expertly choreographed action scenes in which the bad guys are impossibly horrible shots, incapable of figuring out how to lead the target so a human won’t be able to outrun gunfire.

After weapons specialist Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) is gravely wounded by Barney’s buddy-turned-enemy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), Barney tells the Expendables, including Jason Statham’s Lee Christmas and Dolph Lundgren’s Gunnar Jensen, it’s time to retire.

(Sidebar: These are some of the worst character names in the history of movies.)

As the old Expendables pout and brood like the First Wives Club, Barney recruits a new team to hunt down Stonebanks. The team includes the wooden and uncharismatic Kellen Lutz and mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey, a terrific fighter but such a horrible actress, her attempts at conveying emotion make it look as if she just had some sort of gastronomic accident.

Also along for the ride: Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Antonio Banderas. We’ve got everyone from Han Solo to the Terminator to Desperado to Blade to Mad Max to Rambo to the Transporter in this movie, and it’s still mind-numbing and repetitive, with the good guys killing legions of anonymous henchmen while surviving explosions that would have put the Dark Knight on the disabled list.

Oh, but it’s all in good fun, right? Because it’s just hilarious when Rousey says “Men,” just “Men,” every time she subdues a male opponent, or when Banderas rambles on and on and on, or when Schwarzenegger reprises one of his most famous one-liners. Yeah, not so much.

Every once in awhile, there’s a spark of entertainment. Gibson is sort of great playing a madman who runs verbal circles around Barney and the new Expendables. The stunt work and the special effects are first-rate. But with a running time exceeding two hours, “The Expendables 3” is proof a movie can be exceedingly loud and excruciatingly dull.

The only value to this movie is as Exhibit A in the argument the MPAA’s rating system is warped. I challenge anyone from that organization to explain to me — and to you — why this movie is PG-13, while “Boyhood” is rated R.

Email: rroeper@suntimes.com

Twitter: @richardroeper

[s3r star=1/4]

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