THE STORY – Armed with every weapon they can get their hands on, the Expendables are the world’s last line of defense and the team that gets called when all other options are off the table.
THE CAST – Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Megan Fox, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Levy Tran, Jacob Scipio, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais & Andy Garcia
THE TEAM – Scott Waugh (Director), Kurt Wimmer, Tad Daggerhart & Max Adams (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 103 Minutes
Back in 2010, the concept of “The Expendables” was a really interesting idea: an ensemble action piece comprised of some of the biggest action stars in the world from different eras. It’s no surprise that the Sylvester Stallone-directed film went on to become a box-office success and spawn multiple sequels. It only made sense that each film would build upon the previous one(s), doubling down on the action and the revolving door of aged action stars joining the series. So, it’s a bit baffling that “Expend4bles” does neither of these things, leading to the least entertaining entry in the series by far.
“Expend4bles” follows Christmas (Jason Statham) and Barney (Sylvester Stallone), who are still up to their old ways. Plenty has changed since the last film, as Christmas is now dealing with relationship issues with fellow Expendable member Gina (Megan Fox), and Barney is getting into petty squabbles. Yet, the one thing that remains the same is their commitment to the life of an Expendable. After a mission goes wrong while hunting down a terrorist group led by Suarto Rahmat (Iko Uwais), Christmas must not only prevent a potential nuclear conflict but also get revenge by any means necessary. It’s a standard action film schlock that is predictable and, in this case, devoid of any enjoyment. This film is just not well made. As an action film, it fails to deliver what brings the audience to the theater. Director Scott Waugh showcases some of the most bland and poorly staged action set pieces in recent memory. There’s no tangibility or sense of direction to the action of the film. “Expend4bles” was apparently shot in real locations, yet there’s no discernable way to tell, as most of the film is set to a cheap-looking green screen. There’s only one enjoyable action sequence that involves Statham and Uwais. And, unfortunately, you have to wait until the film’s finale to get to this showdown, which consists of more than an hour of substandard filmmaking. This is also the first “Expendables” film without Stallone in some type of creative role in the production, and it’s very noticeable.
The whole appeal of these movies is watching popular, older actors continue to kick butt on screen. Stallone clearly understood that this was the draw for the mass movie-going audiences. Who wouldn’t want to see Rocky team up with the likes of Drago and The Terminator? Sure, the dialogue is nothing noteworthy, but the energy is felt, as you can tell that everyone genuinely had a good time on set. Who wouldn’t enjoy Stallone, Statham, and company bantering back and forth with one another? In “Expend4bles,” it’s apparent that it’s nothing more than a line-reading contest. Every performance is devoid of personality, despite how hard everyone tries. Of course, Statham is hardly a great actor, but if you look at his work in the “Fast and Furious” series or even the previous “Expendable” movies, at least his trademark brute English charisma shines through. Uwais (despite having a uniquely cool weapon) is an uninteresting antagonist and pales in comparison to that of Jean-Claude Van Damme or even Mel Gibson. The biggest sin this film commits is abandoning what made the franchise appealing in the first place. The roster in this film lacks an overall majority of its older members, as Statham, Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, and Randy Couture are the only original cast members to return for this fourth installment. The only new popular additions that are older are Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Andy Garcia. The rest of the new Expendables are younger and led by Fox’s character, Gina. Fox easily gives the film’s worst performance and maybe for her whole career in “Expend4bles.” She’s clearly meant to be this cool, calm, and collected mercenary, but Fox can’t deliver the bare necessities the character needs. Lash (Levy Tran) seems to be an interesting addition at first but is given nothing to do. Instead, we’re forced to listen to new member Galan (Jacob Scipio) talk about lewd acts he enjoys in a painfully unfunny running gag. Decha (Tony Jaa) is one of the few highlights — if not the only highlight — in the film, and it’s a shame he isn’t more involved. It’s bewildering that “Expend4bles” attempts to remix differing generations of Expendables when that was previously attempted and failed in the last installment. At least that ensemble featured the likes of Ronda Rousey and Glen Powell. Having new members in previous films like Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger downgrade to this film’s particular lineup is, in a word, sad.
There was an opportunity for the Expendables crew to improve upon the disappointment of “The Expendables 3” and have a nice comeback that would win audiences over again. They could have brought in talent such as Michelle Yeoh and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Instead, “Expend4bles” feels like a straight-to-DVD film that got theatrical distribution at the last second. The action is flat, the performances are even worse, and, ultimately, it becomes a chore to watch the movie all the way through. In an action film landscape that has recently delivered great films like “John Wick: Chapter 4” and “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” this year alone, maybe it’s time that “The Expendables” retire for good.