When The Expendables detonated theaters in 2010, it was like a dream come true for a certain type of moviegoer, and I am that guy. I grew up on the big muscles, bigger guns action movies of the ’80s and ’90s, with stars the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and more. And they were all going to be in the same movie (!!!), with loads of other screen heavyweights such as Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren. But, after thirteen years and now the fourth movie, horribly stylized as Expend4bles, the clip is out of ammo on this franchise that has NEVER lived up to its potential, and this is the worst of them all.
Although Lundgren has reportedly stated the budget at $100M, Expend4bles is one shoddy piece of crap, with digital explosions that look like they were created using an N64, and stagey locales that take you right out of the action. Plenty of movies are shot on soundstages but they don’t all look like it as much as this one does. It’s no wonder Stallone tried multiple times to get away from this movie, dropping out completely at one point before being dragged back in; this movie is so far beneath him. You can practically see him slinking towards the exits during the brief time he’s actually around.
That’s right, Stallone doesn’t have a lot to do with this story. His Barney Ross does return as leader of the Expendables, a paramilitary unit that does the tough missions the government doesn’t want any responsibility for. But this movie belongs to Sly’s co-star, Jason Statham, who returns once again as Lee Christmas. You can see how this movie started life as a Christmas-focused solo spinoff, because the story is all about him. Christmas has a new girlfriend, fellow Expendables member Gina, played by Megan Fox. They fight all of the time. Relationships are hard in this business, y’know?
The barebones plot finds the team sent to Libya to stop a deadly mercenary named Rahmat, played by the awesome and utterly wasted Iko Uwais (of The Raid fame) from stealing a bunch of nuclear detonators that could start WWIII. There’s also the looming threat of a mysterious baddie named Ocelot, who shares a past with Barney. But during the assault, the Expendables are severely overmatched and a key member of the team falls in battle. The rest of the film finds Christmas, who has been kicked out for disobeying orders, driven by revenge to get his hands on Rahmat.
It seems like every Expendables movie has missed the point a little bit more. As the roster has changed time and time again, with the biggest names all refusing to return, new supporting players are brought in to fill the gaps and create a youth movement. That leads to the addition of Megan Fox, who I will admit is genuinely pretty good here as Gina. Fox has been doing a ton of direct-to-VOD action movies lately and she’s at least credible, and still a halfway decent actress when she wants to be. You can clearly see the bones of a Gina/Christmas spinoff movie being set up, and I would be all for that. But other characters are just wastes of space with nothing to do. Randy Couture is back as Toll Road, but all he does is look REALLY OLD while talking about his cauliflower ears; Lundgren’s Gunner sports bifocals and can’t do the one thing he’s assigned to do, which is be a sniper. 50 Cent basically plays himself, and even rocks his own music, as Easy Day, proving himself to still be a bad actor even by Expendables standards. Jacob Scipio plays sex-obsessed member, Galan, the son of Antonio Banderas’ former character, Galgo. I’m pretty sure Banderas must’ve dropped out and this was the easy way of not having to rewrite the script too much. Levy Tran, previously best known for looking hot in a Fast & Furious movie, at least gets a whip to play with this time. And Goddammit, the awesome Tony Jaa, of Ong-Bak legendary status, sees his muay thai skills reduced to nothing in a film that was not built to support his presence.
The Expendables always have some government goon who tells them where to go and what to do, and that role is played by Andy Garcia as Marsh. At least Garcia, who is hamming it up like crazy, seems to be having a good time. His character is awful and telegraphs everything a mile away, but at least Garcia isn’t sleepwalking through it like Stallone is.
If this were a Statham solo movie it might’ve actually worked out okay. Statham can still kick ass and crack tough guy jokes with the best of them, and his fights are impressive as ever. He has some really solid banter with Fox and Stallone, too. This just shouldn’t have been an Expendables movie, because it undermines the entire purpose of the team if Christmas can handle everything by himself while they twiddle their thumbs.
Expend4bles is like the last studio compilation album from your favorite band released long after they have already broken up. With a lack of star power, a lousy plot, and some truly embarrassing CGI, this Expend4bles is dud that never should’ve happened in the first place.
Expend4bles opens in theaters on September 22nd.