Directed by: Scott Waugh
Premise: The team of mercenaries pursue a terrorist who has come into possession of nuclear weapons.
What Works: The Expendables series has historically been an ensemble piece but the film was anchored by the relationship between the characters played by Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. The banter between them is fun and Stallone and Statham are convincing as old friends who have been through numerous battles. About a third of the way into the picture Expend4bles makes a surprising storytelling decision and for a while it is a bold choice that raises the stakes and sharpens the focus of the film.
What Doesn’t: Unfortunately, the filmmakers undo the picture’s one interesting storytelling choice in a cowardly and stupid deus ex machina resolution that cheapens the movie. It’s indicative of the way this series has lost touch with what made it interesting in the first place. The Expendables began as a gimmick. The first few movies brought together stars of 1980s and 90s action films including Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Jet Li and put them in an action picture that tapped into the retro thrills of those earlier movies. With Expend4bles the series has completed its drift from that premise. Most of the original cast are gone and now it’s just a generic action picture and a mediocre one at that. The action scenes are not done well. There are shootouts and chases but nothing is exciting. The end of the movie puts the fate of the world at stake but there’s nothing dramatically compelling at all. Expend4bles brings together Jason Statham and Iko Uwais, both of them seasoned action stars and trained martial artists but their fight scene is anticlimactic and so badly shot and edited that it could be anybody playing those roles. Like the third film, Expend4bles frequently looks terrible. The digital effects look like visuals from an early 2000s videogame and the filmmakers use digital blood squib effects that rob the movie of any organic credibility. Megan Fox is cast as part of the mercenary team and she is unbelievable as a soldier, in part because she doesn’t have any violent gravitas but also because she is so caked in makeup that it’s distracting. This becomes quite obvious when she’s standing next to Levy Tran who plays the other female member of the team and looks much more credible. Expend4bles is stupid in a myriad of ways. The opening takes place at a Libyan warehouse identified as Muammar Gaddafi’s old nuclear weapons facility. Libya did not have nuclear weapons at the time Gaddafi was deposed from power and the country hadn’t had them for decades. The big reveal in the climax is supposed to be a shocker but it is just dumb and manages the feat of simultaneously making no sense and being entirely predictable.
Bottom Line: Expend4bles makes the recent Fast & Furious movies look like Three Days of the Condor. It’s dumb, sloppy, and lacks excitement.
Episode: #966 (September 24, 2023)