“Expend4bles,” the fourth installment in the action-packed Expendables series, disappointingly deviates from the franchise’s original concept of bringing together iconic old-school action heroes for a nostalgic tribute to classic action films. While it’s understandable that the passage of thirteen years has led to changes in the cast, the film takes a wrong turn by introducing new characters who lack the charisma and action-hero status of their predecessors.
The movie kicks off with a perplexing and all-too-brief scene featuring an attack on an unidentified compound by another enigmatic group. This scene fails to leave a lasting impression and leaves viewers bewildered.
The story then shifts to New Orleans, where Barney (Sylvester Stallone) pays a visit to Christmas (Jason Statham) in the midst of a heated argument with Gina (Megan Fox). Christmas seeks Barney’s assistance in retrieving a lost ring, and with his brass knuckles, he effortlessly dispatches a gang of bikers in a lackluster fight sequence. Surprisingly, Stallone’s presence in the film is minimal, giving the impression that “Expend4bles” was originally intended to be a spinoff focusing on Statham’s character but was hastily rewritten into a full sequel.
Soon, CIA agent Marsh (Andy Garcia) reveals that the mastermind behind the earlier attack is Rahmat (Iko Uwais), an arms dealer hired to acquire nuclear detonators for a client code-named Ocelot, who has a history with Barney. What should have been a straightforward setup for a revenge-driven mission takes an unexpected turn as Barney virtually exits the storyline, leaving Christmas to handle the conflict. Gina is suddenly thrust into a leadership role, which director Scott Waugh seems to mishandle, as her character appears ill-prepared for the action scenes that follow.
The film’s weak action sequences and subpar CGI further detract from the viewing experience. The cast, once a lineup of iconic action heroes, now includes newcomers who struggle to fill the shoes of their predecessors. While the addition of Iko Uwais and Tony Jaa is a welcome one, the inclusion of Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson, Jacob Scipio, and Levy Tran, who lack the status of action heroes, feels forced.
As the action shifts to a hijacked cargo ship bound for Russia, “Expend4bles” begins to feel like a low-budget, made-for-streaming action movie. The lackluster effects, uninspiring action scenes, and limited screen time for the established stars contribute to this impression. The film also introduces implausible plot devices that undermine its credibility.
Ultimately, “Expend4bles” strays far from the franchise’s roots and leaves fans longing for the glory days of the original films. While “The Expendables 3” was criticized for potentially killing the franchise, “Expend4bles” may be the final nail in the coffin. It’s a disappointing departure from the series that should have been a fitting tribute to classic action cinema.
“Expend4bles” has already seen international release, with Lionsgate set to premiere it in US theaters on September 22nd.