The ludicrously titled Expend4bes is a sad, excitement free instalment of a franchise that didn’t exactly nail things the first time out and then got progressively worse with sequels that progressively moved downhill. If the second and third films in this series displayed continued dips in quality and consistency, Expend4bles is a bloated, festering corpse with a gaping head wound floating face down in the river at the bottom of the hill that the buzzards don’t even want any part of. Less a joyous reuniting of action stars coming together for one last hurrah and more like a 60th high school reunion where people look around the room worriedly at the few people still able to show up, Expend4bles is a patently useless film that can’t even clear the low bar of offering up large scale explosions, carnage, and bad-assery.
The depth of the Expend4bles roster has been further depleted here, with leading man Sylvester Stallone’s ringleader Barney Ross taking a huge backseat, and most familiar faces from previous instalments gone forever. Jason Statham’s tough talking and even tougher jawed Christmas is now the lead by default. Randy Couture and Dolph Lundgren are back to reprise their roles, with the MMA fighter and novice actor given more screen time than advisable and the still imposing Ludgren saddled with bad wigs and a running gag about his character losing their eyesight. Lundgren somehow remains the most memorable thing here next to Statham’s still effortless charisma, and they get the only two actual laughs to be found amid the sub-locker room banter posing as dialogue so dreadful it almost makes viewers side with artificial intelligence. (It took three credited people to come up this dreck, including writers who’ve actually made movies before, which boggles my mind when I stop to think about how patently unusable the script is.)
Once again, Expend4bles is all about injecting “new blood” into the franchise, including Megan Fox as an imposing romantic foil for Statham, 50 Cent as a mercenary who looks and sounds a lot like 50 Cent, Jacob Scipio as the insipid, ultra-horny, motormouthed son of Antonio Banderas’ character from the previous film, Levy Tran as the hot chick with a bunch of tats who doesn’t do or say much, Andy Garcia as the team’s new handler, and martial arts legend Tony Jaa as a former squad member who wants to leave their violent past behind. No one here brings anything new to the table, and some of them look like they’re mentally trying to figure out what their paycheques here are going to do for their taxes. All of this is low key hilarious when one remembers that the third film in the series was also about bringing in “new blood” to replace the again team members, and even those actors couldn’t be bothered to re-up for this messy cash-in.
Before the film even started, I jokingly asked myself if the Expend4bles would be fighting a warlord, a drug kingpin, or an arms dealer this time. It’s an arms dealer, played by the reigning current king of martial arts Iko Uwais. This arms dealer is working on behalf of a mysterious baddie known only by the unimposing code name “Ocelot,” a shadowy operator who has history with Barney. What’s their evil plan? I honestly don’t even remember at this point. Something involving a nuke powered by detonators stolen from “Gaddafi’s old chemical plant” in Syria (the film’s literal words, both spoken and written on screen, not mine). And honestly, who cares? If the writers and the cast can barely be asked to create any investment, why should the viewer? It’s all going to build to one big twist and two painfully obvious grand reveals that viewers will be able to call seconds into the movie.
If you think I am protesting too much about Expend4bles being a steaming pile of rubble, flop sweat, and ash, you might want to ask if the action is any good, because that’s probably what matters most to the core demographic here. Hell no. The action is terrible, too, chock full of laughably cut rate budgeting detours, baffling editing that kills any potential suspense or momentum by cutting away to completely different things mid-sequence, some of the worst green screen and CGI gore in recent memory, and the crushing realization that almost all of these people are now too old to accomplish even the most basic of stunts. It even robs the viewer of the biggest, most logical head-to-head match-up between the stars. Director Scott Waugh (Act of Valor, Need for Speed) has an extensive background in stunt work, but here he has nothing in the budget to work with and is presented the impossible challenge of turning chicken shit into chicken salad. None of the films in the franchise ever felt as big and impressive as they should have, but Expend4bles isn’t even trying anymore.
Expend4bles can’t even aspire to the level of being so bad that it’s entertaining by default. Instead, it’s just so awful and boring that it becomes depressing to sit through. Some people will likely go and see Expend4bles out of some sort of affinity for the cast. Trust me, if that’s the only reason, it’s not worth it. Some people will go with hopes of seeing an action blockbuster done up big for cinemas. Don’t see it for that reason either. And if you’re looking for a movie worthy of your money and time, definitely don’t see it.
Expend4bles opens in theatres everywhere on Friday, September 22, 2023.
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