As Expend4ble (Expendable 4) comes to an end, the weight of a few, straightforward questions overwhelms me: Why was this movie made? Why is it in the theatres? Did anyone even make an attempt to articulate “expend4ble” before approving it, and who considered it fashionable?
Expend4ble, marks the fourth instalment in a franchise specifically crafted to pay homage to the action films of the 1980s and 1990s. Spearheaded by Sylvester Stallon and Jason Statham, these movies are notable for their ensemble cast of iconic action stars from that era and their dedication to delivering a straightforward plot coupled with an abundance of thrilling and mindless action sequences.
This film caters to the tastes of millennials, boomers, and GenX alike, making it a perfect Sunday afternoon indulgence.
Expend4ble is directed by Scott Waugh, the director responsible for 2014’s Need for Speed, a personal guilty pleasure of mine that I’ve revisited multiple times.
The director was the sole reason I was eager to watch this movie. As far as the storyline, character development, and plot are concerned, my expectations were rather modest.
After all, the franchise had already established a tried-and-true formula: delivering enjoyable action starring beloved icons from the 80s and 90s. It was hard to imagine how anything could possibly go awry.
A fresh wave of stars has come together with the world’s premier action heroes for an action-packed journey in Expend4bles. Reuniting as an elite group of mercenaries, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Sylvester Stallone are now joined, for the very first time, by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Megan Fox, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Jacob Scipio, Levy Tran, and Andy Garcia.
They are armed with various weaponry and possess the expertise to wield them effectively. The Expendables serve as the planet’s ultimate defence line, summoned when all other alternatives have been exhausted. Nevertheless, the fresh additions to the team bring new approaches and tactics, redefining the concept of “new blood.”
If you’re a fan of Jason Statham and have enjoyed the previous Expendables films, as well as the action movies of the 80s and 90s, you might discover some entertainment value in this movie.
The film’s strengths lie in its familiar structure, much like its predecessors. It’s an accessible movie that is competently directed for the most part. From Act of Valor to this film, the director has consistently demonstrated the ability to wrap up a movie effectively, maintaining a strong sense of direction, especially with the third act.
The third act aligns closely with our expectations and offers something worthwhile. The action sequences and stunt work are good, though not exceptionally outstanding.
In the first act, the interaction between Megan Fox and Jason Statham is, at best, well “okay”. However, aside from Megan Fox, the character dynamics between Stallone and Statham is solid right from the beginning.
It’s evident that Statham has become the central figure in this franchise, and that’s a positive development since he is undoubtedly the most charismatic and talented actor among the ensemble cast.
But that as it may, it’s worth noting that the franchise built on the once-intriguing, star-studded ensemble castings has now shifted to a more expected and logical direction.
While I appreciate Jason Statham’s presence, it’s important to remember that The Expendables was originally built on the novelty of assembling an eclectic and larger-than-life cast.
With this film, it essentially becomes “Statham-able” due to his dominant prominence, while the other characters serve primarily as background figures who pose, deliver one-liners, engage in some gun work, and then exit.
In contrast to its predecessors, this film conveyed a sense of reduced scale and constrained scope. It failed to capture the grandeur associated with the earlier instalments. To provide context, this movie had a budget of $100 million, John Wick 4 had a similar budget of $100 million, Upgrade operated on a much smaller $5 million budget, and Hidden Strike had a budget of $80 million.
The overall impression of this film is that it resembled a production designed for streaming services due to the look and feel of a budget movie.
The visual effects were subpar, with approximately 70 percent of the scenes appearing as though they were filmed on soundstages or green screens, with VFX added hastily.
Additionally, the movie lacked the dynamism and enthusiasm that characterised the first two films. This deficiency was especially noticeable due to the uninspiring screenplay and script, with character interactions, apart from those involving Statham and Megan Fox, falling flat.
When it comes to the lack of focus, the script and editing occasionally exhibit peculiar choices, like starting with the opening scene featuring the antagonist, Iko Uwais, before abruptly transitioning to a bar brawl involving Statham and Stallone, only to randomly return to the initial bad guy sequence ten minutes later.
It’s worth noting that the cast also appeared notably weaker this time around. In previous movies, we were accustomed to seeing heavyweight actors like Terry Crews, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, and many others.
None of them made a return appearance in this film, further contributing to the sensation that it was no longer “The Expendables” particularly when Sylvester Stallone’s role amounted to little more than a glorified extended cameo camouflaged as the movie’s primary twist.
This movie lacks a clear focus, with its narrative feeling scattered and disjointed. Moreover, a significant portion of the film unfolds on a boat in a limited set of rooms, which gives the impression of reused locations. Even though the editing attempts to adhere to the franchise’s style, it struggles to maintain coherence, especially during action sequences.
Despite featuring two prominent Asian action stars, Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais, the fight choreography falls short of expectations giving the impression that the actors were underused. In summary, this film generally comes across as fatigued, unfocused, and lacking the entertainment value that characterized previous instalments.
In a nutshell
Expend4bles expendable 4 serves as a glaring example of a franchise that has overstayed its welcome. It appears that both the creators and the actors are now aiming for one final, lacklustre attempt to capitalize on the series, as evidenced by this lacklustre fourth instalment, which makes no effort to present a well-conceived project.
The film’s lazy utilisation of CGI, poorly executed and unoriginal action sequences, along with a few actors who seem disinterested in their roles, collectively render Expendables 4 a somewhat tedious time in the theatres.
It might have been suitable for a casual streaming experience, but it falls far short of what one would expect from a cinematic viewing.