A title that started ironically has now become all too accurate when it comes to the belated fourth installment of Sylvester Stallone’s action franchise. Arriving a full nine years after the poorly received last entry, Expend4bles — the number is in the middle of the word, get it? — represents a nadir for a series that began as an entertainingly nostalgic throwback to old-school action movies and the square-jawed muscle men who starred in them. This edition — essentially a sub-par Jason Statham vehicle (after this and Meg 2: The Trench, some quality control might be in order for the actor) featuring a brief appearance by Stallone and several new cast members who fail to make much of an impression — indicates that it’s time to put a fork in the series; it’s done.
If you can believe the good folks at Wikipedia, among the stars originally under consideration for this fourth Expendables film were Pierce Brosnan, Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood. That seems merely a Santa Claus wish list considering the final results. Besides Stallone and Statham, the sole returning original cast members are Dolph Lundgren (rocking the kind of hairdo any self-respecting scarecrow would reject) and Randy Couture, the butt of far too many cauliflower ear jokes.
The Bottom Line
More like the dispos4bles.
The newcomers include Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, vainly attempting to muster some sort of enthusiasm; Jacob Scipio, doing an unfunny Antonio Banderas impression as the son of Antonio Banderas’ character in the last installment; Levy Tran, displaying sass and lots of tattoos; Andy Garcia, probably reminiscing about how he used to work with the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma and Steven Soderbergh; and Megan Fox, whose character seems underdressed for going out on highly dangerous missions. But then again, bulletproof vests don’t feature bare midriffs. She plays Statham’s girlfriend, so naturally their foreplay consists of a knock-down, drag-out fight.
The cast also includes Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais, which would be genuinely exciting if either action star, renowned for their work in Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior and The Raid films respectively, had been allowed the opportunity to show off what they can do. Instead, these two incredibly dynamic martial arts specialists are reduced to short, unexciting fight scenes so clumsily filmed and choppily edited they might as well be featuring Carrot Top and Yakov Smirnoff.
The plot, such as it is, has something to do with stopping an evil terrorist (Uwais) from acquiring some McGuffins, excuse me, detonators for nuclear warheads. Recruiting the team is a CIA operative (Garcia) who barks orders while wearing the sort of expensive, well-tailored suits that practically scream “Don’t trust me!”
And speaking of trust, Expend4bles (the spell check on my computer is now on the verge of exploding) betrays its viewers with an early fake-out and other plot twists so annoyingly obvious that they could only have been devised by a bad screenwriter. Or in this case, three bad screenwriters.
“But who cares about plot or character development in a B-movie such as this?” you might ask. “Aren’t the non-stop action and gratuitous violence the whole point?” Well, yes, they are. And on that front, the movie disappoints as well, its limited budget revealing itself through so many poorly executed CGI and green screen shots that you begin longing for the gritty realism of Henry Winkler’s Fonzie jumping the shark on Happy Days.
On the plus side, or at least the not quite as minus side, there are some welcome doses of humor, however lame; the chemistry between Stallone and Statham remains strong, making it a shame that the former is barely in the movie; and Stallone has indicated that this will be the last film in the franchise. But then again, how many times has he said that about Rocky and Rambo?
Production: Nu Boyana Studios Templeton Media, Grobman Media, Millennium Media
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Megan Fox, Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Andy Garcia
Director: Scott Waugh
Screenwriters: Kurt Wimmer, Tad Daggerhart, Max Adams
Producers: Kevin King-Templeton, Les Weldon, Yariv Lerner, Jason Statham
Executive producers: Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson, Robert Van Norden, Jeffrey Greenstein, Jonathan Yunger, Spenser Cohen, Anna Halberg, Stephen Paul, Gareth West, Allen Dam, Michael S. Constable, Lati Grobman, Christa Campbell, Basil Iwanyk, Guymon Casady, Jon Feltheimer, Jason Constantine, Eda Kowan, Christopher Woodrow, K. Blaine Johnston
Director of photography: Tim Maurice-Jones
Production designer: Ricky Eyres
Costume designer: Neil McClean
Composer: Guillaume Roussel
Casting: Elaine Grainger
1 hour 43 minutes