Expend4bles (The Expendables 4) (2023)
Expend4bles (The Expendables 4) (2023)

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.

Release Date: September 22nd, 2023 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Scott Waugh Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Megan Fox, Dolph Lundgren, Andy Garcia, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Randy Couture, Jacob Scipio, Levy Tran

 


 

R

uthless mercenary Suarto Rahmat (Iko Uwais) makes a move to retrieve detonators from a Libyan chemical plant, with the hopes of granting nuclear weapons capabilities to notorious arms dealer Ocelot, a mysterious ghost of a man whose very existence has plagued the U.S. government for decades. To thwart this potential catastrophe, CIA operative Marsh (Andy Garcia) tasks Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his crew of “Expendables,” including veterans Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and Toll Road (Randy Couture), alongside newcomers Easy Day (Curtis Jackson), Gina (Megan Fox), and Galan (Jacob Scipio), with eliminating the hired gun. But when Lee disobeys a direct order and the mission ends in both failure and tragedy, he is relieved of duty and Gina is given command of the group. Tracking Rahmat’s movements to the coast of Thailand, Marsh sends the Expendables, under new leadership and with new member Lash (Levy Tran), to apprehend Rahmat and uncover Ocelot’s true identity. Determined to both atone for his grave mistakes and exact bloody vengeance, Christmas secretly pursues his former teammates on their deadliest assignment yet.

A big, splashy cold open segues into a comically anticlimactic, nonchalant introduction to Barney’s unimaginative solitude. It’s so jarring, in fact, that it feels as if the filmmakers edited these two scenes together to circumnavigate some sizable section of missing footage. Yet after Barney visits Lee, the only other primary character from before – in a trip that serves to character-assassinate new-recruit Fox (her lines and her behavior were surely written by men, as she’s designed to be stereotypically feminine, overly emotional, and obnoxiously nagging; the utmost counter to a macho he-man) – the frame cuts back once again to the action-packed opening, during which no time has passed. It’s a combination of immediate distraction, pitiful construction, and dialogue so spotty that it’s difficult to know what these personas are arguing about.

“I like spending time with you.” The initial displays of testosterone are complemented by badinage and insults, reiterating that the gang of Expendables are firstly buddies and only secondly elite special forces. It’s unfeasible to take them seriously, so it’s not surprising that once they’re tasked with a new save-the-world assignment, it unfolds as an unrealistic and painfully generic cross between concepts seen in the “Mission: Impossible” and “Fast and Furious” franchises – during which no one acts as if in any danger.

Since this is the fourth outing with this team, the writers are under the impression that audiences will accept them as recognizable, fun-loving, larger-than-life heroes, using that as an excuse to pen their conversations solely around stale quips. Actors like Stallone may not stray too far away from the heavies he’s always played, but most of the other cast members aren’t familiar – nor do they have much to do. And one of the greatest appeals – the nostalgia value of seeing bygone-era action stars return to the big screen – is virtually absent, not just from the losses of regulars Jet Li and Terry Crews and bit parts from Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but also from the lack of fresh converts. It’s mildly amusing to see Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais together, but no considerable acquisitions from high-octane ‘80s or ‘90s actioners turn up – an extreme shortcoming and disappointment for a project that upped the ante on its star power over the last three entries.

A few vehicle chases and hand-to-hand combat sequences prove mildly engaging, but it’s all too obvious when blue-screen, bad CG blood and explosions, and unconvincing stunts eat up the brunt of the excitement. Even with a couple of mid-movie shocks, the dearth of sympathetic leads makes it impossible to care what happens to what is basically an invincible squad of warriors who never appear concerned for their own safety. It’s doubly detrimental that none of them have any chemistry together. While onscreen, they’re not awe-inspiring killing machines as much as they’re merely indistinguishable, extraneous, and unstimulating – a problem that also applies to the villains. A few of the right components for an action film are present, but the method of assembly is all wrong, as if director Scott Waugh and his crew are demonstrating exactly how not to craft such a movie. These aren’t the Expendables returning for a new adventure; they’re the leftovers sitting around in want of something to do.

– The Massie Twins

  • 2/10