HomeMovies'Expend4bles' Shows the Franchise is on Borrowed Time

‘Expend4bles’ Shows the Franchise is on Borrowed Time


Sylvester Stallone in EXPEND4BLES.
Photo Courtesy of Lionsgate.

There’s no doubt that The Expendables franchise should be commended for pulling together one of greatest ensemble casts of all-time through three films. The seemingly impossible has been achieved in how the franchise has not only brought together some genuine legends of the action genre, but also introduced rising talent as well. Now though, with the fourth entry, Expend4bles, the franchise is clearly running on fumes and features a lot of shortcomings outside its bloody action.

The film sees veteran Expendables, Lee (Jason Statham) and Barney (Sylvester Stallone), lead a smaller team made up of other longtime members and a couple newbies on a new mission. After a powerful man named Rahmat (Iko Uwais) invades Libyan forces to steal nuclear warheads for his mysterious employer, The Ocelot (who Barney has history with) the team is deployed to stop him. However, their mission not only ends in failure, but they also lose a pivotal member of their team. So, to avenge their fallen teammate and stop Rahmat and the Ocelot’s plans, the Expendables must rally together to enact an all-out assault.

Although this film marks the fourth entry in the franchise, it feels incredibly scaled back compared to previous entries in nearly every facet. The most apparent sign of this entry being lesser is in its cast, since most of the Expendables seen throughout the franchise are totally absent. There are very few references or mentions of past members or missions, so everyone’s sudden departure instantly makes the film feel inferior in scale and adds a confusing element. Even the members who have stuck around are scaled back in their own ways—either in age catching up to them or not having much to do. Stallone’s downsized role is especially disappointing, since this is reportedly the last time we’ll see him in this franchise and the way Barney is used in this story is terrible.

At this point, it’s basically Statham’s show to run and it doesn’t work in the film’s favor. The story they give Lee isn’t all that special and the big decisions he makes for his arc don’t hold up by the end or have any real consequences. Plus, the film being mostly Statham-focused makes it feel more like a generic Statham action-flick rather than a true Expendables sequel.

It’s even worse that with so much of the cast being gutted compared to the last film, there’s nothing of value that’s added back in. Most of the new characters literally add nothing to the plot, and there are only a couple spotlight interactions or action moments that aren’t even all that strong. The only new character who is a more pivotal part of Lee’s story is Gina (Megan Fox) — since they’re romantically involved — and even she leaves a minimal impact.

A big reason the characters, both old and new, fall flat is because the writing is so awful. Every line feels like it’s either forced humor or a half-hearted attempt at being serious. The new characters are written especially weirdly and either have very little to say — resulting in weak personalities — or have too much to say and quickly become intolerable. For instance, Galan (Jacob Scipio) — the son of Galgo (Antonio Banderas) from The Expendables 3 — has sexualized quips that don’t land and make him a character that’s tough to stand. While Gina is immediately introduced as nagging and annoying and then is rarely given the opportunity to be anything more than a pseudo leader and a romantic object for Lee.

With such thin depictions and generic dialogue, Expend4bles has taken the most tiresome elements of the action genre and its characterizations and put them on display. The performances are heavily affected by the stilted writing and direction, meaning that no one delivers a good performance. Most of the franchise veterans (especially Stallone and Statham) act like they’re forcing a smile on their faces and just doing whatever they have to do to get to the next scene. No one is putting in any real energy that makes it seem like they genuinely want to be there and that feeling unfortunately will translate to viewers as well. Newbies like Fox and Scipio are forced to lean into their characters’ most annoying qualities so there’s no desire to see them on-screen. Worst of all, even though the franchise makes the right move in getting international action talents like Uwais and Tony Jaa onboard, they’re grossly underutilized and ultimately come off like weak villains or sidekicks, respectively.

It’s hard to blame anyone in front of the camera for their lack of energy though, since the story they’re working with isn’t all that exciting. Expend4bles features the most basic and unremarkable action sequel story you could think of. There are barely any meaningful arcs between the characters—despite most of them dealing with a noteworthy death early on—because the impact is erased right at the end. The villains are as paper thin as they come, and the betrayals barely feel surprising. The film shows potential for a bigger franchise villain to develop and then just wipes him away in mere seconds. The film honestly barely has anything happen in it and it’s a pretty “get from Point A to Point B” plot with no depth.

There’s nothing to come away with from Expend4bles other than it just being “another ” entry in this franchise. There’s not even anything presented story-wise for fans to want more of and most will likely have trouble even finding anything memorable.

The only saving grace of Expend4bles is the action and even that has some major shortcomings that can’t be overlooked. It’s great that the franchise heads back to its R-rated roots this time around as it makes the blood-splatter, brutal takedowns, and eye-widening explosions hit harder. Some of the carnage is honestly jaw-dropping and it gives the film a good punch that adds some desperately needed energy. Unfortunately, it’s often marred by terrible-looking effects. The overuse of crummy green screen shots is a total eye sore, and the CGI blood can be spotted from miles away. The sheer creativity is also lacking at times, and it does feel like the characters go through the same motions without ever facing meaningful opposition.

Expend4bles proves the franchise is working on borrowed time with how much of its cast, charm, and basic standards have been stripped away. It’s a sequel that hits far below the bar set by the previous films and embodies why the franchise is better off coming to a close rather than continuing. It’s subpar in nearly every way and feels unfitting for the legacy the franchise has done such a great job building in the action genre.

Exped4bles is now playing in theaters.

Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.

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