What was the original intention of The Expendables? It was a combination of a more modern day era of action stars and the stars of yesterday. The first film teased showing off more action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. After the blowout action of the third film, it was time for The Expendables to take a break. Now, the franchise returns with a fourth film, Expend4bles, lacking some firepower in the cast. They subtract most of the action stars of the past and add in Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson, Tony Jaa, Megan Fox, Andy Garcia, and Iko Uwais. Returning are Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Randy Couture, and Dolph Lundgren.
Expend4bles has a couple glaring issues with the film that override any sort of fun or entertainment that you might have with it. First, without spoiling anything, it makes a boneheaded, short-sighted decision that nearly ruins the film in the first act. Second, the script is just not good. The dialogue feels stunted. Even characters that have plenty of chemistry feel wooden this time around. Christmas and Barney have been together for years, and it feels like they’re reading textbooks to one another.
Get Rid Of The Green Screen And Get Back To Basics
The other issues with the film stem from an absolutely egregious use of green screen for the effects. Where the first three films felt like action movies, these feel more like video games with actors standing before the effects. It just plays out like a shell of the series.
That boneheaded narrative choice extends into the script that writes Megan Fox’s character in a horrifically stereotypical way. It’s a step back especially considering that she’s the first female member of the Expendables. She’s written in a hysterical, power-hungry way, and it just comes off as lazy. Fox has been in her share of action movies. Just write her like the rest of the boys. She’s not a stranger to big-budgets and explosions.
In a world of action movies that feel lighter, badder, and meaner, Expend4bles lacks bite on all accounts. Sure, there are some pretty brutal kills in the film, but once again, they all use CG effects for the blood and gore. We can only see a knife stabbing through someone’s throat so many times before it just looks fake on screen.
It’s no fault of the people acting, but the new characters get absolutely nothing to work with. They don’t get highlighted in any way that makes them feel special. The rest of the team, besides Christmas, gets a few scenes here or there, but there’s no moment that sticks out and makes you really care for the characters or go “goddamn, that was badass”.
The narrative is also paper thin. For a movie like this, it doesn’t really need to be much more than, send the team and kill some people, but it tries to add in intrigue with a villain that is soulless. The majority of the film takes place on a boat as well. So that somewhat limits the action set-pieces and it just leads to a drab-looking movie. It’s a lot of grey, steel, and blue.
There’s Some Fun To Be Had, But Not Much
So what are some things about the film that are good? Well, they’re few and far between, but Tony Jaa, Jason Statham, and Iko Uwais do an abnormal amount of heavy lifting. The fight scenes involving the three of them are the real highlight of Expend4bles. It’s scenes like these that remind us of why The Expendables is such a fun franchise. You combine action stars of different eras, nationalities, styles, and you get something special.
Basically, when people aren’t talking and the script doesn’t get in its own way, the movie is watchable and somewhat fun. However, those glaring issues really take away from something that should have been an ushering of the new guard, into something else. The new cast members don’t get nearly enough shine.
This all adds up to a lifeless film that is a shell compared to the previous three. It’s not over-bloated with stars like the second and third films, and it lacks the novelty and shine of the first. From the get-go with a strange editing choice, a boneheaded narrative choice, and a lack of fun or humor, Expend4bles is a misfire on all accounts.
Expend4bles releases in theaters on September 22nd.
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