Nine years after the last film we now have Expendables 4 or Expend4bles but without Jet Li, Terry Crews, Steve Austin and most famously Arnie & Bruce Willis who all live up to the title proving that they were all expendable. The fourth film retains Stallone, Statham, Lundgren and Randy Couture and adds to the mix Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, 50 Cent Jacob Scipio and Megan Fox….that list is really starting to tail off there. But its Stallone who starts off front and centre along with Statham and the first act with the pair is great fun as the close friends banter and work to get back Stallone’s ring which he lost in bar over a thumb wrestle contest which soon degenerates into a bar brawl not seen since our Editor was asked to settle up his tab at The Nags Head.
But Stallone and his crew are soon recruited by shady operative Marsh (Andy Garcia wondering what has happened to his career since The Godfather Part III) to seize a box of nuclear detonators stolen by brutal mercenary Rahmat (Iko Uwais) in a great opening action scene with a heightened level of brutality not seen in the previous films. So off go the Expendables only for their mission to go bent, Rahmat escape with the detonators and Stallone put out of action. In fairness though Harrison Ford was just shy of 80 when he made Indy 5 but Stallone is now 77 and his action films are far more demanding so its little wonder that this is probably the start of him taking a back seat as the franchise goes forward.
But the failure of the mission is put squarely on Statham and Marsh sacks him leaving the follow up mission to the rest of the team which will be led by the obvious choice…. lads mag favourite Megan Fox giving the crew all the credibility of Boris Johnson’s marriage vows. Here Fox plays Statham’s girlfriend /wife Gina but as Statham’s character is named Lee Christmas it seems a missed opportunity to not to have named her character Mary to ramp up the daftness. So with a catwalk model starkly contrasting with her team of time ravaged men with faces like a kitchen chopping board leading their mission onto a tanker loafed with a nuclear weapon. Its Statham who follows after them determined to make amends for the failed mission that saw his buddy Stallone put out of the game.
What follows is several explosive action set pieces several of which contain some spectacularly gory deaths which is one of the films plus points because back in 2010 with the release of the first film and subsequent sequels there was a sense of disappointment that with such a fantastic cast of old school action stars the action and kills were all a little vanilla. But the action set pieces are of varying quality – a raid on a Libyan base is spectacular but the inevitable face off with Statham and Uwais is not the climatic smack down fans might wish for especially when Uwais has proved himself to be an exceptional fighter in the two Raid films. We’re also in an era where stuntmen turned directors have proved themselves to be superb choreographers of chaos as seen with the John Wick and Extraction films and Scott Waugh, himself an ex-stuntman on films that included Mr & Mrs Smith, Bad Boys II and xXx, is not quite in the same league although a motorbike chase around the tanker had potential and several of the bigger set pieces are competently handled if uninspired.
Added to this is the problem of the cast. Where previous films have included Jean Claude van Damme, Chuck Norris, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson & Wesley Snipes the franchise is now casting straight to video favourites and Expend4bles is very much the Jason Statham show with the others firmly in the background. Lundgren replete in a wig that suggest he’s undergoing chemo therapy, Randy Couture’s lines are almost entirely about him explaining his cauliflower ear and Jacob Scipio plays a bargain basement Antonio Banderas and would be ladies man and has a tawdry line about golden showers that will have Dad’s asking their teenage sons to explain. With the #MeToo movement having rightly enabled more female led films its Megan Fox who has been bought in but in a retrogressive way as the eye candy alongside Levy Tran with both having to wear crop tops whereas the men are all kitted up in body armour. For Tran its probably to give full access to her huge chest tattoo that reads, ‘There is a light that never goes out’ suggesting that she’s a former lighthouse keeper.
Expend4bles is nothing new but certainly has now decided that this will be a Statham led franchise something that he’s certainly able to do but for a supporting cast that sees the film makers now scrabbling around for equal calibre and the franchise needs an action director at the top of his game to revitalize the franchise before it too becomes expendable.
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instagram: our invite to the special preview screening
Here’s the Expand4ables trailer…..