Expend4bles

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The idea behind “The Expendables” was fairly straightforward: assemble a group of action movie legends from the 1980s, such as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, and Mickey Rourke, and have them collaborate in a classic shoot-em-up with Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, and Steve Austin to blow things up really bad. The movie wasn’t a classic, but because of its overtly retro style—which felt just like something the late, great Cannon Films might have produced if they were still in operation—it ended up being a surprising smash.

Two more sequels were released in 2012 and 2014, and while neither one lived up to the incredibly modest promise of its predecessor, they served their purpose as B-movie filler and a way for seasoned action stars (including Kelsey Grammer, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Wesley Snipes, and Harrison Ford) to kill a few well-paid weeks reliving the glory days—sort of the genre’s equivalent of a Hall of Fame game.

Having said that, almost ten years have passed since the critically panned third movie was released, and despite no apparent demand for its revival, the franchise has been relaunched with “Expend4bles.” Okay, maybe “revived” isn’t quite the right term to characterize this hilariously lazy exercise in meat-and-potatoes cinema. The number of shootings, stabbings, and punches on display are nowhere near as agonizing as the listlessness with which they have been depicted in this concussive contrivance, which, judging by the closing credits, appears to have more co-producers than actors with speaking roles.

Veteran Expendables Barney (Stallone), Christmas (Statham), Gunner (Lundgren), and Toll (Couture) are joined this time by new recruits Easy Day (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) and Galan (Jacob Scipio), who is purported to be the son of the Banderas character, for a brand-new top-secret mission under the direction of the shady CIA agent Marsh (Andy Garcia). The mysterious Ocelot, who annihilated another squad of Barney’s years previously, has been supplied with a number of nuclear detonators by arms dealer Rahmat and his army of thugs after they broke into one of Gaddafi’s former chemical sites in Libya. But alas (almost a spoiler), Barney’s mission fails. Christmas ends up being completely expelled from the group when he deviates from the plan in an effort to save him.

The Expendables once more set out to save the day, this time with Marsh along for the ride and Gina (Megan Fox) taking the group’s leadership. Gina also happens to be Christmas’ on-and-off girlfriend. However, there is still a loose Ocelot out there, and when it seems that they are hoping to start World War III between the United States and Russia, the Expendables go off to save the day once more. Decha (Tony Jaa), another old friend of Barney’s, and Christmas (who, of course, won’t take no for an answer) set out in chase. They all end themselves on a huge ship with the bomb that is about to detonate and fight waves of unidentified evil guys as they attempt to save the planet in the nick of time.

My issue with “Expend4bles” is not that it is a stupid action movie; rather, it was made with such blatant disregard from everyone involved that you can virtually sense their disdain in every scene. Kurt Wimmer, Max Adams, and Tad Daggerhart’s screenplay creates the kind of haphazard narrative that is uncommon outside of Mad Libs. The huge action scenes are presented in an astonishingly bland manner, which is further dimmed by some of the chinkiest CGI I have recently seen in a major motion picture. Director Scott Waugh demonstrates an equal lack of commitment to his tasks.

In many ways, “Expend4bles” resembles a poor television pilot that was thankfully canceled before it could air rather than a true continuation of a brand that has been highly profitable to many involved.

The biggest, most puzzling problem with the movie is that it oddly decides to get rid of the one thing that has made the franchise so popular up to this point—the chance to watch former action heroes flaunt their talents once more. The first two sequels succeeded in creating a certain amount of tension, or “frisson,” when actors like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis appeared together for the first time (at least outside of a Planet Hollywood stockholders meeting).

With fewer recurring characters than before (and Stallone barely appearing), the emphasis here shifts heavily to the newer cast members. Aside from martial arts favorites Jaa and Uwais (who provide the only genuine thrills during the few moments when they show their stuff), none of them are exactly action icons, and a few of them push the definition of “star” to its limit. Fox, who appears to be there to remind us of the once-promised all-female “Expendabelles” spinoff and to prove to us that she is capable of anything her male co-stars are capable of, is by far the most absurd of the lot.

However, in this instance, “anything” appears to be confined to speaking in a monotone and being so heavily made up that it’s possible that she recorded this in between setups for this year’s Sports Illustrated picture shoot.

The only thing good can be said about “Expend4bles” is that it should effectively put an end to a series that has plainly outstayed its welcome. “Expend4bles” is just a total humiliation from beginning to stop. at the very least for another ten years.

Currently showing in cinemas.

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