The Expend4bles – 4%
Reviewer Flickchart ranking: 5,000 / 5,223
It has been 9 years since our last installment from The Expendables franchise, an ensemble film series driven by Slyvester Stallone and Jason Stratham that pays homage to the 1980s action movie heyday. Each movie has followed an irascible mercenary outfit as they take on missions too volatile for the American military. The first three films were released in quick succession between 2010 and 2014, each increasing the size of the cast. Bruce Willis, Arnie, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, and Mel Gibson all made appearances, helping recreate the quip-a-minute violence of the most testosterone-fueled genre in cinema history.
The fourth film shrinks the cast, dispensing with many of its older faces and bringing in younger former stars like Megan Fox, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, The Raid‘s Iko Uwais, and martial artist star Tony Jaa. This plot is more focused than the previous outings, zooming in on Lee Christmas (Jason Stratham) and his future with the private army organization. As our core characters are showing visible age, a new leadership of the group must emerge. Christmas is left out in the cold as the professional killers rush to track down a rogue nuclear bomb near the Russian border.
Expend4bles is the cheapest looking of the franchise, as our actors are constantly conversing in front of digital backgrounds as realistic as your officemate’s tropical Zoom backdrop. The attempts at CGI have all of the nuance and quality of an early-2000s video game. For a series that celebrates big booms, blood splatter, and puns, cutting corners on an already cheap artistic product reduces the experience to something made for direct-to-video. The jokes almost all miss, and a few are more mean-spirited than anticipated.
If the first run of The Expendables had anything positive going for it, it was a sense of fun. Just as they did in the 1980s, its stars used their charm and good will to win over audiences. The fourth attempt, though, feels tired. The cast is emotionless, and the production cuts corners in a hollow attempt to recapture an era long past. In that way, Expend4bles reminds us of why this type of film has largely come and gone. Its best movies happened only 12-15 years after the advent of the R rating and the liberation of content at the end of the Hayes Code. It is now over 50 years since the establishment of the MPAA ratings system, and this gasp from director Scott Waugh is not able to even partially recapture the sense of freedom and playfulness that marked the best of the 1980s action movies.
Reviewer Expendables chart:
- The Expendables 2 (2012) – 3,915 (25%)
- The Expendables (2010) – 4,513 (14%)
- The Expendables 3 (2014) – 4,928 (6%)
- Expend4bles (2023) – 5,000 (4%)