Expend4bles (2023) Review
The third sequel to The Expendables, given the astonishingly clever title Expend4bles, opens with a brief clip of an attack on a compound belonging to a group we don’t know the identity of by another equally anonymous group. It’s not only confusing, but it’s too short to make an impression on the viewer.
From there Expend4bles heads to New Orleans just as Barney (Sylvester Stallone, Escape Plan, Eye See You) drops in on Christmas (Jason Statham, Meg 2: The Trench, The Mechanic) who is in the middle of an argument with Gina (Megan Fox, Johnny & Clyde, Till Death). Seems he lost a ring in a bet the night before and he needs some help getting it back. So Christmas dons his brass knuckles and drops a bunch of bikers while Barney watches.
It isn’t even a fight as he drops them with one punch each before they can take a swing. The one that shows up late gets similar treatment from Barney in about the only action we see him involved in. In fact, Stallone is barely in the film at all. Expend4bles feels like it was supposed to be a Hobbs and Shaw type spinoff for Statham’s character, but at the last minute, it got some hasty rewrites and became a full sequel.
Eventually, we learn from CIA agent Marsh (Andy Garcia, The Godfather Part III, Geostorm) that the guy we saw in the earlier attack is Rahmat (Iko Uwais, The Raid, Fistful of Vengeance) an arms dealer who’s been hired to get a client nuclear detonators. That client, code-named Ocelot, also happens to have gotten the better of Barney in a previous encounter.
This should have set up a fairly straightforward scenario with Barney leading his team on a quest to stop Rahmat and get his revenge on his employer. Instead, he basically exits the story entirely leaving Christmas to botch the first encounter between them and get booted from the team. He then goes after him on his own while Gina is put in charge.
At this point director Scott Waugh (Hidden Strike, Need for Speed) seems to totally lose whatever plot the three writers involved Kurt Wimmer (Children of the Corn, Equilibrium), Tad Daggerhart (Traffic Cone, Black Lotus), and Max Adams (Precious Cargo, Six) came up with. I can accept Megan Fox’s character leading The Expendables into battle, but Waugh has her doing it with freshly done hair, perfect makeup, and nails rather than dressed for the task at hand. Although that may well be an attempt to distract viewers from the film’s weak action scenes and horrible CGI.
The cast of Expend4bles has drifted even further from the franchise’s original concept of old school action heroes appearing in a tribute to old school action films than the third instalment. I get that thirteen years on from the original several likely cast members are no longer with us, and others simply don’t look the part anymore. Even Dolph Lundgren (Dark Angel, Hard Night Falling) who reprises his role as Gunner looks worse than in most of his recent films.
I can also see adding Iko Uwais and Tony Jaa (Triple Threat, Ong Bak) to the mix, they’ve been around and earned their reputation. But Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson (Gun, Get Rich or Die Tryin’), Jacob Scipio (We Die Young, The Outpost), or Levy Tran (Mad Genius, The First Purge) whose character Lash looks like a reject from a G.I. Joe cartoon? They may be recognizable faces, but they’re not action heroes yet and the jury is out on them ever reaching that status.
By the time the action shifts to a hijacked cargo ship heading for Russia, it all begins to feel like a cheap made for streaming action movie due to the cheap effects, lackluster action scenes, and lack of screen time for the bigger names in the cast. Throw in ludicrous plot devices like our heroes being captured and locked in a room but not cuffed to make escaping so much easier and this is the kind of film Netflix would have premiered ten years ago.
Everyone said The Expendables 3 would kill the franchise, unfortunately, they were wrong and this is the result. The only good to come out of this is that Expend4bles should put this zombie franchise to rest for good.
Expend4bles has already been released in several countries, Lionsgate will release it in US theaters on September 22nd.