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Expend4bles (Film review)

3 min read

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

Has there ever been a film series that has so much potential but delivered as little as ? When it started way back in 2010 the concept seemed perfect, get together some classic 80s action icons for a good ol' fashioned action flick. A chance to give some forgotten legends one last hurrah and maybe give us all something to take dads to at the cinema.

Even the Stallone directed first film fumbled this, and despite ever expanding casts really never capitalised on what people wanted to see most – Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis in an action film together. In particular the idea of putting Stallone and Schwarzenegger in a movie seems like the perfect action version of Heat, and yet four times now it's been fumbled.

The fourth outing, coming almost ten years after the last one appears to be the most direct-to-dvd movie of the series. This time Stallone takes a backseat to make way for and a Z-list of supporting characters. Statham's character is passed up as leader and so the team is lead by his girlfriend despite the fact that a) she's new to the franchise and b) doesn't even take part in the film's opening action sequence.

What we get is an Expendables roster consisting of Statham, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, Megan Fox, 50 Cent, Tony Jaa, Jacob Scipio and Levy Tran. Hardly the all-star roster you would expect from this franchise, going up against Iko Uwais' villainous guy who wants some nuclear weapons.

The problem with the film is that it's clearly run out of steam, losing whatever appeal the previous films had. The stars are running few-and-far, the action is basic shoot ‘em up guff, and the plotting makes no sense but without Stallone's suitably stoic lead turn you have nothing really to grasp onto. There are no one-liners except for a Mean Girls reference. The backbone of these action films were great kills with good one-liners, to the point where people like Shane Black would make their name sitting on set simply thinking up good one-liners for Arnie or Sly to say after a sick kill. Instead it's poorly rendered CGI splatter with non eof the tactile appeal of blood squibs or good old fashioned stunt work.

Lionsgate Films

This action issue comes to direction, Scott Waugh is a director of straight-to-dvd military films like Act of Valor, he's a not a fun classic action director or a modern action auteur. What these films need is either a classic director like John McTiernan or even Shane Black or one of the new crop like Chad Stahelshi or David Leitch, or better yet Gareth Evans who directed Iko Uwais in the The Raid films and crafted breakneck action without resorting to multiple cuts.

It's also depressing that in 2023 we're still reducing women to meat. We get two women on the team but Megan Fox is introduced to us in three scenes where she's screaming at Statham in a dress, hooking up with Statham in lingerie and wearing a top so sheer it shows you she's clearly not wearing a bra. It doesn't help that she's twenty years younger than Statham, is given the role of leader just to spur Statham into taking over, and on her first mission is captured before she does any real action things. Levy Tran gets even worse shrift as Lash, who has a cool knife whip but spends most of her turn fawning over Randy Couture – and who even asked for Randy Couture? He's not an action icon, and he's basically just a melted Jason Statham, why are we watching men old enough to be their dad's being treated like hottest guys in the world?

This is a franchise that has outstayed it's welcome and the ten year gap says that everyone knows it, even Stallone can hardly be asked with this series, and it's not hard to see why. It's as expendable as film as it's name suggests.

 releases in UK cinemas on September 22nd