Don’t get confused by the name of the new Sylvester Stallone/Jason Statham action film being called “Expend4bles” (and it has nothing to do with the annoying use of a numeral instead of a letter). It might lead moviegoers to believe that once again any member of this ragtag team of heroes can be lost in their never-ending fight to save the world.
That’s the general notion behind the title but in actuality the name refers to how both smart writing and good acting are expendable as long as there is enough action for John Wick to call it overkill. The fourth offering in this franchise – that started 13 years ago – just pulls out the cookie cutter form from the previous three movies and inserts a few new people and more buckets of blood.
It took three writers – Kurt Wimmer, Tad Daggerhart and Max Adams – to come up with the stale plot that nuclear devices have been stolen and the bad guy is going to use them to start World War III. That plot is older than 90% of the aged actors that make up the cast.
Not only did the writers go to that old plot trope but they wrote out the only real fun part of the other movies. It has been the hackneyed banter between Barney Ross (Stallone) and Lee Christmas (Statham) that gave the movies a thread of a buddy story to bind together the familiar action scenes. This offering features a storyline that takes away that element. This leaves the movie to be more of a Statham action film than a real group effort.
One of the biggest mistakes by the writers is banking on two major plot twists to leave the audience shocked and amazed. The only amazement is that the writing is so thin that both potentially big moments end up being as predictable as Statham grunting his lines.
This might not have been so obvious if the cast – a blend of returning heroes with new blood – had more than the acting skills of a failed dinner theater troupe. Stallone, Statham, Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture are all actors who have higher points in their careers. Casting them only acts as a reminder that they have all done better.
Megan Fox plays the girlfriend/Expendable who we are told is better than any of the men when it comes to being a killer. It is good they point that out because her performance looks like it is more about revealing garments than real action.
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Jacob Scipio and Levy Tran join the cast to play the new two-dimensional characters. That is understandable because “Expend4bles” is the latest film that comes across more like a video game than a true feature film. There is no character development, only a series of one-liners for them. They engage in long gun battles where they never run out of bullets and bad guys can’t shoot them even if they are less than two feet away.
At least video games do lead to a proper ending. The ending of this film is so absurd and contrived that it is almost comical. You can tell there is a problem with the writing when the bad guy throws away the one device that could keep death away while still proclaiming victory.
Director Scott Waugh – whose past work includes “Need for Speed” and “Act of Valor” – opts to avoid any type of clever situation to set up the carnage. It is just a linear approach of good guys must fight and kill legions of bad guys to save the day.
There is no tension, especially with the script that is as transparent as the shirts Fox wears. If all you want is a body count, then the annoyingly named “Expend4bles” will satisfy that bloodlust. Just know the same experience can be had at home with a good first-person shooter video game.
Cast: Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Megan Fox, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Jacob Scipio, Levy Tran, Andy Garcia.
Director: Scott Waugh
Rated: R for language, sexual material, bloody violence
Running time: 103 minutes.