After three movies in just four years, “The Expendables” took a hiatus of over nine years before unveiling its latest adventure. This lengthy break was likely a response to the lukewarm reception of the youth-oriented elements introduced in the third installment. However, “Expend4ables” attempts to rectify those missteps but does so with such a weak and thin script that “The Disposables” might be a more fitting title.
The franchise, which began in 2010, was essentially conceived as a full-employment program for an aging cadre of action stars. In an industry where growing older can be as perilous as a career in mercenary work, “The Expendables” brought a breath of fresh air, despite its somewhat casual approach to plot and storytelling.
Nevertheless, “Expend4ables” falls short of the mark. It simplifies its narrative to the point of absurdity, centering around a villain (played by Iko Uwais) who steals a nuclear weapon, necessitating the reassembly of the beloved team of veteran warriors. This time, they receive their marching orders from a government operative portrayed by Andy Garcia.
While Barney (Sylvester Stallone) remains the grizzled leader of the group, there’s a noticeable camaraderie between him and Lee (Jason Statham). This shift signifies Statham’s ascent as the primary action star, following his recent role in “The Meg” sequel, where he battled gigantic prehistoric sharks.
Additionally, Lee has a formidable girlfriend named Gina (Megan Fox) who possesses lethal skills, which the couple employs as a unique form of foreplay. Aside from the familiar faces from previous “Expendables” films, new additions like Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Tony Jaa, Jacob Scipio, and Levy Tran make appearances, albeit most of them have minimal impact on the plot.
Despite returning to its R-rated roots, the film boasts an astronomical body count. Regrettably, the action sequences, helmed by director Scott Waugh, a former stunt coordinator, feel utterly generic.
“Gravity’s setting in,” Barney quips in a typically macho fashion when asked about the team’s condition, aligning with the film’s bravado.
Addressing the toll time has taken on action stalwarts was initially an intriguing aspect of the franchise, along with the inclusion of well-known actors, even if some appeared in little more than cameos. For the latest mission, some of these actors wisely chose to sit it out, with the benefit of hindsight.
In theory, a franchise like this should be hard to keep down, given its recognizable name and the ease with which new characters can be integrated into the formula. However, “Expend4ables” falls flat in multiple respects, leaving audiences disappointed in all the wrong places.