Action Adventure

Review: ‘Expend4bles’ is Explosive Proof That the Well-Worn Action Franchise is Well Past Its Prime

September 21, 2023Ben MK

The action genre is full of some of the most ludicrous and over-the-top storylines in modern cinema. Yet, when it comes to action movies, precious few concepts have proven as ludicrously entertaining as the crowd-pleasing premise behind the Expendables franchise. Uniting the most beloved and iconic action heroes and villains from the last four decades, the Sylvester Stallone-led trilogy has gifted audiences with some of the most explosive set pieces and cheesy dialogue ever to grace the big screen. And with its fourth installment, Expend4bles, director Scott Waugh is bringing the series out of semi-retirement, as the Expendables embark on another mission to save the world and avenge one of their own.

Arriving nearly a decade after The Expendables 3, the story this time around finds the Expendables' stalwart leader, Barney Ross (Stallone), reliving old traumas. A shadowy figure from his past codenamed Ocelot has hired an illegal arms dealer by the name of Rahmat (Iko Uwais) to steal the components necessary for constructing a nuclear weapon, and Barney must round up a few members of his old crew, along with some new blood, to unmask Ocelot and prevent him from starting World War 3. It's a high-stakes mission Barney would entrust to only his closest compatriots, Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Gunner (Dolph Lundgren). But when Barney is forced to make a game-time decision in an attempt to help his teammates stop Rahmat from getting his hands on a shipment of nuclear detonators, it results in a shocking turn of events that will see his friends shipping out on a whole new mission — one that won't be over until either they or Ocelot are dead.

Joined by mercenaries-for-hire Easy Day (Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson), Lash (Levy Train) and Galan (Jacob Scipio), this new group of Expendables, led by Barney's no-nonsense replacement, Gina (Megan Fox), must set course for a cargo ship bound for Russia, where their goal is to intercept a nuclear bomb aimed at upheaving the already tenuous relations between America and their fellow superpower in the East. Once aboard the vessel, however, what they encounter is betrayal and deceit, as they end up walking straight into a trap set by one of their own. Will Lee, being the one among them most emotionally affected by Barney's sacrifice, be able to save his fellow Expendables from being vaporized in a nuclear blast? And what could be the true identity of Ocelot — and what could this mysterious puppetmaster stand to gain from plunging the world's nations into all-out conflict?

Throw in a high-ranking CIA boss named Marsh (Andy Garcia) and an old ally named Decha (Tony Jaa), and it's plain to see that what follows is desperately trying its best to keep up with its star-studded predecessors. Try as it might, though, this latest sequel can't quite hold a stick of dynamite to the previous films, which boasted the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Harrison Ford, Kelsey Grammar, Antonio Banderas and more. Granted, anyone buying a ticket for Expend4bles can rest assured that they'll be getting their money's worth of bombastic action, corny one-liners, and plot twists that can be seen coming from a mile away. However, insofar as maintaining the novelty of its premise, it's obvious that the franchise has both run its course and run out of ideas.

Suffice to say, what you see is what you get with Expend4bles, a thrill-a-minute rollercoaster ride of action-packed chaos that delivers enough hand-to-hand combat, bullet-riddled gunfights and heavy-artillery-induced carnage to satisfy even the most die-hard of genre fans. Held together by a threadbare plot directly lifted from a straight-to-video B-movie, it's a sequel that's clearly geared towards wooing a whole new generation of moviegoers. Still, despite that intention, it's likely only longtime devotees of the series who will actually care.

Expend4bles releases September 22nd, 2023 from Lionsgate Films. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong/bloody violence throughout, language and sexual material. Its runtime is 1 hr. 43 min.

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