"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Expend4bles

EXPEND4BLES is the official title, not just the internet nickname, for the fourth EXPENDABLES movie. It’s hard to believe that this series has now been going for 13 years – the first one is as old as COP LAND, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA AND AMERICA, THE PEACEKEEPER, THE JACKAL, BATMAN & ROBIN and DOUBLE TEAM were when it came out. So most of us have long since given up on our dream of what we thought an all-star team up of iconic action stars could or should be. THE EXPENDABLES was never a return to the glory days of ’80s and ‘90s action, always hamstringing itself with misguided attempts to appeal to some other audience. It was never an amplification of the stars’ powers, as they had to work so hard to fit them all in that most of them didn’t get a chance to shine. And it was never the action genre at its best, as the scripts were never focused enough, they were often too winky, with jokes that were so basic they arguably don’t even count as jokes, and even the one Stallone directed had him trying to fake some bullshit modern style instead of do what he did best.

Surprisingly for a part 4, and one that came out a full 7 years after part 3, EXPEND4BLES is not trying to reinvent the wheel or correct any of those missteps. It’s just like yeah, we’re stilling doing these, why wouldn’t we? It looks cheaper than the others (with the most generic settings imaginable, even when they’re just fake looking green screen backdrops), but for the most part not all that much worse or better than I remember the others being at the time, though admittedly I haven’t rewatched them. This has a few funny ideas, a few okay fights, some funny splatter moments (digital), but mostly its strengths are that it still has some of the same guys, who I enjoy seeing in movies, and also it has some new guys who I enjoy seeing in movies. Even though this is none of their best work.

Case in point: Iko Uwais (MERANTAU, HEADSHOT) gets to play the villain, Rahmat. Like most characters in these movies he wears boring tactical gear and uses guns more than kicks, which in my opinion is a misunderstanding of how to make movies or create joy. But it’s what we got. Was it worth his time if it took him away from making an Indonesian movie, any Indonesian movie? Of course not. Is it a better Hollywood use of him than SNAKE EYES? In my opinion no. But does it make this particular movie better than if it was somebody else playing that part? Yeah, I think so. We get to see him nimbly leaping around, spinning and slashing some motherfuckers, a few fights that are shot from too close up but pretty cool, a showdown with Statham in a setting that reminded me of the Tommy Lee Jones vs. Steven Seagal knife fight in UNDER SIEGE, and it lasts shorter than you would want but longer than Statham vs. Scott Adkins in part 2, at least.

You know what’s funny – I honestly think Uwais is good at playing evil, but even in his character poster he just looks like a nice, happy guy. Look at this!

Anyway, Rahmat and his crew, including lead henchman Bok (Daren Nop, fight arranger for FAST X), working for a mysterious terrorist called “Ocelot,” violently take over what is labelled on screen as “Gadaffi’s Old Chemical Plant” in Libya to get control of some nuclear warheads.

Meanwhile, in “USA, New Orleans,” Expendables leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone, DEATH RACE 2000) gets his right hand man Lee Christmas (Jason Statham, DEATH RACE) to help him try to get back his favorite skull ring, lost in a thumb wrestling bet at a biker bar/strip club called Tainted Spoke. Basically, Barney tricks Christmas into fighting a short guy named Jumbo Shrimp (Mike Möller, ULTIMATE JUSTICE) and a huge bartender (World’s Strongest Man 2017 Eddie Hall, “Saxon Warrior,” TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT). This whole scene is very stupid, but it’s the stuff I like best in these movies – the banter between Barney and Lee is the Expendahumor that works best for me, I always enjoy the less plot-oriented diversions in formula action movies (if it wasn’t a bar fight it would be stopping a convenience store robbery), and I love the detail that the guys at this bar fuckin hate Barney and chose to humiliate him by displaying his prized ring behind the bar on a double-dick dildo.

The giant skull ring really is a trademark that distinguishes Barney Ross and THE EXPENDABLES from other Stallone characters. That’s why he’s introduced by the camera hovering around his fetishistically souped up motorcycle, exploring its every chromed and engraved engine detail and piece of flair as his feet walk into the shot and mount it. The camera finds a cigar between his fingers gripping the handlebar before it finally shows his face and he drives out through the Aztec-inspired-skull-design garage door of the Expendacave. Later on there will be a fun scene where Statham’s character rides a MACHETE-style machine gun motorcycle, but Barney’s love of motorcycles does not figure into the action – it’s just how he expresses himself. His soul looks like the tacky maximalist design aesthetic of tattoo shops, motorcycle garages and strip clubs. He loves oversized jewelry, leather jackets, neon lights. The logo for this installment is a skull with a liberty spike mohawk made out of guns and knives, with many of the guns on fire. The Expendables live in a world where every time you start doing something awesome an electric guitar starts wailing. I honestly wish the guy playing would just rise up out of the floor so we could see his poses and facial expressions to really emphasize how cool what we’re looking at is supposed to be. Otherwise how can we truly understand?

Even without that, EXPEND4BLES occasionally has shots of the cast walking together in slow motion looking badass (sometimes with Tony Jaa spinning his knife around) and for those couple seconds I would think, “Yeah, okay. This is pretty cool.”

After the ring situation is sorted out, some speechifying CIA suit called Marsh (Andy Garcia, 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE, DEAD AGAIN, THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD) hires the Expendables to attack Gaddafi’s Old Chemical Plant and destroy the detonators before Ocelot can use them. The team includes returning favorites Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren, DEAD TRIGGER) and Toll Road (Randy Couture, TODAY YOU DIE), plus newcomers Easy Day (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’) and two others who haven’t done any movies with “death” or “die” in the title: Galan (Jacob Scipio, WITHOUT REMORSE) and Lash (Levy Tran, “Race Starter,” FURIOUS SEVEN), the latter joining later when the team is led by Christmas’ volatile on-again-off-again girlfriend Gina (Megan Fox, TILL DEATH).

As always, Dolph is a highlight. He’s mostly comic relief here. In the past he was the crazy one (and a traitor) and now he’s trying to be enlightened. As a guy much younger than Dolph whose eyesight is starting to get worse, I like that he wears round glasses and is having trouble aiming (though he jokes that his sniper scope is prescription). Sadly he solves that problem by breaking his six month sobriety streak and instantly powering up like Popeye eating spinach.

But his most memorable shtick here is that he’s excited about bringing an ax on the mission and later he refers to it as “The Traumahawk.”

I think I’m alone in this but I always enjoy Couture in these. He’s a particular type of genuine tough guy that’s different from the usual movie idea of tough guys, so it’s fun to see him up there as a silly, friendly nerd character always excited to talk about his cauliflower ear.

50 Cent being added to the cast is funny because I remember in the Ain’t It Cool days Stallone did Q&As about the first movie as it was in progress. 50 had been reported to be in the cast, which caused outrage/disappointment for people who didn’t think a non action star, or a rapper, or that particular rapper deserved to be in a cast they thought was gonna be all action icons. (I believe he was replaced by Terry Crews, who hadn’t earned it either, but people accepted him.) But at this point 50 Cent has done around ten DTV action sequels and been Stallone’s sidekick in the ESCAPE PLAN series, so nobody’s surprised. He serves a similar role here, mostly a serious exposition guy, and he’s fine.

The least acceptable new blood is the character Galan, who’s supposed to be the son of Antonio Bandera’s part 3 character Galgo, and he’s always babbling and trying to charm everybody but they all hate him (and he has a urine fixation?). It’s very unfunny and annoying stuff, and it actually does feel unearned – Banderas’ character was playing off of us already loving him from other movies, this guy we don’t know from Adam. But luckily there’s a gimmick that makes him shut up for most of the movie and then he’s fine.

I also didn’t know where I knew Tran from (FEMALE FIGHT SQUAD, GEMINI and The Haunting of Hill House, it turns out), but I thought she was cool, having kind of a punk look, using a razor wire whip, trying to check out Toll Road’s dick when he’s peeing, etc.

Dan Chupong (ONG BAK 1, 2 and 3, BORN TO FIGHT, MUAY THAI GIANT) also has a tiny appearance, but you wouldn’t know from the part they gave him that he was anybody special.

Throughout the run of this series many, including myself at times, have noted that they don’t really take advantage of the multi-star format to expend any of the expendables in an EXECUTIVE DECISION type manner. Some seem to think that makes it a misleading title, but that’s a misunderstanding – in action movies you complain that you were treated as expendable. You don’t consider yourself actually expendable. As the tagline for this one says, “They’ll die when they’re dead.”

But here’s a big first act SPOILER that won’t necessarily surprise you. Just as I suspected when the first trailer came out and Stallone had an “and” credit, Barney gets killed during battle in the first act and they all want to go after the guy who did it. I think they use it well. Barney is flying overhead in his beloved seaplane while the others are fighting below, and a gun is about to shoot him down. He orders Christmas to not worry about him and go after the detonators, but instead Christmas diverts to try to save Barney, who gets shot down anyway. Christmas runs to the wreckage and finds Barney in the cockpit burnt to a crisp. Then they’re in a bar having a small memorial for him and they made a little shrine of skulls surrounding a burnt human arm posed with the middle finger up, wearing the skull ring. Just in the middle of a bar where other people are enjoying a cover band. Beautiful. And also they get some drama out of it because Easy says Christmas made Barney’s sacrifice worthless by blowing the mission and Gunner shakes the shit out of Easy saying “Nothing Barney did was worthless, do you hear me!?” and it’s good shit. But mostly it’s worth it for the burnt up arm.

It turns out Barney was the last surviving member of some special ops mission, and his death triggered the unsealing of a file about a witness who can identify Ocelot. Gina is put in charge of the team to follow this new lead, but Christmas is kicked off for disobeying an order and fucking up the mission. There’s a comical interlude where he becomes bodyguard to a famous livestreamer douchebag while dressing like Frank Martin, then he breaks into Gina’s house and safe and they have a playful fight and makeup sex and the scene ends on a lovely overhead shot of post-coital cuddling with Gina clutching Chrismas’ big Expendables-branded hunting knife.

Then they split up, both trying to accomplish the same thing. While the Expendables fly to a CIA black site in Hong Kong or whatever, Christmas goes to Thailand and finds an old friend of Barney’s named Decha (Tony Jaa, MONSTER HUNTER). As always in his Hollywood movies, Jaa is not as good as he’d be in a starring role but better than almost anybody else would be. They gave him an appropriately Tony Jaa character type (the warrior who has sworn off violence and become enlightened, but then finds out Barney’s friends are in trouble so he puts on face paint and a headband and busts out a fancy engraved blade and the flying knees and elbows). Also he gets to be a goofy weirdo in some parts, which he’s good at.

I’d say Decha is my favorite part of this one, but Fox is probly the new cast member given the most room to play a character. She’s doing a whole “bitch” thing but it’s not like Lee Christmas is a good boyfriend and she does prove herself worthy of the team. I hesitate to bring this up because I generally don’t like to make assumptions or comments about actors’ cosmetic choices, but I really mean this as a compliment: she makes a good counterpart to Stallone, because both of them have a sort of exaggerated body image and gender expression that has pushed beyond trying to bullshit you about what’s natural and become more of a “this is me, this is how I see myself, fuck off if you don’t like it.” Also, while Fox doesn’t have a comparable body of work, she was once very popular while being disrespected in the press, her work and relationships became the subject of gossip, she’s been nominated for eight Razzies (winning one for TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES), but she’s always had a pretty cool and unique screen presence and lately she’s been doing good work in smaller movies (or at least I really liked her in ROGUE).

So I think she’s a good choice for this role, but she deserved a more Expendabley name than just “Gina.” Like Gina Tigerheart or Gina von Klaw or Gina “The Storm” Stormington or something like that. Somebody should’ve gotten Stallone on that.

They make a big enough deal about this “Ocelot” guy that I started wondering what the fuck action star could be left that hasn’t been in one of these but would be willing to be in part 4 as a surprise that would seem like a big get. Or maybe it would be a sitcom star, following the EXPENDABLES 3 Kelsey Grammer precedent. I turned out to be barking up the wrong tree, it’s not a surprise cameo. The answer is more obvious but just stupid enough to be appropriate.

EXPEND4BLES is directed by Scott Waugh (ACT OF VALOR, NEED FOR SPEED), with a screenplay credited to Kurt Wimmer (EQUILIBRIUM, ULTRAVIOLET) & Tad Daggerhart (BLACK LOTUS) and Max Adams (HEIST [2015], EXTRACTION [2015]), story by Spenser Cohen (MOONFALL) and Wimmer & Daggerhart. Second unit director is Brian Smrz (director of 24 HOURS TO LIVE), Vlasto Ivanovic is listed as fight choreographer. Wikipedia says “the Jackie Chan Stunt Team handled stunt choreography,” citing a German article about Möller, and indeed Wing Lun “Alan” Ng is one of the credited stunt coordinators, so they must’ve done some of it.

Now here’s a last act DOUBLE SUPER SPOILER. As you may or may not suspect, Barney turns out to be actually alive at the end, and they have a goofy but makes-sense-within-this-world explanation for it. And I admit I was happy to see Barney still alive even though it’s kind of an ESCAPE PLAN DTV sequel type move to build the story around making his shooting schedule short. But overall I think I’m against undoing his death. It doesn’t cheapen it, because come on man, nothing in THE EXPENDABLES series is cheapenable. I just don’t like that it erases what had been my favorite thing in the movie: that they were willing to barbecue the hero to death. I thought that was hardcore when it seemed like they killed one of Stallone’s three ongoing franchise characters and instead of treating his death with reverence and have him dramattically die in someone’s arms or triggering a crucial explosion or something it was just “Yep, there he is, a burnt pile of meat in a beret. Whoops.” I loved that. But it was another guy, turns out. The ol’ Michael Myers switching clothes with the ambulance driver routine.

The one thing we do get out of it is that the probable last scene in this whole franchise is a reveal that our hero murdered a guy for beating him at thumb wrestling. That’s pretty weird.

In retrospect, I have a theory for why THE EXPENDABLES series could never get much better than passable. The action movies these actors all excel at, that they’re trying to recapture here, are built on personalities. They’re usually a star vehicle for a particular actor and the story is built around how awesome their character is, or how much you like them even though they’re a fuckup. And the fact that they “work alone” and drive around on a motorcycle and have to count on themselves, no matter how many old friends they can get favors from, is part of the appeal. There can be more than one strong personality in these movies, but usually it’s two guys that are partners and bicker at first but learn to get along, and hopefully a good villain and a good top henchman, but not much more than that. That’s why I think these work best during the parts where they’re more of a Stallone vehicle or Statham vehicle or Stallone and Statham buddy movie, and worst when they’re slotting one of our other favorites in but not giving them room to be their best selves. Most action classics are showcasing the skills or persona of one main actor – they never have to figure out how to have five different alpha males and several noteworthy supporting players going around together wearing matching outfits and berets.

It’s just not the best format. But it’s cute for a while. Put that on the poster in metallic stencil font surrounded in sparks and flames.

 

p.s. One way you can tell THE EXPENDABLES was a million years ago is that I reviewed the screenplay for The Ain’t It Cool News

This entry was posted on Monday, September 25th, 2023 at 7:29 am and is filed under Reviews, Action. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

58 Responses to “Expend4bles”

  1. Ha! about that

    DOUBLE SUPER SPOILER

    Seriously

    The VERY FIRST review I read of this stated in the lede “It’s so bad Stallone must have been embarrassed, as he’s only graces the very beginning and the very end”
    Then you wrote he dies at the very beginning, and I was like “but, but, that review said he’s also in the very end. Maybe a flashback. Y’know, the team remembering better times or some shit…”

    Obviously, they thought it was so bad that dropping that incredibly huge spoiler in the opening paragraph was no biggie…

  2. SPOILERS
    S4OILERS
    THE SPOILABLES starring Sylvester SPOILone, Jason SPOILthan and Kelsey SPOILLER
    What I’m trying to say is I think there will be SPOILERS here, even though I haven’t actually seen the film yet.

    So am I right in thinking with the fake out in this film, Stallone still hasn’t explicitly died in a film yet?

    (I was going to fit a 4 in my name, but couldn’t figure out how, other than the obvious 4.0, which seemed too lazy)

  3. I guess my question does open the field for potential additional spoilers for other films.

  4. Just posted this in the Covenant thread but I’ll move it here for posterity:

    This probably won’t come as a surprise, but EXPEND4BLES is the worst one yet. It looks ugly and chintzy, it’s haphazardly edited and structured, Stallone is barely in it (and spends many of his scenes sitting down), Iko Uwais and Tony Jaa are wasted (Jaa less so, I suppose), the returning cast members are mostly wasted, the new cast members are mostly wasted. The return of the R rating is welcome, but then you don’t get more than a couple of suitably gnarly deaths. Statham taking the lead seemed like a solid idea on paper, but unfortunately we don’t get the good Statham here, we get the Statham of FAST AND FURIOUS PRESENTS HOBBS AND SHAW. And really, that’s the movie’s tone all around, lots of unfunny riffs and comedy bits.

  5. It’s neither orignial nor uplifting to bemoan the crappiness of these films, but these films are crappy, and they deserve to be bemoaned (and possibly even be-bemoaned and three-moaned, etc.), all the more so for how they keep threatening to be fun and epic and virtually never deliver on it. They look drab and cheap and dark and shabby. The plot and narrative is always beyond stupid and cheat-y and intelligence-insulting. The films are not officially parody, so the parody aspect always feels weird and jarring. They are all premise and over-stuffedness (and increasingly overstuffed with less legendary legends). Part 3 arguably was the most over-stuffed with actual legends, and I couldn’t even finish it.

    From the previews, this one looked like the worst, most-cynical, most why-just-why-have-you-no-shame-why-why-why yet.

    Really, though, this sums it up: “nothing in THE EXPENDABLES series is cheapenable.”

    I disagree that these films had to be this way. If they took themselves a little more seriously, were more streamlined and focused in their storytelling, there is a good film concept in here. The problem is that it has always been over-stuffing, over-selling, wink-wink-winking, and marketing/jawboning over actualy quality of storytelling and execution. Even at their best, these films are an all you can eat buffet of dumpster food. The Trump Steaks of action cinema.

  6. I’m really torn on whether or not to see this one. On the one hand, I don’t really relish the idea of spending money on a movie whose best case scenario is “Eh. It’s as bad as I thought it would be, I guess.” But on the other hand, good god, have you seen the pitiful numbers this movie is pulling in? Studios never learn the right lesson, so instead of saying “People don’t want to see the fourth installment in a long dormant series that was never very good in the first place” they’ll say “These guys are box office poison. No more movies for them.” So I figure this might actually be the last time I get to see any of these guys on the big screen in anything even approaching a starring role. Should I just treat it like a kind of lame party, where even if you’re not having fun, per se, and you’re not even 100% sure you even like parties anymore, it’s still nice to see some old friends, because life is short and you know they’re not gonna be around forever? Is that about the level I need to pitch my expectations at to get any enjoyment out of this thing?

  7. I meant to say “Eh. It ISN’T as bad as I thought it would be, I guess” but honestly, my typo was a bit more accurate about my expectations for this particular motion picture experience.

  8. MEG 2 didn’t do too bad internationally, so I imagine Statham isn’t going anywhere. Stallone is too old for this shit, Lundgren and Couture don’t get lead roles in theatrical films. Who exactly are we worried about here?

  9. Mostly Statham, I guess, but I also would like Stallone to have at least one more solid star vehicle to wash the taste of LAST BLOOD out of my mouth before it’s just quirky cameos in James Gunn films from here on out.

  10. It’s not even so much about these guys in particular, but the action genre in general. It’s hard enough to see an actual action film in the theater as is but it feels like this movie’s spectacular failure might just put the last nail in the coffin. JOHN WICK proves that people will go see action in the theater IF IT’S GOOD but that last bit always seems to get lost in translation.

  11. I really get the feeling that Stallone doesn’t want to do this kind of movie any more. It feels like he asked for the least possible amount of screen time he could get away with in EXPEND4BLES, without feeling like putting him on the poster would be dishonest. He’s technically involved in 3 action scenes, but in one he fakes a back injury so that Statham has to do all the work, and in the other two he just flies a plane or a helicopter. I remember Vern used to clown Seagal for doing cheapie movies where he never has to stand up in any of his scenes, and this doesn’t feel that far off from that.

  12. Also, yeah, like you said, don’t forget about JOHN WICK. We may be past the heyday of the R rated action movie, but that series made a buttload of money so I can’t imagine studios will flat out stop making movies like this.

  13. Love Andy Garcia’s attitude of “sure, why not, but I want it in my contract that as long as I get all the words out in something close to the correct order, I legally cannot be asked to do a second take.” About the right amount of effort for this movie, and about the same effort the filmmakers are making. It would almost be endearing if they didn’t claim this cost $100 million. The obvious, blatant tax crime taking place on screen is actually about as exciting as any of the events the movie is vaguely depicting.

    “Should I just treat it like a kind of lame party, where even if you’re not having fun, per se, and you’re not even 100% sure you even like parties anymore, it’s still nice to see some old friends, because life is short and you know they’re not gonna be around forever? Is that about the level I need to pitch my expectations at to get any enjoyment out of this thing?”

    Yes. But I’m afraid you do still have to attend.

  14. Don’t worry, Mr M. Even if nobody will give Sly or Dolph blockbuster roles anymore, the DTV land still loves them and honestly knows to use them even better than any of the big screen productions of the last 10 or so years. (Shout out to AQUAMAN though.) And let’s be honest, I take 50 direct-to-streaming-outside-of-Indonesia bangers with Iko Uwais over just one more STUBER.

  15. Mr. S: Fuck. Fine. I’ll go. But I am not bringing a bottle of wine and I will most likely sneak out the back door around 9:30 without saying goodbye.

  16. I will say, Stallone does seem to want the movie to point out his age, and the character feels more resigned but also a little corny and nostalgic. His brief screen time was… a little endearing? Like he was trying to tell us that he’s happy with the idea of settling down, and acting more like someone’s goofy grandad.

  17. Speaking of JOHN WICK, how many times do you think Keanu turned them down before they settled on Andy Garcia? Five? Six?

  18. I think the concept sounded great, it’s just that these movies are incredibly lazy. They think the idea of the cast does all the work for them, no need to anything decent or interesting to happen, just deliver the basics, get in and get out.

    Stallone is doing some of his best work right now on Tulsa King, a different personality than what he usually puts on.

  19. Hopefully Keanu is keeping his schedule clear so he can play the mysterious villain Eteon Director in HOBBS AND REYES. I know we’ve all been dying for that plot thread to get picked back up.

  20. It’s kind of crazy that this series, which started as a promise to fans to bring back “real action” for the fans, has now ended as a big screen geezer teaser. And SPOILERS they even make up an excuse for Stallone to spend as little time in the film as possible, something that’s quite common in its direct to video brethren.

    There really is no excuse for these films to be as bad as they are. They’ve had four opportunities to improve, and the best you can say is that the action is a bit better, and there are certain actors who are actually trying. I was genuinely surprised that they even manages to make a fourth film since I’m pretty sure the third did poorly. I guess this means that a fifth film will probably happen, but it will absolutely show up direct to streaming.

  21. I really can’t get over the “joke” that good ol’ Jumbo Shrimp was murdered by the hero for excelling at thumb wrestling.

    Unless I missed something, wasn’t Andy Garcia still rambling about making money off World War III and ready to throw down with the fucking Transporter while on a ship where a nuke was about to go off in four minutes and with zero transportation away from the bomb?? That’s some severe Tony Montana-level delusion.

  22. EXPENDABLES 3 flopped in the US, but overall doubled its budget internationally, so probably turned a profit eventually in the Streaming -hasn’t-fully-caught-on-yet-era, so I guess going by ESCAPE PLAN Trilogy rules a fourth was somewhat inevitable.

  23. On the plus side, this film series did give us one good and utterly random Mickey Rourke extended cameo. Also, Harrison Ford seemed to not phone in his extended cameo, and I like the idea of Harrison Ford slumming it in this world. Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed Van Damme in II, which I thought was the best of them (also the most Arnold or Bruce of them; also, I am the dumbass contrarian / heretic / banned from tv / intellectual dark web deep state exposer edgelord who enjoyed the idiotic Chuck Norris bit in part II).

  24. Also, you have to remember, movies like this might flop theatrically, but basic cable eats up anything with action and a familiar face. It may take several years, but in some way these movies make profit.

    Or maybe never- this was the most fraudulent $100 million budget in history. Could be questionable from the start.

  25. I don’t know if there’s that many millions in Basic Cable these days. Equally I don’t know that there’s not.

    Just remembered that Lionsgate+ is a Streaming Service that actually exists, which never fails to make me laugh.

  26. These movies were always about the foreign anyway but it is remarkably Hollywood for them To think with diminishing box office for each entry that maybe somehow a 9 years later part 4 would pull out of the tailspin.

    I’ve never minded any of these and enjoyed the absurdity of the parts Vern mentioned. And I celebrate that the only Expendable to ever get expended was the young Hemsworth. Stallone just can’t do it and I love him for that.

    It is depressing how bad green screen can get and still be released in theaters. But at least they blew up some practical shit in between closeups.

  27. “It’s hard enough to see an actual action film in the theater”

    The irony is Gerard Butler’s been putting out decent mid-budget fare in theatres that nobody sees. I caught PLANE and KANDAHAR in theatres and with the former there was just me and a couple who were more interested in eating each others’ faces than the movie (SHOCK! Back in my days, you wanted some serious necking time with a girl at the movies, you chose one of those boring-ass Merchant-Ivory type Jane Austen/EM Forster adaptations. Now they smooch to a Butler Actioner. The Apocalypse is near!) and in the latter, it was me and one other guy.

    I’m seeing this tomorrow, although am convinced this is made to make me whine and bitch about how much they’ve mucked up a sure thing, because I simply refuse to be THAT ASSHOLE who gripes about the lack of “Old School” action at the theatres and why is everything some Superhero Shit and then sit out one that tries to cater to the non-spandex crowd.

  28. I saw PLANE with a full theater but for this there was literally one other guy in the back. And I think he was vaping because it smelled like a candle store in there.

    Mike on Action For Everyone had a plausible theory that the Garcia character had to have been written as Bruce’s character Church (they’ve been trying to make this for a long time).

  29. In many ways we are the new generation of old geezers who whine about the state of the action genre. We want some ancient actors who’s 30 years past their sell by date to shine as a polished stars, we demand that they do all their own stunts, we complain about all newcomers, we want the fighting to be shot in one take from a stationary camera far away, we want character development (but not to much), we don’t want sex scenes, we want the movie to be shown in cinemas, we don’t want it to cost to much and we demand that the whole thing make billions. Is that to much to ask?!

  30. Hey, hey, hey, that’s completely unfair!

    We are not the ones objecting to sex scenes!

  31. On the plus side, this film series did give us one good and utterly random Mickey Rourke extended cameo.

    While awesome, Eric Roberts was in the same film and it gave them ZERO scenes together, which is un-awesome. So we’re at par…

  32. Second Pac The Man Ver 2.

    I NEVER object to sex scenes! Only the conspicuous lack of them.

    And I certainly do not require my septuagenarian heroes to display the agility of a Tony Jaa, but I would like them to star in material that at least honors their legacy and contribution to the genre. To echo Majestyk’s lament above a tiny bit, let’s not forget Stallone gave us TWO back to back winners just prior to THE EXPENDABLES that mined themes of loss, regret and the creeping fear of irrelevance in both his iconic screen alter egos before giving both a lovely send off (which CREED, CREED II & RAMBO 5 casually unraveled). And then the mega-anticipated EXPENDABLES (at least among us fans) drops, and it played like Stallone suddenly took directing notes from Olivier Megaton. And things didn’t significantly improve from that.

  33. btw I don’t really pay attention to twitter, so I was unaware about the whole “sex scene = pro/con?” discussion. But now that I am aware, I always think of this interview I read awhile ago with Virginia Madsen (although I could be mis-remembering that) where she’s recalling doing a movie where the hero is supposed to go down on her. The director decides he wants to shoot it full-bodied from the side, meaning the actor is really going to have to shove his face in her snatch. However, the actor wasn’t on set yet, so they light the scene with a stand-in’s face in her snatch. EXCEPT the cameraman notes the stand-in’s skin is much fairer than the actual actor’s, so they have to get a SECOND stand-in to shove his face in her snatch.

    “So now I’ve spent the entire morning with my legs spread in front of the entire crew, with THREE different men’s faces buried in my snatch, and they cut the entire scene for rating”

    Now that’s someone who has a perfectly legitimate reason the be ‘sex scene = con

  34. For some reason I think the anti-sex scene crowd doesn’t approve of the discomfort level of witnessing a sex scene in front of others, the invasiveness of it all. Which I totally get, if you’ve seen maybe ten movies and seven of them were animated. There’s also the argument that a sex scene can’t ever further the plot or provide a stronger understanding of character, which just makes me think these people must be awful in bed. I really have no patience for that argument at hand.

    Speaking of Expendables 4, I went home afterwards and watched the not-very-good, borderline irresponsible Skin Trade. And I found that these guys behind that film did a much better job at scratching the itch I was hoping to satisfy in Expendables 4. I would think, when making an Expendables movie, Skin Trade is a pretty good baseline to try to surpass. Did they even bother?

    I have a bizarre desire to see Scott Waugh’s previous Jackie Chan-Jon Cena collab on Netflix. Is it worth it?

  35. Jojo – Oh, yeah, Eric Roberts was good, too, and I like Stone Cold all right enough in part I. Part 1 was just very disappointing relative to expectations. Part II for me was fun relative to dramatically reset expectations. Part III was kind of a snooze for me. To be clear, I don’t think I have these insane high standards. I think I would prefer if the series took itself more seriously, because it’s never been as cute or funny as it thinks it is. DEMOLITION MAN wasn’t as cute or funny as it thought it was either, but it was so preposterous on premise, whereas a film like EXPENDABLES could’ve been a bit more PREDATOR 1 or TANGO & CASH or COMMANDO in its energy, which is to say that it could have a sense of humor without devolving into out right self-parody. The irony is that I like II the best even in spite of or perhaps because it is the one that most overtly goes full-on mega parody for much of the film vs. constantly sort of veering over the median and back. Also, I recall Part II being less dark and having better production values, though still very Bulgaria and in spite of spending a decent chunk in a cave. I may be misremembering all of this, so, feel free to fact check me. I don’t think I care enough to re-watch them.

  36. To be fair, EXPEN4BLES actually does “have a sense of humor without devolving into out right self-parody.” The tone is actually pretty agreeable, it’s just that it’s so ludicrously shoddy and tossed-off that the actual genre content can’t ever get much of a foothold, and because it’s stupid and badly written it has more of a sense of humor than any actual funny jokes.

    On that note: what in the everloving fuck is up with the editing in the opening, which cuts between 20 minutes of Iko Uwais’ morning and, like, three days of Jason Statham fucking around until he finally ends up in the same scene? It would almost be, like, avant-garde if I felt like it was done with any specific intention at all (the film is dedicated to the memory of the editor, which raises the very real possibility that he put together a work cut and then died and they just figured, eh, fuck it, let’s just push it out”)

  37. Ok, just curious if anyone knows any inside baseball:

    How hard would it had been for Sly and Millennium to get any of the following names?
    -Michael Jai White
    -Marko Zaror
    -Steven Seagal
    -Jackie Chan
    -Donnie Yen
    -Danny Trejo
    -William Sadler
    -Jesse Ventura
    -Cynthia Rothrock
    -Michael Dudikoff
    -Jeff Speakman?

    Any other obvious names I’m missing? I am pretty sure I know the reasons why Seagal isn’t there. But I don’t know, if I’m a producer and you show me the current cast on paper, I’m not making the movie.

    I feel like the consensus about these movies is that they barely even stuck to the assignment, and this fourth one veers even further away. That’s what frustrates me the most.

    Forgive me. I’m living in an alternate reality where Walter Hill and John Hyams made two unbelievable Expendables movies where Frank Grillo and Jeff Wincott were the villains.

  38. Glaive Robber, barring Seagal, who’s now so toxic you need a Hazmat suit just to shake his hand, Chan, who’s soured on making movies in Hollywood owing to the lack of control and Yen who’s still riding the A-List and would find movies like Expendables a little too Bargain Bin, all the others on the list wouldn’t be too difficult to hire. But the sad fact is outside of the Hardcore Action Fan Base and people like us who regard Adkins’ Art Of Action podcasts as a Godsend, you’d draw blank stares when names like Jeffs Speakman & Wincott, Cynthia Rothrock, Loren Avedon, Olivier Gruner or Michael Dudikoff are mentioned.

    So, I reckon after Stallone and Statham, the makers patted themselves on the back for landing Uwais and Jaa, and then, just like the previous films, proceeded to pad out the cast with choices ranging from those who have dipped a toe into the genre to outright non-entities (let’s be honest, was anyone familiar with Couture before the 1st Expendables?). So we get Megan Fox (cause hey she’s been in those huge Transformers films), 50 Cent (who’s most likely struck up a good partnership with Stallone after the Escape Plan movies) and then….Jacob Scipio (who???), Levy Tran (who????). You want a young hothead who kicks ass, why not Jon Foo? You want an Asian Female with formidable screen presence and ass-kicking skills, why not Veronica Ngo?

    In fact, I glanced at the IMDB cast list for this movie and saw Dan Chupong listed. Dare I hope the casting director saw BORN TO FIGHT & ONG BAK 2 and recognized one of the best martial artists in Thai Cinema next to Jaa?

  39. Well, yes, it’s cool to get people like Jaa and Uwais (who would have been at the top of my cast list too). And it would be nice if Dwayne Johnson held up his shit talking from years ago as a principle and joined the series as a bad guy. But again, that wouldn’t be the assignment.

    Why exactly couldn’t they have brought back Mickey Rourke or even Snipes? The first movie’s casting, at first, was neat, though I had zero interest in Terry Crews (no offense, he is a treasure) compared to Dolph Lundgren. It was only when I found out that they brought in Gary Daniels when I realized, hey, maybe they did their homework.

    You can pepper your movie with Megan Foxes and Andy Garcias AND you can bring in a legit action veteran or three. But once the anonymous new guy came in and dropped a fucking MEAN GIRLS reference, they lost me fully. That took four whole movies! Stick to the assignment, guys.

  40. I certainly don’t demand action stars do their own stunts and I wish they’d leave it to professional stuntmen. All they need to do is look cool and be funny in between.

    Keanu Reeves and Matt Damon really made everyone want to learn to fight only most didn’t invest a fraction of the training. Tom Cruise totally commits to one upping himself but other than them I think pretending actors can do stunts has forced us to settle for mediocre stunts.

  41. Seagal turned down the first one because of lawsuits between him and the producers. Jackie turned down this one (and I think maybe previous ones) because he didn’t want to play the villain or a minor role. Fortunately Donnie and Marko had a way better movie to be in this year. I’m actually surprised they never got Trejo, though. That’s a good point.

  42. Mr. S – point taken on parody. I know at least part II (the one I like) gets pretty damn silly with the smart car and the overt reification of the Chuck Norris meme as an actual plot point and JCVD being pretty mega. Add to the the general OCEAN’S 11 “Clooney (Stallone) and friends play grab-ass: the movie” and the sense of self-satisfaction over stunt casting alone (as if the actual good-movie part was a substantially lower priority than getting Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, and 30 other action stars into the same ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY photo shoot frame) … the typical EXPENDABLES joint is definitely something other than an action-comedy or a normal action film. Meta action-comedy?

    To your point, from the trailers at least, this one looked more “grounded” (which is to say bland, much weaker and lighter in the stunt-casting department, and overly focused on Jason Statham and Megan Fox canoodle-fighting).

    Trying to divine what the hell it is I’ve been trying to express, and I think it’s this:
    1. These films generally are bad.
    2. Their attempts at humor rarely if ever land and not infrequently are actively eye-roll-inducing.
    3. The casts for the first three were truly pretty great.
    4. I think the solution is for the films to be a bit more serious and a lot more good.
    5. If they insist on going heavy into mega and humor, then be actually funny and enjoyable, even though I prefer a more serious tack with lighter sprinklings of humor. I like II the best despite it being one of the more goofy, because it actually is reasonably competent in doing what it seems to set out to do, which is be goofy and mega in a way that actually puts a smile on your face from time to time.
    6. But, really, whichever angle they take, being good is what’s missing here. Suspsense that is suspenseful, action scenes that are action-packed and engaging, stunts and special effects that are special, humor that is humorous, dialogue that crackles. These films promise that and mostly fail to deliver it.
    7. Although Vern is right that big stunt-casting casts are pretty unwieldy, PREDATOR 1 is a good film, and OCEAN’S 11 is a tolerable film, and KNIVES OUT 1 was good. And you guys all seem to like the FAST FURIOUS films, which by this point are quite over-stuffed. So, my theory on why EXPENDABLES films don’t work is that they are bad — badly written and executed.

  43. Re: other obvious casting choices, especially Zaror and Trejo, who seem like obvious choices (and where is Snipes, after all that trouble they went to to bring him back for part III?), it’s worth noting that apparently these movies are just an absolute nightmare to schedule, since all these guys crank out so many DTV movies constantly and are very rarely available at the same time. Apparently that’s why Banderas isn’t back this time (although maybe he just looked at those lines about golden showers and decided he had to shampoo his dog), why Li is only in the first five minutes of part III, etc. They probably have a long wish list, but can’t push the film back yet another year until Olivier Gruner is finally available, you know?

    Also, with so many roided-up egomaniacs in this space there’s a real possibility that bad blood between actors or producers also contributes to some surprising ommissions (to wit: Wikipedia says “After claiming that producer Avi Lerner attempted to silence him on the [subject of the sexual] assault in order to retain his role in The Expendables film series, [Terry] Crews vowed not to appear in any further installments of the franchise.”)

  44. ctrl + f – Don The Dragon NOT found?

    For whatever reason (probably because my internet was limited at the time), I had the impression the first Expendables was supposed to be Stallone’s “Unforgiven” (maybe the title? I’m really not sure). So, upon actually watching it, I had to do some expectation adjustments on the fly. And… I still thought it was pretty mediocre.

    Put it this way, I saw it at the drive-in with freaking Salt as the second feature, and drove home thinking Salt was the better action movie of the two.

    For clarity: I thought SALT was a better action movie than Expendables.

    In the ensuing party conversation, I was tempted to just straight up lie “Expendables was fucking awesome! Then Angelina Jolie jumped around in tight outfits for two hours. That was fun, I guess…” because I felt that’s what I should be saying, and the reality was kind of depressing, honestly.

  45. Just back from watching this…and Jesus H Christ, it’s BAD! Even Armor Plating myself with Rock Bottom expectations proved futile as the film still pierced me with fusillades of atrocious writing, a cheap look and abysmal editing. (I suspect the R-Rating is for the carnage that most likely took place in the editing suite).

    Enough ink has been spilt here on the dubious casting choices in this series so I won’t belabor the point, but it takes some surreal levels of stupid writing most likely augmented by strong narcotics to fumble it’s baseline premise: That in spite of it’s revolving door of recruits, The Expendables remain a team of professional, highly trained and lethal bad-asses.

    Well, prepare yourself for the most embarrassing takedown in action movie history since Rambo got ambushed by some gangbangers: The Expendables storm a ship, only to get captured immediately and locked up, after which they all turn on one another like bitchy schoolgirls. It’s all a set up for a Statham Rampage which makes Expend4bles the movie version of those later Genesis albums with Phil Collins; a mere extension of an already thriving solo career. I love me some Stath, but the man has like 5 other franchises to headline, can’t he share the glory at least here?

    And has been pointed out by Mr. S, the editing is on another level of Bad. Whether Iko took 4 days to raid Gaddafi’s Plant or Statham finished arguing with his girl, then went with Barney to a bar, took out some guys in a fight, went back to HQ for his mission briefing then flew to Libya ALL IN A DAY..will no doubt be discussed and dissected in Film Schools for years to come.

    And as I suspected, the makers display some amazing levels of ignorance about the action pedigree of some of their cast. And so we get Jumbo Shrimp, played by the very talented German Martial Artist Mike Moeller, so naturally they don’t have him throw a single kick, has him taken out with a punch and then subjected to a bizarrely cruel and gory death, for a few chuckles. And then Dan Chupong shows up for 3 seconds to stop a bullet with his forehead.

    Any redeeming elements in this Dead On Arrival installment? Iko is cool and in the movie’s rare concession to clarity, provides a decent throwdown between him and The Stath. Dolph, Bless Him, still manages to provide the film’s sole spark of charm and humor in spite of being given exactly fuck all to work with. And I guess if quantity is what you’re looking for, the action is virtually non-stop in spite of much of it not being very memorable, especially in a year that gave us JOHN WICK 4 & EXTRACTION 2.

    I now humbly walk back my position on Exp3 being the Franchise Worst. Come back Kellan Lutz, all is forgiven.

  46. I would say this is the closest the series has come to straight up Action-Comedy. There are some serious moments, some even pretty well done, but the final scene is a prank straight out of a POLICE ACADEMY sequel, except instead of being a stern and corrupt authority figure gluing their hand to their hair or having his underwear exposed to a stadium or whatever, it’s a guy who is kind of rude fucking dying.

    I’ll say this for the film; it’s pretty confident. While the earlier, and yes, better, films had their fingers in the air constantly (“oh you want more snark and self referential humour!”, “oh you actually want this to appeal to the YA market!”), EXPEND4BLES is sure that you, the viewer, are not just someone who watched these films out of actor loyalty and has rarely thought about them since Obama left office, you’re a die hard EXPENDABLES fan who won’t, for example, have any issues remembering anything about Antonio Banderas in the third film or hesitate to put Barney Ross on your Mt Rushmore of Stallone characters. From the post-logo shot what we’re teased the appearance of our hero by glimpsing his, er, iconic(?) ring, bike and cigar, to the constant paeans to the Church of Ross when he’s off-screen, this is one that seems geared for the true EXPENDAheads. All [Hilarious Number] of them.

    Maybe I am that Hilarious Number though, because I gotta say I didn’t mind this, and in general I don’t quite jibe with the “this series is the worst” vibe around here. I don’t know if I can quite call them “good”, but I don’t know if that’s just because you guys are making me feel if I say the first was only a little disappointing and 2 and 3 were actually pretty good fun I’d be betraying the grand commitment to excellence. I agree that ideally they would have been better. Maybe I should demand better. Maybe I inconsistently demand better from other films and let a lot of things slide with these. But for whatever reason, there I was at EXPEND4BLES, and while even I don’t quite get why they thought this was worth making and is at times not up to satisfaction, I had fun, just like I did the last three times.

  47. On the positive side, Stallone and Schwarzenegger did ESCAPE PLAN together and JOHN WICK was an actual great action series that managed to showcase Daniel Bernhardt, Mark Dacascos, Cecep Arif Rahman, Yayan Ruhian, Donnie Yen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Mark Zaror and Scott Adkins, plus less action-y action icons likeDavid Patrick Kelly, Laurence Fishburne, Franco Nero, Clancy Brown, etc., not to mention newcomers like Ruby Rose and a fantastic role for Halle Berry. So we got some of what we wanted out of EXPENDABLES after all, just not under that name.

  48. Yup…and The F&F series has to date taken in The Rock, The Stath, Kurt Russell, Gal Gadot, Charlize Theron, Gina Carano, Rhonda Rousey, Tony Jaa and Jason Momoa. And then Jesse Johnson gave us some of the best ensemble of modern day ass kickers in ACCIDENT MAN & TRIPLE THREAT.

    So you could say these movies have basically made THE EXPENDABLES… you know…..

  49. I think it was kind of a misread of the audience to have a big comedic set piece spoofing influencers, and from there to make the influencer a schluby middle aged guy who obviously wouldn’t get that kind of audience in the real world. If you’re going to go there surely the audience would get more fun out of it if he was a true-to-form Paul brother type, and we could all go “ha ha, take that youth culture!” when he gets beat up. (I would be one of the people saying that, to be clear)

    I wonder why the film made such a big deal out of the Chemical Plant being Gadaffi’s? Because he was big in the 80s?

  50. Pacman, yeah, the influencer segment got a big laugh out of my friend and I, but the majority of the audience who looked to be in their 20s or 30s remained silent, most likely thinking “Hey none of the Top 10 Tik Tokkers I follow look like my aged uncle who gets drunk at weddings”.

  51. Also, speaking of classy comedy and action star combinations, are people aware that Michael Jai White and Michael Dudikoff are both in RINGMASTER, the mid-price standee staple of the late VHS era starring Jerry Springer as not-himself-but-come-on-it-is-himself? I found this out when I watched it a few months back. This is not a recommendation, just passing on the facts.

  52. Apparently not.

    But he can now take full responsibility for the crapfest and financial disaster that this movie is. Hey, it’s only fair.

  53. ‘It’s all a set up for a Statham Rampage which makes Expend4bles the movie version of those later Genesis albums with Phil Collins; a mere extension of an already thriving solo career. I love me some Stath, but the man has like 5 other franchises to headline, can’t he share the glory at least here?’

    Apparently not.

    But he can now take full responsibility for the crapfest and financial disaster that this movie is. Hey, it’s only fair.

  54. Remember the few times I mention on here Thomas Danneberg, the German voice actor who was for decades the regular dubbing voice of Arnie and Sly (and Dan Aykroyd, John Cleese, Dennis Quaid, John Travolta, Rutger Hauer, Terence Hill, etc)? Sadly he passed away today, but he was already in health-related retirement for a few years, so it’s not like it came out of nowhere.

  55. Only John Woo’s upcoming Silent Night can wash the bitter taste of this crapfest out of my mouth

  56. This made Detox look like an epic lol My God. This was awful. What was Stallone thinking? Or not thinking. He recited the few lines he had like he had a gun to his head. Statham was the only one trying, but he’s fallen into a lifeless rut where all he does is star in bad movies now. Check that. The little bit I saw of the one with Hugh Grant was ok, but at some point you just have to know when to stop. Stallone should stop. He had a nice run, but it’s time Sly. **/*****

  57. Never mind DTox, this elevated AVENGING ANGELO to watchable.

  58. Sidenote: Gunner’s “Traumahawk” is an axe from ZombieTools – can’t speak on their quality but it looks like they build them right. Love their designs.

    https://zombietools.net/collections/blades/products/the-traumahawk

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