tue 23/07/2024

Expend4bles review - last ride for the over-the-hill gang? | reviews, news & interviews

Expend4bles review - last ride for the over-the-hill gang?

Expend4bles review - last ride for the over-the-hill gang?

Sly Stallone's veterans franchise has seen better days

End of an era? Sly Stallone and Jason Statham on set

Thanks to numerous arguments and disagreements over script, casting etc, nine years have elapsed since Expendables 3 hit the multiplexes, and Sylvester Stallone and his mercenary crew were perilously close to being over the hill even then. In Expend4bles, age has duly withered them even further, a fact wryly acknowledged by director Scott Waugh and his screenwriting squad.

Dolph Lundgren, now vaguely resembling an ancient relic dug up from a peat bog in Jutland, has become a comic figure whose sniper’s skills are severely hampered because he hasn’t made that latest trip to SpecSavers.

Jason Statham, a mere child at age 56, has been pushed into pole position as Expendable-in-chief Lee Christmas, though Stallone’s Barney Ross gets to kick some shit in his role as the team’s pilot and patron saint. However, for the first time Stallone isn’t credited as a screenwriter and has only limited screen time, though at least his intervention in a rocket-firing helicopter is a moment worth waiting for.

Plot-wise, E4 makes little effort to stray from the tried and tested. As ever, there’s an evil criminal mastermind (known as Ocelot). He's very keen to get his hands on some nuclear trigger devices now in the hands of the sinister Rahat (Iko Uwai, pictured above) so he can set off the big one and provoke catastrophic conflict between Russia and America. All that stands between civilisation (or what’s left of it) and World War Three is Sly and his cranky old troupe, though, as in the previous instalment, they’ve been enhanced by a squad of new recruits. Megan Fox (once described by the LA Times as “the first bona fide sex symbol of the 21st century”) steps in as the unfeasibly svelte Gina, supposedly Lee’s girlfriend, while Thai actor Tony Jaa plays martial arts wizard Decha, and rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson climbs aboard as Easy Day. Islington’s own Jacob Scipio delivers an amusing turn as the babbling and hyperactive Expendable, Galan, who's the son of the Antonio Banderas character from the previous instalment (pictured below, Megan Fox, Andy Garcia and Jacob Scipio).

But what E4 conspicuously lacks is the heavyweight cluster of guest stars that added bags of extra muscle to Expendables 3 – the latter’s combination of Harrison Ford, Kelsey Grammer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson and Wesley Snipes could buy you a lot of bums on seats, and also made the movie feel like a real event. This time all we get is Andy Garcia as Marsh, in the mandatory role of the guy from a shadowy government agency who recruits the Expendables to do some off-the-books dirty work.

The characterisations here are functional at best, and attempts at humorous banter between Statham and Stallone feel limp and forced. Still, the action sequences – and let’s face it, there aren’t many non-action sequences – are slick and speedy. There’s mayhem by air, sea and land, culminating in an extended episode in which the Expendables do a high-altitude parachute drop onto a cargo ship. Snag is, there’s little incentive to feel any emotional engagement with any of the characters, and after a while one pile of corpses looks very much like all the others. And of course the outcome is never in doubt. They should have parked the franchise for good after the third one.

It lacks the heavyweight cluster of guest stars that added bags of extra muscle to 'Expendables 3'


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters