This fourth installment of The Expendables brings us right back to the same desire for action-packed nostalgia we’re used to. Only this time, we find ourselves less impressed.
Directed by Scott Waugh (Act of Valor, 2012), Expendables 4 brings back the beloved characters from previous films and introduces a few new faces into the mix. With a screenplay by Kurt Simmer (Point Break, 2015), Tad Daggerhart (After Hours, 2013-15), and Max Adams (Bumblebee, 2018), the film takes the audience on a thrilling ride filled with adrenaline-pumping martial arts sequences and, of course, explosions with unlikely escapes. Half of the actions taken by characters in this film don’t make clear sense, but you knew that already if you saw the previous films.
The aforementioned new faces are Andy Garcia who plays “Marsh” and Megan Fox as “Gina” — both of whom need no introductions. These CIA operatives don’t exactly behave like you’d imagine CIA personnel behaving, but we are dealing in one-liner central here where macho tough-guy-ism and coasting on star power are the norm. This fourth movie makes us want to call to mind why we told ourselves we shouldn’t be too hard on such a film.
“Barney,” played by the incomparable Sylvester Stallone, and his team of elite mercenaries known as the Expendables, are again being used to thwart an imbalance of power across the world. This time, they are tasked with taking down a notorious arms dealer named “Galan,” portrayed by the menacing Jacob Scipio (Bad Boys for Life, 2020). As the team embarks on their mission, they encounter fierce opposition and unexpected betrayals, making their mission more perilous than ever before.
We won’t go into action heavyweights such as Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, and Randy Couture, who reprise their roles and give us what we would otherwise want. What we will do is talk about Tony Jaa (The Protector, 2005) as “Decha.” His is one of the most outstanding presences here. I say “otherwise” because it’s hard to know what percentage of audiences will take as credible a botox babe amongst battle boys, the cheesy one-liners, or the attitude-ish standoffs before, after, and during fights. Or how about needless vehicle chases that put a hero right into gunfire, bombs with VISIBLE timers on them, and women sneaking over to get a peak at Randy Couture urinating? Add to this, only the bad guys really ever seem to get shot. Will you forgive all of that for a mindless good time at the theater with your beloved action heroes? Your call.
While there is not much emotional depth here, we always come away with enough to connect with. The film explores the personal struggles and vulnerabilities of its characters, adding a layer of complexity to the testosterone-fueled narrative. This provides the audience with a more engaging and satisfying experience, as they become invested not only in the action, but also in the arc of each character.
The cinematography and production design in Expendables are top-game, expectedly so. On its more base level, the storytelling does work, although we don’t get any surprises. Expendables showcases everything that fans love about the franchise and then some to forgive. As to whether or not it's worth the watch, if you love what you see, go for it!