Expendables 4 Review

It’s not a good movie, but it does deliver some solid action.

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The Expendables franchise is out of step with the present. These movies are supposed to serve as homages to the silly, low-rent action movies of the ’80s and ’90s, when many of our biggest action stars made their names. But if this franchise wanted to keep going after a nine-year break, Expendables 4 (officially dubbed Expend4bles) needed a meaningful change to how it operates–something akin to how Bad Boys for Life added a welcome streak of self-awareness.

Amusingly, Expendables 4 borrows a number of elements from that third Bad Boys movie–like casting the actor who played that film’s sub-villain, Jacob Scipio; an “old guy needs glasses” subplot with Dolph Lundgren; the addition of an entire group of younger-generation folks to contrast with the old hats; and a fighter who doesn’t want to do any fighting because it’s traumatic for him. Despite that, Expendfourbles doesn’t manage any kind of self-reflection. It does, however, have about 20 minutes of really solid action that almost makes the film’s remaining hour and change of excessively incoherent plotting worth sitting through. Almost.

This fourth Expendables movie sees the gang, led once more by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), but without a lot of the past big names from the series, go up against a mysterious terrorist named Rahmat (The Raid’s Iko Uwais), who is doing a pretty standard “steal a nuke to start World War III” villain plan. The Expendables try to stop him from stealing some fancy high-tech detonators, but things go wrong and they lose one of their own on the way to failing the mission.

In the midst of all that, Expendables 4 generally has way more story than it can handle–all throughout this, there’s a thread about Rahmat having a secret boss called Ocelot, who is some kind of longtime personal nemesis of Stallone’s Barney. It’s essentially a spy story, complete with classified files and ruses to draw out Ocelot, but it’s all meaningless. Nobody’s doing any spying in this movie, nobody ever discusses any clues about Ocelot’s identity, and the movie never even throws suspicion at the person who actually is Ocelot.

Every time somebody brings up this spy stuff, which fortunately isn’t that often, it was a baffling insertion that left me feeling bewildered. Did I miss something? No, they’re just talking about something that doesn’t make any sense and isn’t supported by the rest of the movie. And that’s par for the course for the non-action parts of the movie, which are so badly shot and edited that it’s hard to watch at times..

But Expendables 4 isn’t a total waste of time. While the first hour will probably have you grumbling out of boredom, everybody in the movie eventually ends up on a big container ship, with most of the Expendables locked up while Jason Statham has to do Jason Statham things all over the place–rampaging through the ship and brutally killing everybody he encounters while cracking wise. For about 20 minutes during this part, the movie pretty much works, and the action is well put together. We’ve got Statham and Tony Jaa fighting back to back against a bunch of dudes. We’ve got a motorcycle chase–with bikes that have guns mounted on them–through the ship’s corridors, that ends with a stunt that will remind action fiends of Statham’s car flip from Transporter 2. And we’ve got a five-minute, one-on-one fight between Statham and Uwais that doesn’t disappoint in the least.

In that sense, you could say that Expendables 4 delivers when it really needs to. But this movie is quite subpar when you’re not watching people murder each other–most of the time it barely felt like a real movie. While Uwais and in particular Jaa are a lot of fun, the new Expendables members don’t get a lot to do and end up being mostly forgettable as a result–the exception being Megan Fox, who more than holds her own in her scenes with Statham and Stallone and deserves more sick action roles like this.

Expendables 4might a movie for ’80s action movie nerds and Expendables die-hards. The rest of you can probably find something to like in Expendables 4, but the rest of the movie is so bad it’s not worth the effort.

Phil Owen on Google+

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