“Expendables 4,” affectionately known as “Expend4bles” by its fans and appreciators, is one of the worst theatrically released films of the year. It is a gutless, spineless regurgitation of an action film that fails to thrill or entertain on even the most basic levels. It is incompetent in every sense of the word and, somewhat hysterically, manages to spit in the face of the very era of action filmmaking for which The Expendables franchise was founded to mine nostalgia. “Expendables 4” is awful.
TOP FIVE THINGS ABOUT EXPENDABLES 4
5. 50 Cent Lied to Us All
In the lead-up to the release of Expendables 4, musician and actor Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson was quoted as saying, “this is the best movie in the world.” Obviously, that was to be taken with more than a few grains of salt, given the jovial and lighthearted way in which he said it. But still, with an endorsement that profound, one would’ve hoped that 50 Cent would at least be a little honest about the quality of the film.
But having seen Expendables 4, I can sadly confirm that Jackson’s endorsement is perhaps one of the most egregiously falsified bits of movie marketing I’ve ever seen or heard.
4. An Uninspired Story
The very root of the idea for The Expendables was to get together a gang of vintage action movie stars and put them all together in one film, paying tribute to the ’80’s and ’90’s heyday of stars like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis. And while one could argue that even the first film did an exceedingly lackluster job of representing even a fraction of what made those vintage action films special, Expendables 4 takes this to insane new lows.
To be blunt, the vernacular of this kind of high-octane action film starring a charismatic hero capable of dispatching bad guys and delivering a few clever one-liners was pioneered by John McTiernan. McTiernan directed the Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring Predator and the Bruce Willis-starring Die Hard in back-to-back years at the tail-end of the ‘80s and pretty much singlehandedly changed the entire landscape of blockbuster action filmmaking. But McTiernan’s films had more integrity and artistic craft in any single shot that Expendables 4 has in the entirety of its runtime. Expendables 4 is a rancid, worthless attempt at capturing this spirit that fails even to comprehend McTiernan’s work’s cinematic prowess and integrity.
3. That One Boat Set
Look, most of Expendables 4 is visually very ugly and unpleasant to look at. For a movie quick to brag about how it has ‘real action,’ the overwhelming majority of its action plays out with atrocious green-screen backdrops and half-rendered digital effects, unintentionally revealing just how much of its runtime was constructed post-hoc. As a visual style, it looks like the kind of straight-to-DVD actioner distributed straight to the bargain-bin by WWE Studios.
But it does have that one set that is undoubtedly real: the big boat. I say undoubtedly because Expendables 4 decides to set its entire second half on this boat and to cover it from just about every conceivable angle within that time frame. But it is a nice boat
2. Awful Editing
Action, and to a larger extent, filmmaking, is nothing without great editing. Again, one need look no further than the work of John McTiernan to see just how crucial editing is to great action filmmaking. Those final frames of Alan Rickman falling from the Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard are still seared into the minds of audiences worldwide, decades later.
In stark contrast, Expendables 4’s editing is atrocious. It is nothing but the cinematic equivalent of a child’s tantrum: a burst of sights and sounds with little-to-no meaning or thought behind it. If you are actually interested in attempting to logically follow any of the film’s action setpieces for more than a few seconds at a time, I wish you the best of luck because Expendables 4 has made that nearly impossible. Characters come and go in the blink of an eye, mid-movement shots are sewn together haphazardly and incongruously, it does a tremendously lousy job of ever building any sense of tension or escalation in its action and worst of all, it makes renowned actor and international treasure Andy Garcia look like he can’t act. I can tolerate many atrocities in Expendables 4, but defaming the legacy of Mr. Vincent Corleone is a step too far.
1. The Funniest Death Scene of the Year
Okay, so it’s a bit difficult to talk about without giving away numerous layers of spoilers, but there is a ‘death scene’ in Expendables 4’s first act that is unbelievably hysterical. A certain actor meets with an unexpected fate, and when the other characters go rushing in to find the said character, all they see is an entirely deformed and horrifically burned corpse that was engulfed so completely in flames that their remains have been agonizingly mutilated… but they are still wearing their outfit and beret, which are almost entirely untouched by flames or blood.
It’s obscenely funny and only gets funnier once the film eventually (and inevitably) loops back to it narratively. It’s a bona fide moment of joy amid a haze of horrendous cinematic storytelling, exceedingly lackluster performances, and indecipherable action sequences.
Expendables 4 is a genuinely awful film that deserves to be the nail in the coffin for not only this franchise but this entire brand of faux-nostalgic action filmmaking. Selling this to mainstream audiences as ‘that thing you liked in the ‘80s’ only serves to defile the actual work and lasting legacy of those films.
If you’re looking for a film to excite you about action filmmaking, Expendables 4 is most certainly not it. But if you’re exclusively looking for a film in which Sylvester Stallone and Andy Garcia have a full conversation about whose testicles have sagged the lowest, then boy-oh-boy, do I have the perfect film for you!