The movie from start to finish has a phoniness no filmmaker on earth could fix in post-production. The script (credited to three writers) is awful, having no clue what made the foundation of this series relevant in the first place. Stallone’s participation is frustrating in that he clearly showed up for the check, but not for the quality. This is not the sendoff these characters deserved.
An elite squad of mercenaries team up one last time for a mission to save the world.
Nukes have been stolen from a defunct chemical plant in Libya, and the culprit points to a private army, led by a thug named Rahmat (Iko Uwais) who may or not be working for a covert agent placed in U.S. intelligence. A handler (played by Andy Garcia, very miscast) approaches Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), the world-weary, but still game leader of The Expendables, a last-ditch option for governments in need of off-the-books missions. Ross is on the verge of getting soft: He hasn’t undertaken a mission in awhile, and he loses arm wrestling matches (?!) in drunken barroom dares against opponents who are literally way beneath him. He lost a match to a twerp named Jump Shrimp (Mike Moller, whose talents are completely wasted; see Atomic Eden and Ultimate Justice for proof), and had to forfeit his lucky ring, which now sits as a trophy on a giant dildo in the bar. Barney goes to his old pal Christmas (Jason Statham, one of this movie’s only saving graces) to help him get his ring back. What the fuck is this shit? Are you serious? This is the beginning of an Expendables movie? So, they get the ring back (super humiliating from a hyper masculine standpoint and degrading to these legendary superstars of action), and assemble for their mission.
The team has gotten really thin: Dolph Lundgren as Gunnar is still on board, but doesn’t have his edge anymore … almost literally. Instead of knives and machetes, he’s got an axe, which means he needs to take bigger swings to hit his mark. Randy Couture is back as Toll Road, and he’s become the most annoying member of the team with his tired old stories about his cauliflower ears. The new guys are a sad, sorry bunch of rejects from Hollywood who don’t belong on the team at all: Folks like 50 Cent (W H Y ?) whose generic character has no discernable identifiable callbacks to his toughness or his status or even his persona, and there’s Megan Fox with her perky lips and her headlights that shine bright, but it seems the only reason she was cast was because she was in another movie that Millennium (the company that made this) made called Till Death. That’s literally the only reason I can think of why she is in this movie. Then there’s a guy I’ve never heard of named Jacob Scipio, who plays the son of Antonio Banderas’s chatty character from Part 3, and here is where the casting really stinks: Why didn’t Millennium just cast Banderas again? To save a million bucks? I really despise this entire approach to this fourth film. They’ve gone and cast a bunch of sub-par people to be thrifty, but where are the true action stars? There should’ve been some more returners like Wesley Snipes, at least, or even Mickey Rourke for another round. They’ve added Tony Jaa to this one, and in theory he and Iko Uwais are incredible together, but the novelty of seeing them in a movie together has already been spent with Jesse Johnson’s Triple Threat, which also had Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, and Tiger Chen. Speaking of Jai White, why isn’t he in this? Triple Threat wasn’t amazing, but it was a hell of a lot better than this!
Back to the story: Barney dies in a fiery plane crash, and Christmas and the team (lamely “led” by Fox’s mannequin character) must infiltrate a cargo ship where the nukes are and dismantle the bombs before they go off, thusly saving the world, in effect. But the team gets captured, and they have to escape, fight back, and somehow all manage to survive, despite this being called an Expendables movie where there should be some measure of sacrifice by the heroes. None of the heroes die, not even Barney, whose death was a ridiculous ruse to root out the true bad guy, who used to be part of the team … just like Mel Gibson was in the third movie. Except they cast Andy Freaking Garcia in a movie with a bunch of tough guys! If I’m not mistaken, this role was first offered to Keanu Reeves, which he wisely turned down. Nicolas Cage might’ve made a better choice. Or even John Travolta, at least. What a catastrophic, misguided fiasco this movie is!
Scott Waugh had the thankless task of directing this thing. I had no problem whatsoever with the previous three movies in the series. While they all were conspicuously gray looking and obviously shot in Eastern Europe for budgetary reasons, this movie has an unshakably “canned” feeling with tons of terribly rendered green screen material, even in driving scenes that should’ve been shot traditionally. More than half the movie is set on a big ship that clearly looks like a clunky set, which doesn’t do the movie any favors in terms of looking scenic. The movie from start to finish has a phoniness no filmmaker on earth could fix in post-production. The script (credited to three writers) is awful, having no clue what made the foundation of this series relevant in the first place. Stallone’s participation is frustrating in that he clearly showed up for the check, but not for the quality. This is not the sendoff these characters deserved. Shame on Millennium for bloating their budget to serve themselves rather than serving the movie, as it completely destroyed any chance of this series seeing another entry, one that was competently made with stars we care about, and with real in-camera action that not only serves the stars in the film, but their fans who care. Waugh, whose previous film Hidden Strike I enjoyed, delivered a turkey with this abomination. But I blame Millennium for it, completely and entirely. There’s a very good reason way this movie tanked on the level it did. Maybe the most forgiving fans of these stars and of this franchise might appreciate it, but it’ll always be a total loss for me.
Liongate’s Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Combo pack of Expend4bles comes with a commentary by Waugh, two features, and the trailer.