Rarely does a film make me want to plead to the heavens above (and even the denizens below) to make it stop. Just stop. Just stop the projection, turn up the lights, and let us all slink back to resume our regular lives as best we can after the Razzie-worthy trash we have endured. And so it is with EXPEND4BLES, a franchise that started out as a middling affair and has worked its way down using a geometric progression with every installment. If only I could make myself believe that after this, there won’t be a fifth.
This time it has dragged two fine martial-arts stars, Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais into it, and if it were a straight martial arts film, that would have been a pairing for the ages. Alas, they do amazing things, usually undercut by ham-handed direction, but are not paired with one another. Not even once. Do I sound bitter? Forgive me. I’ve been through a lot.
That would entail the rest of the flick. In it, Barney and Christmas (Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham) are tasked by the CIA to track down a mercenary, Rahmat (Jaa), with his own army out to steal some nuclear detonators so that his boss, the mysterious Ocelot, can, what else, use a nuke to make mischief. This isn’t just any mercenary with an army, this is the anti-Expendables mercenary with an army.
That’s pretty much it. Except for Barney becoming toast during the operation, leading to Marsh (Andy Garcia), the CIA dude in charge of the Expendables, firing Christmas and replacing him with his girlfriend and fellow Expendable, Gina (Megan Fox). I think we’re supposed to know she’s lethal by the hissy fits she throws as Christmas while she is sporting a blood-red body-con cutaway mini dress and sky-high heels as they are puttering around their New Orleans home. I think we’re supposed to find it amusing that Barney and pre-toast Barney banter about what losers they are while really meaning that she’s the problem. Women, am I right?
And there you have it. A celebration of male toxicity fooling itself into thinking it’s progressive because the women (there’s another one on the revenge mission) can talk smack like the big boys and take out the opposition just as lethally, all while never smudging their exuberant makeup or mussing their carefully coiffed hair.
It might be a back-handed compliment along the Ginger Rogers dancing backwards and in high heels while whirling around with Fred Astaire, but somehow, I doubt it. Seriously.
The revenge team takes off with jokes about doddering sniper Gunner (Dolph Lundgren) and his prescription rifle sight, the new guy (Jacob Scipio) proving he’s as much a stud as his father (not appearing in this film), Toll Road (Randy Couture) constantly explaining the physiology of his cauliflower ear, and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson looking stoic and menacing.
Things blow up, but of course, and from the get-go as Jaa takes out a Libyan installation and Barney coaxes Christmas to get back the ring he lost in a drunken bet. The body count is high, the manners of death grisly, and even the motorcycles they happen upon during the climactic battle on a battleship, come equipped with machine guns that can rip a guy in half. Just to make sure we miss nothing, the pyrotechnics extend even to hand-grenades that create fireballs of outlandishly outré proportions.
Now, I have in the past averred that Jason Statham can make any movie better, and I stand by that. The tight close-ups of his grim face wreaking havoc and then havocky revenge have the usual visceral appeal, as does his immense cool while under pressure. Alas, he, like Jaa and Uwais, are totally wasted in an effort that has no originality, no punch, no fun, and no sense of shame. The action is generic, and the one-liners that think they’re funny are even less so for their assumptive delivery.
EXPEND4BLES might be the new definition of drivel.