Surreally awful action spectacle which represents nothing more than the quickest route to a payday for everyone involved in its sorry creation.
The blood is red, the screens are green, the language is blue and there’s a strange, juvenile fascination with yellow liquids in Scott Waugh’s film that also happens to recall the substance whose colour derives from mixing all of those mentioned above (clue: not chocolate).
In this business, when you go and see a movie that ends up being bad, you kinda just shrug it off and think, “Some you win…” knowing there will be another one dropping down the chute imminently. Yet there’s a whole lot of material in this film that you can’t quite believe made it all the way past basic quality checking. Almost everything about it betrays an insatiably violent contempt for the intelligence of a paying audience. It is, in many ways, a horror movie.
Expend4bles, for those gullible and needy enough to possess the desire to see a third sequel to an already-reliably abysmal action franchise, genuinely feels like an exercise not in how a film can entertain an audience, but what it can get away with in terms of cutting creative corners (and, one imagines, costs).
So what have we actually got here? We got 240p stock footage establishing shots that look like they were ripped from YouTube circa 2003. We got digital effects work that makes the promo video for Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing look like Avatar. We got stabbing. We got haunting, soulless, one-take performances that feel like the actors may have just received some terrible news directly before the cameras rolled (cf Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson). We got one-liners that play like they were holding text in the script, awaiting a polish that never came. We got more stabbing. We got action choreography filmed in extreme close-up to give the impression that the actors are doing something spectacular. We got a character named Jumbo Shrimp. We got even more stabbing.
Knowing how difficult it is to get any film into production, let alone past the script stage, there is no logical reason for something like Expend4bles to exist beyond the fact that it’s going to land its makers a handsome pay day. This is not a film about heroism and camaraderie, it’s about margins and bottom lines. The calculation here is that reshoots, post-production primping, or even doing one more take to get the energy up, have been vetoed from the off. You watch this film not so much in anger, but with the shrugging, pitiful sense that each of its stars will be able to buy a new saloon car, or have their pool retiled.
The original concept for The Expendables series involved banding together the action icons of yore and posting them off on a Dirty Dozen-style, impossible-odds sortie where, of course, they manage to win out the day. They’re almost still cleaving to the formula, with Sly Stallone, who now at 77 has understandably accepted a role in which he has to do the minimum amount of standing, leading a crew which combines the old guard (Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Jason Statham) with a side of young(er) newbies (Megan Fox, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Jacob Scipio).
There are some stolen nukes and… well, you can pretty much fill in the blanks from there. The only thing that comes close to impressing here is Statham’s athleticism, and he’s the only one here who’s able to credibly fake his commitment to this long-lost cause. Jaa and Uwais, world-class martial artists who actually have something to give to the camera, are so poorly filmed and choreographed that all we actually see is a blur of flailing limbs.
A general tendency for critical hyperbole can often make a quite bad film, or an innocently misfiring one, seem more offensive than it actually is. In cinematic terms, Expend4bles is the encrusted leavings which sit at the bottom of the cultural drip tray, a work that doesn‘t even manage to own its own camp value. It should henceforth act as a relative yardstick for how bad things can really be.
Published 22 Sep 2023
About as welcome as having to take the bins out in the rain.
The bar was already so low, and yet this film manages to sneak under it.
Any who sees this is a sucker.