In many East Asian cultures, the number four is synonymous with death and is deemed unlucky. Given this, it is appropriate that the fourth instalment of “The Expendables” – or “Expend4bles”, as it is so cleverly called – brings forth lots of gory deaths on screen.
It is a shame, however, that it hardly does anything to make itself stand out from the overcrowded genre of movies that take notes from 1980s action flicks.
But before ripping into the film, perhaps it’s best to quickly go over its plot, paper thin as it is. Like its predecessors, the movie follows the Expendables, a group of mercenaries led by Barney Ross, played by a grizzled Sylvester Stallone.
At his right hand is former British SAS commando, the cheerfully named Lee Christmas (Jason Statham).
So, who are the mercenaries up against in this fourth cinematic venture? Meet Suarto, played by Indonesian actor Iko Uwais, who is collecting material to build a nuclear bomb to provoke war between the United States and Russia.
Of course, who else is called to save the day other than the Expendables? Unfortunately, their first clash goes awry when Ross is (seemingly) killed, all thanks to Lee’s insubordination.
Vengeful and determined to stop Suarto, a not-so-merry Christmas and his fellow Expendables embark on a quest for revenge – and, oh yeah, to stop World War III if they can.
At its core, there isn’t much that distinguishes “Expend4bles” from the many other films wherein heroes have to save the world from terrorists.
Everyone has already seen the “Mission: Impossible” and “James Bond” flicks, and at least those tend to feature insane stunts or fantastical technology.
“Expend4bles”, on the other hand, is very much a cookie-cutter feature with a predictable plot and uninteresting characters.
Ragtag team of heroes? Check. Underdeveloped villain with uninteresting motivations? Check. MacGuffin to recover and/or destroy? Check.
It hardly helps that the movie’s lame attempts at a plot twist are comically predictable, obvious enough for even a blind man to see coming from a mile away. Warning: MAJOR spoiler ahead!
In a film where Stallone is at the front and centre of its advertising, did the producers really think the audience would believe his character would get killed off, and so early on?
The movie tries very hard to convince the audience Ross is dead, but not once did this reviewer believe the filmmakers would have the guts to follow through.
Sure enough, Ross shows back up fine and dandy at the climax. Fans of Stallone are likely to leave the theatre bummed by their favourite man’s screen time, or lack of.
Perhaps Stallone was just on the set for his paycheck, which is not entirely implausible, given that the man himself has said this would be his last outing in the franchise, and the reins would be handed over to Statham thereafter.
Indeed, Statham does step into the protagonist role, and his natural English charm does help give this film some value. And while the script barely gives him anything to work with, his suave looks and dry wit do make Christmas look a bit more inviting.
The same, sadly, can’t be said for the rest of the Expendables, who are either forgettable at best, or irritating at worst.
Dolph Lundgren, action star of yesteryear, seems to be playing Gunnar Jensen without much direction aside from “just relax onscreen”.
At least Jensen is not a pain to watch, unlike Jacob Scipio’s Galan, whose shtick is his youth and obsession with sex. Cracking the odd dirty joke here and there is fine but, for the youngest member of the team, it gets old pretty quickly.
And as Gina, Megan Fox’s acting talents are unfortunately wasted as her character doesn’t get much to work with aside from being the team’s eye candy.
Are there any redeeming qualities to the film, then? Well, some of the action scenes are cool, with the close-quarters combat in the run-up to the finale being quite fun to watch.
Oh, and Thailand’s Tony Jaa also features, his character Decha putting the actor’s real-life Muay Thai skills to deadly use.
Ultimately, though, is “Expend4bles” worth a watch? Ehhh, maybe – if you wish to contribute to Stallone’s retirement fund.
As of press time, ‘Expend4bles’ is screening in cinemas nationwide.