Fri | Dec 8, 2023

‘The Expend4bles’ – An irrelevant embarrassment

Published:Friday | September 22, 2023 | 12:07 AMDamian Levy/Gleaner Writer
From left: Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Curtis Jackson, Levy Tran and Jacob Scipio in a scene from ‘The Expend4bles’.
From left: Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Curtis Jackson, Levy Tran and Jacob Scipio in a scene from ‘The Expend4bles’.

In the 13 years since the first Expendables was released, the series has struggled to affirm its relevance to me. Casting action stars from a bygone era is one thing, passing them off as the skilled heroes they once were is another. Not to mention the dated sensibilities of their most iconic films that don’t sit well with a modern audience. In 2023, The Expend4bles, with a tone from the 1980s, and digital effects from the late ‘90s, has never felt more irrelevant.

Proper respect where it’s due, The Expend4bles does make strides in certain areas, but for each step forward, there’s a significant leap back. One scene in particular has Jason Statham’s Christmas divulging his experience with panic attacks to his fearless leader Barney, as the two have a heart to heart over classical music. Naturally, Barney suggests it’s Christmas’ old ball and chain of a wife that’s causing him strife, not the regular near-death experiences he’s put into.

Despite the sexism of a 1950s sitcom, the new cast does have a notable increase in female members. Unfortunately, any woman’s introduction has her immediately sexualised. The actresses are almost always scantily clad and ogled by their peers, but any critique of their attire will most certainly be defended as feminist. In Expendables, a woman has a right to wear what she likes, especially if it favours the male gaze. Still, the film’s one sex scene does make a point to emphasise the importance of a woman’s satisfaction in a way most action films are tight -lipped about.

When it’s not being blatantly offensive, the film presents some of the shoddiest visual effects in recent memory, with the kind of graphics that barely suggest momentum much less realism. The cast spends most of its time seated against an obvious green screen, and the subpar visuals are matched only by the unconvincing stunt work by the older cast. The close quarters combat is easier on the eyes, but hardly impressive in a post John Wick world.

The film is in no way immersive, with an insultingly bad script, an obvious plot, and dialogue too bad to be funny. The novelty of assembling the greatest action stars in history has more than worn off, especially considering most have abandoned the series altogether. If they don’t care for it, why should anyone else?

Rating: Read A Book

Damian Levy is a film critic and podcaster for Damian Michael Movies.