Sep 28, 2023
I. Cast & Characters
The Expendables series is renowned for its ensemble cast of action legends, featuring stars such as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Jason Statham. However, previous films grappled with maintaining a harmonious balance among these colossal stars. A fifth installment's success rests on meticulous casting, ensuring each character possesses a meaningful role within the narrative and an opportunity to shine.
Each member of the Expendables team brings a unique personality and skill set to the table. For the fifth film to succeed, character development must take center stage. Offer the audience deeper insights into these larger-than-life figures, delve into their backgrounds, and forge emotional connections between them. This approach will make the action sequences more impactful and resonate with viewers on a profound level.
Getting Production Rolling ASAP
Timing is of the essence to ensure the success of the fifth Expendables movie. The action stars of the '80s and '90s, who form the backbone of the franchise, are not getting any younger. Thus, it is crucial to kickstart production as soon as possible before age becomes a limiting factor in their ability to perform at their action-hero best.
Bringing Back Arnold and Introducing His Team
Adding Chan, Russel and Seagal
To provide a grand finale to the franchise, the inclusion of Jackie Chan, Kurt Russel, and Steven Seagal is a must. While their roles may be cameo appearances, except for Jackie Chan, who deserves a substantial part due to his global appeal and action prowess, their presence would elevate the movie to new heights.
Minimizing New Blood
To maintain the core appeal of the franchise, the introduction of new talent should be kept to a minimum. A new addition should come from backgrounds with proven action credentials, reminiscent of the approach taken in the first two movies with actors like Scott Adkins, Steve Austin, and Gary Daniels, who would play henchman roles rather than becoming additions to the Expendables team. Someone like Frank Grillo could be a valuable addition as a henchman.
Adding new talent to the Expendables team itself will only make sense if the actor possesses star power that resonates with modern audiences in action movies. While the idea of John Cena or Dwayne Johnson joining the team is enticing, budget constraints and now the bad reputation of the franchise may make such aspirations unrealistic.
Character Sacrifice for Higher Stakes
To heighten the stakes and streamline the cast, the fifth movie could consider a daring move by killing off characters played by Randy Couture or Dolph Lundgren, perhaps at the hands of Arnold's team in the opening sequence. This would trigger a war between the two teams. Not only would this increase the tension, but it would also prevent the film from becoming overcrowded, a pitfall seen in "The Expendables 3."
A remarkable action film is only as potent as its antagonist. The Expendables franchise has showcased memorable villains, such as Jean-Claude Van Damme's Jean Vilain and Mel Gibson's Conrad Stonebanks. To ensure the success of the fifth installment, the antagonist must exude charisma, pose a formidable threat, and harbor a compelling motivation. This combination will yield a more captivating conflict, making the ultimate showdown all the more gratifying.
The following is a wishful list, but if, by any chance, these actors can be persuaded to take part, their presence will elevate the movie:
Keanu Reeves: Known for his versatility and ability to portray both heroic and villainous roles, Keanu Reeves could bring depth and charisma to the antagonist character. His performance in "John Wick" demonstrates his capability in action-packed roles.
Mads Mikkelsen: Mikkelsen's commanding presence and acting prowess make him a strong candidate for a memorable Expendables villain. His roles in films like "Casino Royale", “Indiana Jones 5”, and the TV series "Hannibal" showcase his ability to portray complex and menacing characters.
Idris Elba: Elba's imposing physicality and acting chops would make him a formidable adversary for the Expendables team. He has amply demonstrated his capacity to excel in action-oriented roles and has lately accepted minor roles in Netflix action movies.
Dwayne Johnson would make the perfect villain, and at some point, he expressed interest in joining when the franchise was at its peak. However, his participation at this stage would be nothing short of a miracle.
Incorporating Meaningful Female Characters
In today's cinematic landscape, diversity and the inclusion of robust female characters are essential. However, these additions must be purposeful, featuring authentic female fighters and action actresses. A delicate balance should be maintained so that every character, regardless of gender, has an opportunity for development throughout the movie.
Once again, the following is a wishful list, but these actresses could add depth and a breath of fresh air to the movie. Some of them are also affordable and might be willing to participate in the franchise:
Carrie-Anne Moss: Known for her role as Trinity in "The Matrix" trilogy, Moss is no stranger to iconic action roles. Her experience and familiarity with the genre would be an asset to the film.
Zoe Saldana: With experience in franchises like "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Avatar," Saldana is well-versed in action and sci-fi genres. Her inclusion would bring both action chops and a fan following.
Michelle Rodriguez: Known for her roles in the "Fast & Furious" franchise, Rodriguez is no stranger to action-packed movies. Her presence would add a level of intensity and authenticity to the action sequences.
Gina Carano: Carano is a former MMA fighter turned actress, known for her roles in "Haywire" and "Deadpool." Her real-life combat skills would make her a convincing and formidable member of the Expendables team.
II. Directing, Action & Storyline
An Engaging Storyline
The linchpin of success for the fifth Expendables film hinges on the narrative. While the previous installments thrived on their straightforward, action-centric plots, the time has come to infuse more depth and complexity. Audiences should be emotionally invested in not just the action but also the characters and the overarching story. A gripping storyline could involve personal stakes, moral quandaries, or well-written unexpected plot twists to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
In the fifth Expendables movie, pitting Arnold Schwarzenegger's team against Sylvester Stallone's, for instance, could inject depth and intrigue into the narrative.
Jason Statham can lead the cast to help alleviate the reliance on the aging action legends, with Arnold and Sly in significant supporting roles that enrich the story.
Creative Action Sequences
While the first 2 films delivered on their promise of high-octane action, the fifth movie must raise the bar even higher. Audiences anticipate mind-boggling stunts, innovative combat sequences, and intense firepower. Learning from the standout moments of previous films, like the opening scene in "The Expendables 2" and the thrilling train sequence in "The Expendables 3," the fifth installment should continue to push the boundaries of action filmmaking, ensuring it remains fresh and exhilarating.
Reducing CGI and Re-embracing Classic Action
A return to the style of the earlier films, featuring practical effects and cleaner action sequences, should be a priority. Minimizing the use of CGI and shaky camera techniques will restore the action to its roots, mirroring the more successful approach of "The Expendables 2," directed by Simon West.
Hiring a Visionary Director
The selection of a director with a strong vision, even if from the direct-to-video universe, is pivotal. The director should be capable of making the movie stand out by seamlessly blending nostalgia with fresh elements while maintaining the signature style of the Expendables.
If, by some miracle, the producers manage to secure a renowned director, one of the following individuals could potentially steer the franchise back on track:
Chad Stahelski: Stahelski is renowned for his work on the "John Wick" series, which has set a new standard for modern action filmmaking. His experience with intricate action choreography and stylized visuals could bring a fresh and exciting perspective to the Expendables franchise.
David Leitch: Leitch, a collaborator with Stahelski on "John Wick," also directed "Atomic Blonde" and "Deadpool 2." His knack for blending action and humor could inject new energy into the series.
Gareth Evans: Evans, known for "The Raid" series, is a master of martial arts action. His gritty and visceral style could bring a unique flavor to the Expendables.
Matthew Vaughn: Vaughn directed "Kick-Ass" and "Kingsman: The Secret Service," both of which featured innovative action sequences. His creative approach to action filmmaking could be a fresh addition.
Martin Campbell: Campbell has directed James Bond films like "GoldenEye" and "Casino Royale." His experience in handling iconic characters and action-packed narratives could be an asset.
If budget constraints remain a concern, there are more affordable directors who could perform adequately, such as Isaac Florentine, Jesse V. Johnson, and Renny Harlin.
One of the franchise's enduring strengths lies in its ability to pay homage to the action films of yesteryears. The fifth Expendables movie should remain true to this tradition, incorporating nostalgic callbacks to classic action moments and iconic one-liners from the stars' previous works. These moments not only delight long-time fans but also introduce younger audiences to the rich cinematic history of action heroes.
A Grand Farewell
As much as fans crave the sight of their iconic action stars in full throttle, the fifth Expendables film should acknowledge the reality of aging. Crafting a storyline that provides a fitting and respectful farewell to some characters could prove to be a poignant and emotionally charged element, elevating the film beyond mere spectacle.
If this indeed marks the final chapter for legends like Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, contemplating a poignant farewell, perhaps through the passing of one of these iconic characters at the film's conclusion, could deliver a highly emotional and grandiose finale to the franchise.
The success of the fifth Expendables movie if it ever gets made, hinges on striking a harmonious balance between nostalgia and innovation, paying tribute to the past while embracing the future. By implementing these recommendations, the film has the potential to stand as the ultimate homage to action cinema while bidding a fitting adieu to its legendary cast. Despite the debacle of the fourth movie, The Expendables franchise can still hold the promise of a triumphant return with a fifth installment that builds upon past strengths and rectifies prior weaknesses, offering an adrenaline-pumping yet substantial and emotionally resonant cinematic experience.
Sep 27, 2023
The very cool reviews of THE EXPENDABLES franchise by Outlaw Vern.
One of the primary reasons "Expend4bles" failed to captivate viewers was its reliance on a tired and uninspired formula. The film essentially recycled the same plotline as its predecessors: a group of mercenaries embarks on a high-stakes mission filled with explosions, double-crosses, and epic showdowns. While this formula worked to some extent in earlier films, it had become predictable and uninspiring by the time "Expend4bles" rolled around.
Lack of Character Development:
Critics and audiences noted a distinct absence of character development in "Expend4bles." The on-screen figures in the movie felt like mere caricatures of action heroes, devoid of depth, humanity, or relatability. Characters seemed to exist solely to deliver one-liners and engage in violent, bullet-riddled missions, leaving audiences with little to latch onto emotionally.
Decline in Star Power:
One of the franchise's initial selling points was its star-studded cast of action cinema legends. However, by "Expend4bles," the core cast had dwindled, with several iconic stars notably absent. This decline in star power was a significant blow to the film's appeal, leaving fans longing for the nostalgia of seeing their favorite action heroes together.
Shallow Humor and Misogyny:
"Expend4bles" attempted to inject humor into the proceedings, but it often fell flat, relying on outdated and shallow gags. Casual misogyny was also a recurring issue, with female characters portrayed stereotypically and the film seemingly oscillating between objectification and derision of their emotions.
Visual and Cinematic Missteps:
The film's visual shortcomings were hard to ignore. Excessive use of green screen technology, blurry backdrops, and glaringly artificial CGI detracted from the cinematic experience. The cinematographer seems to have attempted to compensate with zoomed-in shots, but this only emphasized the inauthenticity of the film's settings.
A Disjointed Cast:
Another challenge faced by "Expend4bles" was the apparent lack of chemistry among the cast members. With many of the action icons on separate sound stages, the interactions felt forced, and the camaraderie that should have been a hallmark of the franchise was conspicuously absent.
"Expend4bles" may have arrived with the promise of explosive action and nostalgic callbacks, but it ultimately failed to live up to expectations. A formulaic plot, lackluster character development, declining star power, questionable humor, visual shortcomings, and disjointed cast interactions all contributed to its downfall.
Critics and audiences, once eager for a return to the glory days of '80s and '90s action cinema, were left disappointed and underwhelmed. While the franchise's future remains uncertain, "Expend4bles" is a tale of the perils of relying on a worn-out formula without injecting fresh creativity and genuine heart into the proceedings.
Sep 26, 2023
A Brief Recap:
Before delving into the potential future of the franchise, let's briefly recap what led us to this point. The "Expendables" series began with a simple and intriguing premise: gather '80s-era action cinema icons, including Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis, for a good old-fashioned shoot-em-up. The first film, while not a masterpiece, had a certain charm that resonated with fans, leading to two sequels.
However, the franchise faced challenges after its 3rd installment, including diminishing returns and a struggle to capture the same nostalgic bliss that made the original appealing. "Expend4bles," the fourth entry, seemed to falter in delivering what fans loved about the series, resulting in mixed reviews and underwhelming box office performance.
The Current State of Affairs:
As of now, "Expendables 5" is not confirmed, and whether it will materialize remains uncertain. Several factors come into play when considering the future of the franchise.
The Lukewarm Reception: "Expend4bles" failed to ignite the same level of excitement as its predecessors. Critics and audiences alike found fault in its lackluster storytelling, overreliance on CGI, and uneven performances. This tepid reception might make studio executives hesitant to greenlight another installment.
Box Office Performance: The financial success of a film often determines its sequel prospects. "Expend4bles" struggled to make a significant impact at the box office, which might give studios pause when contemplating future installments meant for the silver screen.
Competition: The action genre has evolved since the heyday of '80s and '90s action heroes. New franchises like "John Wick" and the enduring "Mission: Impossible" series have shown that modern action films can combine style, substance, and technical prowess to create awe-inspiring cinematic experiences.
Cast and Creativity: The "Expendables" series thrived on the appeal of seeing action legends together on screen. However, with each passing film, the original cast has dwindled, and new additions haven't always lived up to expectations. Convincing key cast members to return - if age and schedules permit - and injecting freshness into the formula will be crucial for a potential "Expendables 5."
While the odds may seem stacked against an "Expendables 5," there's always potential for redemption. Here are some considerations:
A Stronger Script: Crafting a compelling story that honors the franchise's nostalgic roots while offering something fresh is essential. A tighter script with engaging character arcs and meaningful stakes could reignite interest.
Stellar Action Sequences: The franchise's selling point is explosive action. Bringing in top-tier action choreographers and stunt teams could deliver jaw-dropping set pieces that rival or surpass the competition.
Balancing Old and New: Finding the right balance between beloved action icons and fresh faces with charisma and star power is key. This balance can help bridge the generation gap and appeal to a broader audience.
The fate of "Expendables 5" hangs in the balance, and its success or failure hinges on a combination of factors, including creative direction, box office performance, and audience reception. While the franchise has faced challenges, there's always potential for a triumphant return to form. Whether it becomes a risky gamble or a potential redemption will depend on the choices made by the studios. Die hard fans around the world will be watching closely to see if the Expendables can assemble for another mission on the big screen.
Sep 25, 2023
They sold it with a list of surnames: Stallone. Statham. Li. Lundgren. Couture. Austin. Crews. Willis. The only name missing was Schwarzenegger, and that’s simply because they wanted his cameo to be a surprise. (He’d make the poster for the sequel.) Two of them came from the worlds of pro-wrestling and UFC fighting, and one of them was an ex-NFL linebacker. But it still read like an Action Hero Hall of Fame roll call, especially in the year of our lord 2010. That was the appeal, or maybe just the gimmick, of The Expendables — round up as many Hollywood action stars and/or Planet Hollywood investors as you could find, put them all in one movie, and pretend the preceding 25 years had never happened. Terry Crews and Jason Statham, the latter already a genre MVP thanks to the Transporter and Crank films, were the babies of the group as early-fortysomethings. The median age of the cast still hovered around 55.
By the time The Expendables 2 hit theaters two years later, there were enough movies featuring your grandparents’ action heroes — or newly-minted actions stars that were your grandparents’ age — to suggest a trend that writer Matt Patches dubbed “geri-action.” Folks like Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington started balancing films aimed at Oscar voters and multiplex flicks that went for the jugular. Keanu Reeves was 50 when the first John Wick movie dropped; he was a few months shy of 59 when the fourth one was released this past spring. Don’t get us started on Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise.
As for Sylvester Stallone’s ongoing franchise, it’s kept working a formula of pairing squared-jawed young stars (Liam Hemsworth, Glen Powell), action-friendly marquee names on loan from other arenas (Ronda Rousey) and fresh bang-bang-pow-pow blood (Scott Adkins) with the genre’s Mt. Olympus legends. No less than Ford, Chuck Norris, Mel Gibson, Jean-Claude Van Damme (playing a villain named Vilain), and Wesley Snipes have shed blood and dropped bodies alongside the series regulars. A fourth movie, Expend4ables, just opened, and added 50 Cent, Megan Fox, Tony Jaa and The Raid‘s Iko Uwais into the rotation. Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to sit this one out for reasons unknown; Crews and Bruce Willis aren’t present for reasons very well-known. With a few notable exceptions, however, most above-the-title action stars of a certain age and a certain era have logged in appearances. It’s nostalgiabait, sure. But generations that grew up watching endless DVD marathons of 1980s and early Nineties action movies now got to see these O.G.s blow new things up. The stars keep getting older, but the audience stays the same age.
You know exactly what you’re getting with this fourth installment — big dumb fun, doled out in that order and under the assumption that your idea of “fun” is watching faceless thugs become literally faceless (and armless and legless and torso-less) one high-caliber bullet spray at a time. It’s Cro-Mag entertainment, courtesy of folks who should be watching their cholesterol intake and, at worst, might want to think about limiting their vigorous activities to shuffleboard. We’re not trying to be ageist here (may I be in such good shape in my mid-50s as Stallone is in his late 70s). But Expend4ables is coming on the heels of Reeves’ final (?) turn as Wick, Ford donning the fedora again in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Cruise jumping real motorcycles off real cliffs in Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, Neeson polishing off his special-set-of-skills persona with Retribution, and Washington displaying his ass-kicking chops in The Equalizer 3. These are stars who’ve kept careers going by making action part of their brand. They’re not getting any younger. Nor, for that matter, are the heroes of these types of movies in general.
Even Schwarzenegger and Stallone, the two musclebound pillars of the Golden Age of Action Movies, have been going the éminence grise route lately, with each sitting for respective career-spanning Netflix documentaries on their lives, works, and abilities to crack walnuts with their biceps. Both are still active, and the fact that the Italian Stallion is still willing to do these Expendables movies suggests he’s not willing to holster his actual or metaphorical guns just yet. When you watch this fourth outing, however, you notice that he’s taking a backseat role this time out. Statham is the more central figure this time around; you cross your fingers that he’ll get his Hobbs & Shaw costar Dwayne Johnson to drop in should the series somehow splinter off into a next-gen showcase and the early ’00s tough guys are recast as the veterans. They’re among the last action men standing… and neither of them are exactly spring chickens, either.
And with superhero movies still being the big-thing-make-a-boom blockbusters du jour, it’s unlikely that — the odd Hemsworth excursion notwithstanding — a new batch of recruits aren’t going to be crossing over from the cape-and-cowl set anytime soon. Hope springs eternal, though if you sat through some of Netflix’s recent attempts at breathing new life into the format, it’s hard to be optimistic. (We see you, Red Notice/The Gray Man/Heart of Stone, and lord knows we wish we hadn’t.) Expend4ables feels less like a possible farewell to the franchise and more like a grumbled, mumbled eulogy to a genre. It may not be just the twilight of the geri-action heroes but the Ragnarok of the action movie as a multiplex staple overall. At least it’s going out with whimpers cranked up to a volume that makes them sound like big bangs.
Surprisingly for a part 4, and one that came out a full 7 years after part 3, EXPEND4BLES is not trying to reinvent the wheel or correct any of those missteps. It’s just like yeah, we’re stilling doing these, why wouldn’t we? It looks cheaper than the others (with the most generic settings imaginable, even when they’re just fake looking green screen backdrops), but for the most part not all that much worse or better than I remember the others being at the time, though admittedly I haven’t rewatched them. This has a few funny ideas, a few okay fights, some funny splatter moments (digital), but mostly its strengths are that it still has some of the same guys, who I enjoy seeing in movies, and also it has some new guys who I enjoy seeing in movies. Even though this is none of their best work.
Case in point: Iko Uwais (MERANTAU, HEADSHOT) gets to play the villain, Rahmat. Like most characters in these movies he wears boring tactical gear and uses guns more than kicks, which in my opinion is a misunderstanding of how to make movies or create joy. But it’s what we got. Was it worth his time if it took him away from making an Indonesian movie, any Indonesian movie? Of course not. Is it a better Hollywood use of him than SNAKE EYES? In my opinion no. But does it make this particular movie better than if it was somebody else playing that part? Yeah, I think so. We get to see him nimbly leaping around, spinning and slashing some motherfuckers, a few fights that are shot from too close up but pretty cool, a showdown with Statham in a setting that reminded me of the Tommy Lee Jones vs. Steven Seagal knife fight in UNDER SIEGE, and it lasts shorter than you would want but longer than Statham vs. Scott Adkins in part 2, at least.
You know what’s funny – I honestly think Uwais is good at playing evil, but even in his character poster he just looks like a nice, happy guy. Look at this!
Anyway, Rahmat and his crew, including lead henchman Bok (Daren Nop, fight arranger for FAST X), working for a mysterious terrorist called “Ocelot,” violently take over what is labelled on screen as “Gadaffi’s Old Chemical Plant” in Libya to get control of some nuclear warheads.
Meanwhile, in “USA, New Orleans,” Expendables leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone, DEATH RACE 2000) gets his right hand man Lee Christmas (Jason Statham, DEATH RACE) to help him try to get back his favorite skull ring, lost in a thumb wrestling bet at a biker bar/strip club called Tainted Spoke. Basically, Barney tricks Christmas into fighting a short guy named Jumbo Shrimp (Mike Möller, ULTIMATE JUSTICE) and a huge bartender (World’s Strongest Man 2017 Eddie Hall, “Saxon Warrior,” TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT). This whole scene is very stupid, but it’s the stuff I like best in these movies – the banter between Barney and Lee is the Expendahumor that works best for me, I always enjoy the less plot-oriented diversions in formula action movies (if it wasn’t a bar fight it would be stopping a convenience store robbery), and I love the detail that the guys at this bar fuckin hate Barney and chose to humiliate him by displaying his prized ring behind the bar on a double-dick dildo.
The giant skull ring really is a trademark that distinguishes Barney Ross and THE EXPENDABLES from other Stallone characters. That’s why he’s introduced by the camera hovering around his fetishistically souped up motorcycle, exploring its every chromed and engraved engine detail and piece of flair as his feet walk into the shot and mount it. The camera finds a cigar between his fingers gripping the handlebar before it finally shows his face and he drives out through the Aztec-inspired-skull-design garage door of the Expendacave. Later on there will be a fun scene where Statham’s character rides a MACHETE-style machine gun motorcycle, but Barney’s love of motorcycles does not figure into the action – it’s just how he expresses himself. His soul looks like the tacky maximalist design aesthetic of tattoo shops, motorcycle garages and strip clubs. He loves oversized jewelry, leather jackets, neon lights. The logo for this installment is a skull with a liberty spike mohawk made out of guns and knives, with many of the guns on fire. The Expendables live in a world where every time you start doing something awesome an electric guitar starts wailing. I honestly wish the guy playing would just rise up out of the floor so we could see his poses and facial expressions to really emphasize how cool what we’re looking at is supposed to be. Otherwise how can we truly understand?
Even without that, EXPEND4BLES occasionally has shots of the cast walking together in slow motion looking badass (sometimes with Tony Jaa spinning his knife around) and for those couple seconds I would think, “Yeah, okay. This is pretty cool.”
After the ring situation is sorted out, some speechifying CIA suit called Marsh (Andy Garcia, 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE, DEAD AGAIN, THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD) hires the Expendables to attack Gaddafi’s Old Chemical Plant and destroy the detonators before Ocelot can use them. The team includes returning favorites Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren, DEAD TRIGGER) and Toll Road (Randy Couture, TODAY YOU DIE), plus newcomers Easy Day (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’) and two others who haven’t done any movies with “death” or “die” in the title: Galan (Jacob Scipio, WITHOUT REMORSE) and Lash (Levy Tran, “Race Starter,” FURIOUS SEVEN), the latter joining later when the team is led by Christmas’ volatile on-again-off-again girlfriend Gina (Megan Fox, TILL DEATH).
As always, Dolph is a highlight. He’s mostly comic relief here. In the past he was the crazy one (and a traitor) and now he’s trying to be enlightened. As a guy much younger than Dolph whose eyesight is starting to get worse, I like that he wears round glasses and is having trouble aiming (though he jokes that his sniper scope is prescription). Sadly he solves that problem by breaking his six month sobriety streak and instantly powering up like Popeye eating spinach.
But his most memorable shtick here is that he’s excited about bringing an ax on the mission and later he refers to it as “The Traumahawk.”
I think I’m alone in this but I always enjoy Couture in these. He’s a particular type of genuine tough guy that’s different from the usual movie idea of tough guys, so it’s fun to see him up there as a silly, friendly nerd character always excited to talk about his cauliflower ear.
50 Cent being added to the cast is funny because I remember in the Ain’t It Cool days Stallone did Q&As about the first movie as it was in progress. 50 had been reported to be in the cast, which caused outrage/disappointment for people who didn’t think a non action star, or a rapper, or that particular rapper deserved to be in a cast they thought was gonna be all action icons. (I believe he was replaced by Terry Crews, who hadn’t earned it either, but people accepted him.) But at this point 50 Cent has done around ten DTV action sequels and been Stallone’s sidekick in the ESCAPE PLAN series, so nobody’s surprised. He serves a similar role here, mostly a serious exposition guy, and he’s fine.
The least acceptable new blood is the character Galan, who’s supposed to be the son of Antonio Bandera’s part 3 character Galgo, and he’s always babbling and trying to charm everybody but they all hate him (and he has a urine fixation?). It’s very unfunny and annoying stuff, and it actually does feel unearned – Banderas’ character was playing off of us already loving him from other movies, this guy we don’t know from Adam. But luckily there’s a gimmick that makes him shut up for most of the movie and then he’s fine.
I also didn’t know where I knew Tran from (FEMALE FIGHT SQUAD, GEMINI and The Haunting of Hill House, it turns out), but I thought she was cool, having kind of a punk look, using a razor wire whip, trying to check out Toll Road’s dick when he’s peeing, etc.
Dan Chupong (ONG BAK 1, 2 and 3, BORN TO FIGHT, MUAY THAI GIANT) also has a tiny appearance, but you wouldn’t know from the part they gave him that he was anybody special.
Throughout the run of this series many, including myself at times, have noted that they don’t really take advantage of the multi-star format to expend any of the expendables in an EXECUTIVE DECISION type manner. Some seem to think that makes it a misleading title, but that’s a misunderstanding – in action movies you complain that you were treated as expendable. You don’t consider yourself actually expendable. As the tagline for this one says, “They’ll die when they’re dead.”
But here’s a big first act SPOILER that won’t necessarily surprise you. Just as I suspected when the first trailer came out and Stallone had an “and” credit, Barney gets killed during battle in the first act and they all want to go after the guy who did it. I think they use it well. Barney is flying overhead in his beloved seaplane while the others are fighting below, and a gun is about to shoot him down. He orders Christmas to not worry about him and go after the detonators, but instead Christmas diverts to try to save Barney, who gets shot down anyway. Christmas runs to the wreckage and finds Barney in the cockpit burnt to a crisp. Then they’re in a bar having a small memorial for him and they made a little shrine of skulls surrounding a burnt human arm posed with the middle finger up, wearing the skull ring. Just in the middle of a bar where other people are enjoying a cover band. Beautiful. And also they get some drama out of it because Easy says Christmas made Barney’s sacrifice worthless by blowing the mission and Gunner shakes the shit out of Easy saying “Nothing Barney did was worthless, do you hear me!?” and it’s good shit. But mostly it’s worth it for the burnt up arm.
It turns out Barney was the last surviving member of some special ops mission, and his death triggered the unsealing of a file about a witness who can identify Ocelot. Gina is put in charge of the team to follow this new lead, but Christmas is kicked off for disobeying an order and fucking up the mission. There’s a comical interlude where he becomes bodyguard to a famous livestreamer douchebag while dressing like Frank Martin, then he breaks into Gina’s house and safe and they have a playful fight and makeup sex and the scene ends on a lovely overhead shot of post-coital cuddling with Gina clutching Chrismas’ big Expendables-branded hunting knife.
Then they split up, both trying to accomplish the same thing. While the Expendables fly to a CIA black site in Hong Kong or whatever, Christmas goes to Thailand and finds an old friend of Barney’s named Decha (Tony Jaa, MONSTER HUNTER). As always in his Hollywood movies, Jaa is not as good as he’d be in a starring role but better than almost anybody else would be. They gave him an appropriately Tony Jaa character type (the warrior who has sworn off violence and become enlightened, but then finds out Barney’s friends are in trouble so he puts on face paint and a headband and busts out a fancy engraved blade and the flying knees and elbows). Also he gets to be a goofy weirdo in some parts, which he’s good at.
I’d say Decha is my favorite part of this one, but Fox is probly the new cast member given the most room to play a character. She’s doing a whole “bitch” thing but it’s not like Lee Christmas is a good boyfriend and she does prove herself worthy of the team. I hesitate to bring this up because I generally don’t like to make assumptions or comments about actors’ cosmetic choices, but I really mean this as a compliment: she makes a good counterpart to Stallone, because both of them have a sort of exaggerated body image and gender expression that has pushed beyond trying to bullshit you about what’s natural and become more of a “this is me, this is how I see myself, fuck off if you don’t like it.” Also, while Fox doesn’t have a comparable body of work, she was once very popular while being disrespected in the press, her work and relationships became the subject of gossip, she’s been nominated for eight Razzies (winning one for TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES), but she’s always had a pretty cool and unique screen presence and lately she’s been doing good work in smaller movies (or at least I really liked her in ROGUE).
So I think she’s a good choice for this role, but she deserved a more Expendabley name than just “Gina.” Like Gina Tigerheart or Gina von Klaw or Gina “The Storm” Stormington or something like that. Somebody should’ve gotten Stallone on that.
They make a big enough deal about this “Ocelot” guy that I started wondering what the fuck action star could be left that hasn’t been in one of these but would be willing to be in part 4 as a surprise that would seem like a big get. Or maybe it would be a sitcom star, following the EXPENDABLES 3 Kelsey Grammer precedent. I turned out to be barking up the wrong tree, it’s not a surprise cameo. The answer is more obvious but just stupid enough to be appropriate.
EXPEND4BLES is directed by Scott Waugh (ACT OF VALOR, NEED FOR SPEED), with a screenplay credited to Kurt Wimmer (EQUILIBRIUM, ULTRAVIOLET) & Tad Daggerhart (BLACK LOTUS) and Max Adams (HEIST , EXTRACTION ), story by Spenser Cohen (MOONFALL) and Wimmer & Daggerhart. Second unit director is Brian Smrz (director of 24 HOURS TO LIVE), Vlasto Ivanovic is listed as fight choreographer. Wikipedia says “the Jackie Chan Stunt Team handled stunt choreography,” citing a German article about Möller, and indeed Wing Lun “Alan” Ng is one of the credited stunt coordinators, so they must’ve done some of it.
Now here’s a last act DOUBLE SUPER SPOILER. As you may or may not suspect, Barney turns out to be actually alive at the end, and they have a goofy but makes-sense-within-this-world explanation for it. And I admit I was happy to see Barney still alive even though it’s kind of an ESCAPE PLAN DTV sequel type move to build the story around making his shooting schedule short. But overall I think I’m against undoing his death. It doesn’t cheapen it, because come on man, nothing in THE EXPENDABLES series is cheapenable. I just don’t like that it erases what had been my favorite thing in the movie: that they were willing to barbecue the hero to death. I thought that was hardcore when it seemed like they killed one of Stallone’s three ongoing franchise characters and instead of treating his death with reverence and have him dramattically die in someone’s arms or triggering a crucial explosion or something it was just “Yep, there he is, a burnt pile of meat in a beret. Whoops.” I loved that. But it was another guy, turns out. The ol’ Michael Myers switching clothes with the ambulance driver routine.
The one thing we do get out of it is that the probable last scene in this whole franchise is a reveal that our hero murdered a guy for beating him at thumb wrestling. That’s pretty weird.
In retrospect, I have a theory for why THE EXPENDABLES series could never get much better than passable. The action movies these actors all excel at, that they’re trying to recapture here, are built on personalities. They’re usually a star vehicle for a particular actor and the story is built around how awesome their character is, or how much you like them even though they’re a fuckup. And the fact that they “work alone” and drive around on a motorcycle and have to count on themselves, no matter how many old friends they can get favors from, is part of the appeal. There can be more than one strong personality in these movies, but usually it’s two guys that are partners and bicker at first but learn to get along, and hopefully a good villain and a good top henchman, but not much more than that. That’s why I think these work best during the parts where they’re more of a Stallone vehicle or Statham vehicle or Stallone and Statham buddy movie, and worst when they’re slotting one of our other favorites in but not giving them room to be their best selves. Most action classics are showcasing the skills or persona of one main actor – they never have to figure out how to have five different alpha males and several noteworthy supporting players going around together wearing matching outfits and berets.
It’s just not the best format. But it’s cute for a while. Put that on the poster in metallic stencil font surrounded in sparks and flames.
p.s. One way you can tell THE EXPENDABLES was a million years ago is that I reviewed the screenplay for The Ain’t It Cool News.
As of today, Expend4bles still has the highest audience rating but the lowest critic ratings on RT. However, it's important to note that it's still early days for the 4th movie, with only 100+ reviews, compared to the other installments, which have over 250K+ reviews. There's a likelihood that the audience rating may decrease over time, as the scores on IMDb are currently the lowest among the four movies.
That said, it's worth noting that the audience's reaction to the movie seems to be more favorable than that of the critics, especially when compared to the 3rd movie, at least according to Rotten Tomatoes.
Megan Fox's Hollywood Journey
Megan Fox's career in Hollywood has seen both praise and critique. Born on May 16, 1986, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, she first gained widespread recognition as Mikaela Banes in the "Transformers" series. This role propelled her to fame but also led to questions about her acting abilities.
A Shift in the Expendables Universe
Megan Fox's introduction to "Expend4bles" marked a significant departure from the franchise's original ensemble cast, where previous female Expendables were martial artists or established actresses in Asia, seemingly better fitting the team.
Gina: A Controversial Figure
In "Expend4bles" Megan Fox portrays Gina, a fiery mercenary tasked with adding a fresh dimension to the series. However, her portrayal divided fans. Some believed Gina's character was excessively provocative and lacked the seriousness expected in the franchise. Additionally, her consistent use of makeup and perfectly styled hair during intense action scenes struck certain viewers as unnatural in the rugged world of mercenaries and combat.
One of the most debated aspects of Megan Fox's role was her character's unexpected promotion to leadership within the Expendables team. This change came after Jason Statham's character was fired from the team, leaving fans unsettled and questioning the decision. The abrupt shift in leadership dynamics disrupted the established camaraderie and left some feeling disconnected from the franchise's original vision.
In the end, Megan Fox's portrayal of Gina in "The Expendables 4" remains polarizing, prompting discussions about her potential role in any future installments. As the franchise navigates its current challenges, time will reveal whether Gina's character can adapt and win over skeptics, securing a lasting place in the hearts of fans, should a fifth movie ever come to fruition.
Sep 24, 2023
While delving into the archives of the blog, I noticed that years ago, the writers used to publish articles introducing the new members of the Expendables team in the previous installments. In a time when everyone appears disheartened by the mediocre results of EX4, I decided to revive that tradition to bring a smile to the faces of fans.
And who better to feature than Levy Tran, who played a minor role in the movie but exudes stunning beauty.
Following the introductions of Maggie and Luna in the previous chapters, Lash (Levy Tran) is the latest female addition to the Expendables team, having joined the ensemble alongside Megan Fox's character, Gina.
Lash is introduced to the team by Gina when she assumes leadership of the group. She is a highly skilled ninja, proficient with a chain whip, brought in to assist the team in uncharted territories.
However, Levy Tran's presence in the film didn't seem to resonate well with fans, as her character lacked depth, was introduced without any background, and, to some extent, disrupted the flow of the movie in the final act.
From "MacGyver" to Hollywood Success
Levy's journey to becoming a sought-after Hollywood talent is a story of determination. Born on April 8, 1983, in San Jose, California, Tran initially gained recognition as a successful model, captivating audiences with her unique style and striking appearance.
Transition to Acting
Despite her modeling success, acting was Levy's true passion. Her breakthrough came when she secured a recurring role on the popular TV series "Shameless." In this role, she showcased her versatility as an actress while portraying Eddie, a character grappling with complex issues of identity and relationships.
Martial Arts Expertise
One of the exciting aspects of Levy Tran's addition to the Expendables team was her extensive background in martial arts. She is proficient in various combat disciplines, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and boxing, which theoretically should have added a dynamic element to the film's action sequences. However, her character's lack of development and the disjointed introduction overshadowed her potential contributions.
Levy Tran's notable career includes roles in "The First Purge," "Furious 7," and her portrayal of Desi Nguyen in the 2016 "MacGyver" reboot series.
It landed in ever-so-slightly second place behind “The Nun II,” which collected $8.4 million in its third weekend. It’s possible the order could flip by the time the final tally is revealed on Monday. Even so, this weekend’s collective ticket sales resulted in the lowest-grossing box office frame of the year as not a single film managed to clear $10 million.
“The last two ‘Expendables’ have dropped sharply from the previous episodes, and the weekend figure is below average for the genre,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research Critics. “Reviews are poor and audience ratings are dull.”
Though the “Expendables” series has declined in popularity at the domestic box office (the original ended up with $103 million in North America, while the most recent tapped out with a paltry $39 million), these films have been much bigger draws with international audiences. All three installments have earned at least $200 million globally. The fourth installment cost $100 million to produce, roughly the same as its predecessors. Scott Waugh directed “The Expendables 4,” which sees the teflon operatives attempting to stop a terrorist group that threatens to ignite a conflict between Russia and the United States.
“The movie was not cheap to make,” Gross adds. “While ancillary income should be strong, it appears the film will have a hard time getting to profitability after marketing and distribution costs.”
Sep 23, 2023
SW: Well, I think there's still a lot of actors that would love to do it, but in today's climate, we're in a strike and that eliminates all of that. So, unfortunately, the audiences are the ones suffering and not getting to see their stars out in front of the camera. So I still think it's a necessity, and hope to see more of them do it in the future.
Now that you're coming into this franchise, three movies in, you're hitting the ground running and jumping on board this moving train for the first time. What was that experience like for you?
SW: Being a part of a franchise like this is a treat. As a filmmaker, when you've been in the action arena like myself for my whole career since I was 12, it's exciting to be a part of these action heroes. And to work with, obviously, Sylvester Stallone, the pioneer of the action genre, him and Arnold. So it was a thrill when I got the call that they wanted me to come over and direct.
What was your pitch when joining this franchise? Was it maybe a mix of that and your background as a stuntman that helped bring you aboard? What do you think?
SW: I was super humbled when they came to me and asked me if I wanted to direct. So I was like, "Wow. All right. I would love that." They're like, "Hey. Would you want to do 'Expendables 4'?" I was like, "Hell, yes." [laughs] So I think my background definitely lends to the franchise. And Sly's been wanting to work with me for ... ever since "Act of Valor," we've been trying to find something together to work with. So I think it was a natural fit, when that slot opened up.
SW: Yeah. I think back in the "Act of Valor" days, in frickin' 2012, was really my come-out as a director, as an action director. And just trying to put the audience in the boots of the stuff that I've seen in my current career, so they can see action from my lens, is exciting to me. And I feel like David and Chad, now coming out and doing their stuff the way they are, is really fantastic and really just getting more action filmmakers for the audience to really have the style of action elevated. And I feel like stuntmen are very fortunate enough to have seen it differently, so I'm glad that there's more opportunities happening.
With "Expendables 4," did any of the main cast surprise you with their willingness to do their own stunts? Was there anybody whose natural talent for it kind of blew you away on set?
SW: I think that it's incredible how talented these guys really are. You don't know if they're really getting a lot of stunt doubles coming in, making them look better than they are. But then, when I got on set, to see that Sly and Jason are still doing it, man [laughs], it's wild to watch. And Jason's a really incredible actor to watch fight. His style is really — as an action guy, I can say it this way: His style's beautiful. It's pretty to watch because he's so precise and his form is really powerful. So it's great designing fights for him, because you know he is going to make it look fantastic.
Not only is "Expendables 4" sort of being measured against the previous movies in this franchise, but in the almost decade since "Expendables 3" came out, you have franchises like "Mission: Impossible," "Fast & Furious," "John Wick," even a whole bunch of superhero movies that are sort of raising the bar of action in the years since. Was that ever a conscious thought in your mind when you approached this movie? And could you feel that pressure on set, when you're filming this and trying to bring these wild set pieces to life?
SW: I think that the interesting thing with "Expendables" is, it's still a grounded franchise. And the other features that you're talking about go beyond reality and really go to what I call sensationalism. And I think "Expendables" is not really into that category. They're really still just your hardcore, '80s-style action. And I think "Expendables 4" was all about staying true to that brand, not making it something that it's not. And I think it still has a lot of action, kicks a lot of ass, and we blow a lot of s*** up and it's still a hell of a lot of fun.
What was your general approach to keeping the set pieces and the choreography fresh this time around?
SW: Keep stuff moving. And I feel like that's the one thing I really wanted to do that was a little bit different. Most of the time, we ride in cool-ass vehicles, and we get out, and then we fight. And I'm like, "Well, how do we actually stay in the vehicles and keep fighting, where we never stop moving? Or get on a motorcycle and keep it spinning?" That was the one thing I tried to bring, to just, "Keep this thing hauling ass and taking names."
Was there room for improvisation on set during filming? You hear about other franchises where they're sort of making these movies up on the fly, it seems like, and are constantly in flux. I'm just curious what production was like during "Expendables 4."
SW: It's definitely a collaboration with those type of actors, right? It's really, you bring the choreography to the set, but you're also ... you've got great acting heroes, man. You want their involvement, right? So we would show them the fights and show them the action. I think it was really always this wonderful collaboration between myself and Jason and Sly.
I feel like I can honestly say I don't remember ever seeing a bike chase set on the deck of a moving ship before [laughs]. Were there any specific touchstones for inspiration that you looked to when it came to crafting these sorts of set pieces and action sequences?
SW: It's like you say, you want to do something fresh, right? You want to try to have the audience go, "Wow, man. I've never seen that before," right? So that was the impetus of, "Let's have a motorcycle chase on an aircraft carrier." And it's like, "What?" [laughs] "And mount some guns on it, at the same time," right? So in true "Expendables" fashion, that's kind of one of our little trademarks in the "Expendables 4," is this cool motorcycle chase on the ship.
Were there any sequences in particular that you read from the script and you just knew, in that moment, that you couldn't wait to bring it to life?
SW: You know, one of the things that's really difficult for me, as a filmmaker and a stuntman, is when I read action on the page, to be honest, I don't really read much of it. Because I just need to know where it starts and how it ends, and I'll use my imagination in how I actually bring them together and try to create something original. And I think that's usually why people hire me on to direct films: They know that I'm going to take the action and kind of ... I don't want to say throw out what the writer did, but normally it's a placeholder for me to get in there and try to come up with something fresh and new, and see what the location has to offer as well.
It's no secret that "Expendables 3" sort of broke from franchise tradition by going with a PG-13 rating. And even in the marketing for "Expendables 4," it seems like you've been really pumping up the fact that it's a hard R. Just watching it at the press screening, there were so many moments where the audience instinctively yelled during some of the more gnarly kills. Was that a conscious thought in your mind? Did you really want to push the envelope on what you could get away with in terms of violence?
SW: [laughs] 100%. My first question was, when they asked me if I wanted to direct it, I said, "Are we adhering to this PG-13, or can we go back to hard R?" And then, when they said, "No. 100% R," I was super excited, because I was like, "That's what the fans want in this franchise." So we could design visceral moments that, in your head, you think, Man, are we going too far? And then you're thinking, to myself, I think the audience is going to really love that. Fortunately, the audience response has been kind of classic because, exactly what you said, in moments that would pretty much gross most people out, there's been applause [laughs].
Did you ever get feedback that you maybe went a little too far and kind of had to pull back? Or how was it on the studio side of things?
SW: The beauty of this one, Millennium, the owners of the franchise with Lionsgate, they understand the brand, they understand what the audience wants, and they're not afraid to go there, so they never had to say, "Hey. That's a little too graphic. Can we pull it back?" There was never that discussion, which was liberating as a filmmaker.
SW: Yeah, my father was the original Spider-Man in '76. And when they asked my father and myself to come work on the Sam Raimi version, it was a lot of token appreciation for my father. And me, being his son, got to be there for that moment. To be honest [laughs], we didn't really do a hell of a whole lot on stunts on that show. We were there as just supporters and excited just to be a part of Spider-Man. But, I will say this: I hope one day I get to check that box and direct a Spider-Man, because that would just, that would make my whole world, man. So, maybe, one day.