Aug 28, 2020

EX4, 10 years after EX1

Less than 2 weeks ago many fans, news outlets, and stars of the Expendables franchise celebrated the tenth anniversary (yes, already ...) of the first movie in the series of what has now become the hallmark of the 80’s action genre revival featuring some of the most badass icons of the action movies. You would think a fourth and maybe even a fifth film would already be part of your DVD collection, but the very chaotic production and management of this franchise has made its future very uncertain ...

Just ten years ago, on August 18, 2010, The Expendables was released. Sylvester Stallone as the mastermind behind the idea revived an old dream that those who grew up with Action Heroes of the 1980s - early 1990s were still cherishing in their subconscious. Bringing together the badass actors of this generation in one single film, and adding some new faces. In three installments, released in barely four years, from 2010 to 2014, we have seen an authentic Who's Who of the action movies: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, JCVD, Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, Mel Gibson, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Harrison Ford, Eric Roberts, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Scott Adkins...

Unfortunately EX3 buried the franchise. The desperate attempt by the movie to attract a younger audience, this latest in the series was released aiming for a PG-13 rating, and a clearly watered-down level of violence, adding new faces to the EX team that veteran fans could not identify with. The global Box Office numbers were not kind to the fatal mistakes made by some out-of-touch producers, and the final result was not pretty: barely $ 206 million including the big market of China that couldn't even save the film’s honor.

Despite the dramatic results of the 3rd movie the producers announced in 2015 an Expendables 4. A release date was even penciled in: 2017, with filming to kick off in 2016. In December of the same year, The Hollywood Reporter announced that the fourth installment of the action star packed saga would be now aiming for a 2018 release, and supposed to be the last chapter of the franchise. "We will do our best, but I believe we are headed in the right direction. We have good ideas, and I think everyone is expecting something different, and that's what we're going to do, "Sly clarified in early January 2017.

Three months later, in April 2017, it's the cold shower: Sylvester Stallone exits his own franchise due a radical disagreement with Millenium, embodied by the producer Avi Lerner. Apparently the two men could only agree on 95% of the project, but Lerner didn’t think it was over. “In my opinion, it's not dead" declares the producer.

In the wake of this shattering departure, our favorite Arny adds a layer just a few days after the shocking announcement: no question for him to show up if his old accomplice and ex-rival from the 80's is no longer on board. "There is no Expendables without Sly. I would never make the film without him, no way," he told Entertainment Weekly. And the bodybuilder star, playing Trench in the franchise, continues: "I haven't read the script for the fourth film. I don't even know if there is a script, even if they want to shoot again in August, as they usually do. "

For Arnold to play in The Expendables 4, Stallone will need to be in, but also his character needs to be better written than in the third film. "I have told them that I would never do another one if the story is not written well for me."

A year after having slammed the door because of artistic differences, Stallone backpedaled and returned to the franchise. In March 2018, Randy Couture, omnipresent throughout the franchise, tried to reassure impatient fans by informing that the filming of EX4 was to begin in summer 2018, and take place in Bulgaria: "Currently, we plan to start the filming in August and I hope we can meet the deadlines. It looks like we will be going back to Bulgaria which is exciting.” said the former UFC champion.

End of June 2018, a new drama. This time, one of the main characters of the franchise, Terry Crews, announces his departure from The Expendables 4. Having filed a complaint against his ex agent for sexual assault at a party in 2016, the actor told his story in front of the US Senate. During his speech, where he notably encouraged men to break taboos to end the silence that surrounds the sexual harassment issue, he revealed to have left the production of Expendables 4 following threats of retaliation from producer Avi Lerner. The latter would have demanded that Crews abandoned his prosecution if he wanted to keep his role in the 4th movie. Not wanting to give in to the threat, the actor decided to leave the franchise.

What about the summer 2018 production then? Nothing more than a wet firecracker... In July 2019, a year later, Stallone announced on his Instagram account that he was starting to "cook up" the next episode of the action franchise: "All those July 4th fireworks made me think! I'm starting to cook up the next adventure!". The trouble is that still at that time, apart from Sly, EX4 had neither a confirmed official cast, nor even a prospective director ...

In October 2019 Randy Couture, him again, lets some news of the project out in interviews on YouTube where he confirms that the script was sent to him a month prior. That he thinks it has the potential to be the best movie yet in the series. Production was scheduled to start in fall but was postponed to spring 2020. He further confirms that Toll Road is back and so is the old gang.

Maybe not so foolish this time Randy, since Lerner confirms in January 2020 in an interview at a festival honoring his achievement (despite all his faults, have to admit he has given us the EX franchise) that filming is set to start in May and the main cast is back including Sly, Statham, Lundgren, Banderas and Arnold for a “part”.

Since then, the covid-19 pandemic has ravaged Hollywood and movie production, with the catastrophic consequences that we know... it’s worth noting that Sly has not said a word anymore about the project in a year. At the rate things are going, and in view of the current situation, still very uncertain, EX4 looks more and more like a ship without a crew on board.

What if, at the end, this was one boxing match too many? Not sure that the audience is still so receptive and in the mood for this franchise after so many years have passed since the last movie. It may be time to move on, especially since Captain Sly is not getting any younger and still prioritizing his personal projects over EX4. At 74 years old, it's going to be complicated in the years to come to keep playing the lead in an all-star action movie. Rumor has it that EX4 was all about passing the torch to Statham and Sly was supposed to take a back seat. Unfortunately, we may never find that out…

Aug 7, 2020

EX4 In The Time Of Corona

It's been a while, well since the Corona Lockdown...

We are now living in an alternate universe where movies may not get made again any time soon. And then there is EX4 which I believe will not be made any more unless a miracle vaccine shows up in a few months and puts an end to COVID-19. Otherwise given the current circumstances (the huge production line-ups, Covid restrictions, Sly being older, scheduling conflicts, etc), EX4 has a very little chance of being made any time soon or ever.

All that being said, for fans who are still remaining optimistic and hopeful, Avi was actually planning to start filming EX4 in May this year but things got derailed due to COVID-19. 

According to this interview he gave back in January at a tiny film festival, he confirms very assertively that EX4 was definitely moving ahead in May. This was in January and then we entered a parallel universe in March where EX4 doesn't exist anymore. 

But don't lose your optimism since a Spanish distributor has even gone as far as publishing EX4 on their website of upcoming films in 2022!! They probably know more than we do, right? Didn't a German distributor announce EX4 like 2-3 years ago and made it sound like a done deal, hmmm.

Patrick Hughes back to directing with the core cast of EX3 (Sly, Statham, Banderas & Lundgren). Avi must have a secret studio under earth where you can make an action movie isolated from the Coronavirus. You never know, this guy has always had a few tricks under his sleeves. Until then, stay safe and healthy.