Oct 28, 2023

Assessing the Expendables Franchise Through Key Metrics

Now that "Expend4bles" has completed its theatrical run, let's analyze the data outlining key metrics for each installment in The Expendables franchise. These metrics span global box office earnings, IMDb ratings, Cinemascores, Metascores, and Rotten Tomatoes ratings.

The data paints a clear picture of The Expendables franchise experiencing a decline across multiple dimensions after the 2nd movie.

On the other hand, the evaluation across box office success, critical acclaim, viewer ratings, and audience scores reveals a clear zenith within The Expendables series— "The Expendables 2." With its global box office dominance, positive reception from both critics and audiences, and superior ratings, it stands tall as the epitome of the franchise. It's unfortunate that the subsequent installments didn't capitalize on its success and failed to surpass it. 

Oct 8, 2023

Oct 5, 2023

Still impressive numbers!

Worlwide box office:

EX1 --- $274,470,394

EX2 --- $314,975,955

EX3 --- $214,657,577

EX4 ---   $60,992,723



Oct 4, 2023

"The Expendables Hellbent" - Updated Plot

A clandestine nemesis from Barney (Sylvester Stallone) and Trench's (Arnold Schwarzenegger) past resurfaces, setting off a deadly game of deception. As the CIA and MI6 unwittingly pit Barney's and Trench's teams against each other in pursuit of the elusive villain, personal vendettas and explosive revelations threaten to tear them apart. In a final reckoning, loyalties are tested, alliances shattered, and sacrifices made in the shadows of justice.

Opening Act:

The film opens with a flashback, shedding light on a mission from Barney and Trench's earlier years led by the charismatic and enigmatic Alexander Havoc (Steven Seagal). Utilizing de-aging technology, younger versions of Barney, Trench, Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), and Doc (Wesley Snipes) execute a covert operation under Havoc's leadership. The screen fades in, revealing a covert operation in a dense, rain-soaked jungle.

The jungle comes alive with the sounds of unseen creatures as Barney, Trench, Stonebanks, Doc, and Havoc move like shadows through the dense foliage. Their objective, a hidden enemy base, looms ahead, shrouded in darkness. Rain pours relentlessly, adding to the ominous atmosphere.

Barney leads the way, his eyes sharp, senses heightened. He signals the team to spread out as they approach the perimeter. Suddenly, a sentry turns, sensing a presence. Without hesitation, Barney moves in with lethal precision, swiftly taking down the unsuspecting guard with a silent, efficient strike. The team advances, maintaining their cover.

Trench, a hulking figure, moves like a silent juggernaut through the undergrowth. His combat knife glints in the moonlight as he dispatches two guards with swift, powerful blows. The enemies fall before they can even sound an alarm. Trench's imposing presence keeps the rest of the guards at bay.

Stonebanks utilizes his strategic mind, surveying the area for potential threats. His suppressed weapon fires with deadly accuracy, eliminating threats from a distance. His movements are calculated, leaving no room for error. Stonebanks signals to the team that the path is clear, but tension lingers.

Doc, a master of close-quarters combat, moves like a phantom through the shadows. Unarmed, he relies on his speed and agility, incapacitating enemies with lightning-fast strikes. His movements are a dance, a deadly ballet that leaves adversaries crumpled on the ground.

Havoc, the enigmatic leader, takes a vantage point, surveying the surroundings. His eyes, weathered by experience, miss nothing. His silenced pistol barks in the night, taking out threats with surgical precision. Havoc's calm demeanor contrasts with the chaos unfolding around them.

As the team infiltrates deeper into the base, they encounter a larger group of enemy soldiers. A fierce firefight ensues. Barney takes cover behind a crate, exchanging gunfire with the enemy. His movements are tactical, precise. Each shot finds its mark. The jungle echoes with the staccato rhythm of gunfire.

Trench, the powerhouse, charges forward, mowing down enemies with his heavy machine gun. His presence intimidates the remaining foes, creating chaos in their ranks. Bullets fly, and Trench's unrelenting assault keeps the enemy pinned down.

Stonebanks, using his sniper skills, targets enemy commanders, destabilizing their leadership. His shots are like thunder, disrupting the cohesion of the opposing force. The enemies scramble, disoriented and desperate.

Doc, using his agility, weaves through the battlefield like a phantom. His knife dances in his hands, dispatching foes with precision. He moves seamlessly between cover, leaving confusion in his wake.

Havoc, with his silenced pistol, picks off enemies who stray too close. His movements are deliberate, ensuring that no threat goes unnoticed. His calm amidst the storm is a testament to his seasoned expertise.

The team, a well-oiled machine, pushes deeper into enemy territory. The enemies, desperate and enraged, mount a counterattack. In the midst of the chaos, a sniper's bullet rings out. Havoc is struck, his body collapsing without a sound. The team freezes, the rain falling harder as the reality of Havoc's fall sets in. The mysterious assassin remains hidden, their mission taking a tragic turn.

The aftermath of the failed mission unfolds in a dimly lit, smoke-filled room where the team confronts Trench accusing him of failing to protect Havoc.

Havoc's death becomes a haunting specter over the team, leading to Trench's departure. The sense of betrayal and loss lingers, setting the stage for a vendetta that will resurface years later. Barney and Stonebanks decide to form their own team called The Expendables, haunted by the unresolved quest to uncover the identity of Havoc's killer.

Act 2: Shadows Resurface

In the dimly lit, smoke-filled war room of the Expendables' secret headquarters, Christmas (Jason Statham) huddles with Toll Road (Randy Couture), Gunnar (Dolph Lundgren), Doc, Galgo (Antonio Banderas), and Fury (Maggie Q). The air is thick with anticipation as they await the unfolding mission details.

Christmas, now the de facto leader, faces a screen projecting the stern visage of MI6's Myles (Liam Neeson). His gravelly voice cuts through the room, "Expendables, MI6 has identified Tartan Mauve (Keanu Reeves) as the mastermind behind a series of devastating attacks and killings of numerous MI6 agents. His henchmen, Cobra (Joe Manganiello) and Viper (Alan Ritchson), are lethal adversaries. Your mission is to eliminate them and neutralize the threat they pose to global security."

As Myles outlines the mission parameters, the room buzzes with discussions among the team. Toll Road expresses concerns about the formidable reputation of Tartan's henchmen. Gunnar, his towering presence casting a shadow over the room, grunts in agreement, emphasizing the need for a strategic approach.

Doc, ever the pragmatic one, dissects the available intelligence, raising questions about the nature of Tartan's operations. Galgo, the wildcard of the team, chimes in with his signature humor, injecting a momentary levity amidst the tension. Fury, the silent but deadly sniper, observes the proceedings with a keen eye, her focus unwavering.

Meanwhile, in a high-tech CIA briefing room, Trench and his team receive their own set of directives. Mr. X (Kurt Russel), a seasoned CIA operative, briefs them on the situation. Bulldog (Michael Dudikoff), a seasoned tactician, absorbs the details with a sharp focus. Specter (Jackie Chan), Trench's second in command, the martial arts maestro, listens intently, his calm demeanor belying the storm of capabilities beneath the surface.

Wraith (Carl Weathers), the former boxer turned elite operative, studies the maps and potential conflict zones with a discerning eye. Phantom (Lorenzo Lamas), with his martial arts background, silently absorbs the information, readying himself for the challenges ahead.

The discussions between Trench and the CIA operative delve into the intricacies of the mission. Bulldog, drawing on years of tactical expertise, proposes a multi-pronged approach to catch Tartan off guard. Specter, a man of few words, expresses the need for precision and finesse in dealing with the henchmen.

As the mission plans solidify, a holographic map of Tartan's potential location materializes in the center of the room. The teams, though miles apart, are synchronized in their resolve. Trench's team, driven by duty and loyalty, prepares to engage the enemy head-on.

Back in the Expendables' war room, Christmas addresses his team, "We might not have the backing of governments, but we've got each other. Let's do what we do best – hunt down the bad guys." The team nods in unison, a silent understanding passing between them.

The CIA and MI6 had unwittingly set in motion a deadly game, pitting two elite teams against a common enemy. As the Expendables and Trench's team gear up for the impending mission, the shadows of their shared past cast long over their present, hinting at a reckoning yet to unfold in the shadows of justice.

Act 3: The Deadly Confrontation

Christmas's team, on the trail of Tartan Mauve, inadvertently stumbles upon Trench's team in the heart of a dark and desolate urban landscape. The atmosphere is tense, with the air thickened by the mutual distrust between the two teams. Christmas leads the charge, flanked by Toll Road, the unpredictable Galgo, the fierce Fury, and Doc. On the other side, Trench stands firm with his team - Bulldog, Specter, Wraith , and Phantom.

The setting is a labyrinthine urban battleground, where shadows play tricks on the eyes and every alley holds the potential for an ambush. As Christmas's team cautiously advances, weapons at the ready, Trench's team emerges from the darkness, creating a standoff under flickering streetlights.

The tension escalates, reaching a breaking point when Wraith, in a moment of confusion, misidentifies Toll Road as an imminent threat. The urban silence is shattered by the discharge of weapons, and Toll Road, the towering and robust member of Christmas's team, takes the hit. His body, once an imposing force, crumples to the ground.

The echoes of gunfire fade as Christmas rushes to Toll Road's side. The anguish on Christmas's face is palpable as he cradles his fallen comrade, realizing the tragic error that has transpired.

In the aftermath of the tragic incident, emotions run high. Grief and misunderstanding grip Christmas, who, fueled by a desire for vengeance, firmly believes that Trench and his team are colluding with Tartan Mauve.

As the two teams reluctantly disengage from their encounter, the stage is set for a fierce vendetta, where personal emotions will intertwine with the larger mission to bring down Tartan Mauve and uncover the truth behind the conspiracy that has torn the two teams apart.

Act 4: Unraveling Deceptions

In the aftermath of Toll Road's fall, Barney decides to come out of retirement and help Christmas avenge their fallen brother. The atmosphere in the Expendables' war room is tense as Barney sifts through a trove of classified documents, attempting to connect the dots that had remained elusive for years. The flickering light of the overhead projector casts an ethereal glow on his furrowed brow.

Christmas, the current leader of the Expendables, paces the room, his eyes reflecting a mix of anticipation and concern. "Barney," he calls out, breaking the silence. "What are we looking at?"

Barney looks up, his gaze intense. "Havoc, Trench, the past – it's all connected. Tartan is just a pawn in a much larger game."

The holographic screen displays a web of connections, linking past missions, betrayals, and the enigmatic figure of Alexander Havoc. Barney narrates the story of that ill-fated mission led by Havoc, the subsequent betrayal, and Trench's expulsion.

As the pieces fall into place, Christmas's expression shifts from curiosity to realization. "So, Trench has been on a quest for justice all this time, and we never knew."

Barney nods, a weight lifted off his shoulders as the truth unfolds. "We've been played, Christmas. Tartan is the tip of the iceberg. The real enemy has been manipulating us from the shadows."

The revelation hangs in the air, the gravity of the situation sinking in. Christmas, understanding the depth of the deception, speaks, "We need Trench. We can't face this threat divided."

Meanwhile, across the city, Trench and his team are going through a similar process of revelation. Bulldog, Specter, Wraith, and Phantom gathered in a secure location, studying Trench's findings. The truth about the past unfolds, revealing the machinations that had torn them apart.

Trench's stern expression betrays a mix of anger and remorse. "We've been dancing to someone else's tune for too long," he declares.

Specter, usually reserved, breaks his silence. "Barney and Christmas – they need to know. We can't face this alone."

The decision is made, setting the stage for a meeting that would redefine alliances. The Expendables and Trench's team converge in a neutral location, a dimly lit warehouse with shadows stretching across the walls.

Barney and Christmas face Trench and his team. The air crackles with tension, memories of past grievances hanging heavy. Barney speaks first, "We've been enemies for too long. Tartan is using us to settle old scores."

Trench, his eyes narrowing, listens. Christmas steps forward, "We unite, or we fall."

A reluctant agreement echoes through the warehouse. The Expendables and Trench's team, once at odds, now stand together against a common foe. The layers of deception have unraveled, revealing a truth that demands a united front.

As they prepare for the climactic showdown with Tartan, the air resonates with a newfound sense of camaraderie. The Expendables are no longer just a team; they are a brotherhood, bound by shared history and a determination to face the shadows of justice head-on.

Act 5: A Hero's Farewell

In a grand finale, all teams converge on Tartan's clandestine lair. The battle is intense, exacting casualties on both sides. The cavernous lair reverberates with the deafening symphony of chaos as the teams converge on Tartan's stronghold. The intermittent flickering lights cast eerie shadows, outlining the battle-hardened faces of Christmas, Barney, Trench, and the remaining Expendables. The air is thick with tension, charged with the weight of vendettas and the pursuit of justice.

As the battle rages on, tragedy befalls the Expendables. Gunnar, the towering powerhouse, sacrifices himself to save his comrades. In a blaze of glory, he charges into a group of enemy soldiers, taking down several before succumbing to overwhelming odds.

Wraith fights valiantly against Tartan's forces. Despite his resilience, he is eventually overwhelmed and falls, his powerful punches silenced in the chaos of battle.

Bulldog leads a tactical assault against a fortified position. In the heat of the firefight, he is tragically struck down, a casualty of the relentless war they find themselves in.

Tartan Mauve, flanked by his henchmen Cobra and Viper, emerges as a relentless force. His movements are a deadly dance, calculated and precise.

Specter engages Cobra in a display of martial arts mastery. Their bodies move with astonishing speed and agility, each strike a testament to years of disciplined training. The clash of fists and kicks creates a visual spectacle, a dance of combat that leaves both warriors breathless.

On another front, Christmas faces off against Viper in a confrontation that blends speed with precision. Viper's agility is matched only by Christmas's tactical brilliance. The battle between them is a flurry of movements, a choreography of strikes and counters that keeps the outcome uncertain.

Barney and Trench, driven by vengeance and united in purpose, confront Tartan together. However, Tartan's combat skills prove unmatched. With swift and calculated moves, he incapacitates both seasoned warriors, leaving them sprawled on the cold, unforgiving ground. His confidence stands as a testament to his martial prowess.

Undeterred by initial setbacks, Specter and Christmas intensify their fights against the henchmen. Specter's martial arts expertise gains the upper hand against Cobra, his strikes landing with surgical precision. Simultaneously, Christmas, with tactical brilliance, outmaneuvers Viper, turning the tide of the battle in their favor.

Renewed determination courses through all the remaining combatants. The battleground transforms into a chaotic spectacle of hand-to-hand combat. Specter and Christmas, working seamlessly as a team, neutralize Cobra and Viper, isolating Tartan.

In a final confrontation, Christmas and Specter engage Tartan. Blows are exchanged in a relentless dance of combat. Tartan weakens under the combined assault, creating an opening for a daring move.

Barney, awakening from the ground, seizes the opportunity. In a moment of self-sacrifice, he grapples with Tartan, and both adversaries tumble off the elevated platform. The descent into the abyss becomes a symbolic act, sealing the fate of those entangled in the shadows of justice.

The battle concludes with the resounding echoes of gunfire fading away. The lair, now eerily silent, bears witness to the sacrifices made in the relentless pursuit of justice. The remaining Expendables stand amidst fallen comrades, their faces etched with the gravity of loss.

As the surviving members regroup, Trench, battered but unbowed, gazes at the spot where Barney vanished. The legacy of the Expendables endures, carried by those who remain. The memory of their fallen comrades becomes a solemn vow, ensuring that the Expendables, like the legends before them, will live on. The shadows of justice cast long, echoing through the corridors of time.

Closing Act: A Last Toast

In the aftermath of the intense showdown with Tartan Mauve and his forces, the surviving members of the Expendables gather in their usual dimly lit bar. The air is heavy with the weight of loss, the memories of fallen comrades lingering.

Christmas takes a moment to raise a glass, the clinking sound echoing in the solemn space. The camaraderie that once filled the room now carries a bittersweet undertone. The faces around the table reflect a mixture of sorrow, respect, and determination.

The bar, a sanctuary for warriors, bears witness to the passing of legends. The absence of Barney, Gunnar, Toll Road is palpable. Their sacrifices are honored in the silence that envelops the room.

Christmas, the de facto leader, speaks with a voice that carries the weight of their shared history. "To those we've lost, to the legends who carved a path before us. They'll always be a part of the Expendables."

As glasses are raised, a montage of memories flickers through the minds of the remaining team members. Each fallen comrade is remembered for their unique contributions, their strengths, and the indomitable spirit that defined them.

Fury, her sniper's eye now glistening with unshed tears, offers a silent nod in remembrance of her fallen brothers. Doc raises his glass with a quiet solemnity, acknowledging the harsh realities of their chosen path.

Galgo injects a momentary spark of humor, recounting anecdotes of their fallen comrades with a mixture of laughter and melancholy. Toll Road's absence is particularly felt, his towering presence now replaced by an empty space.

The bar, once a witness to celebrations and victories, now becomes a sanctuary for mourning and reflection. The Expendables, though battered and scarred, endure. Their legacy lives on in the memories of those who dared to challenge the shadows of justice.

Amidst the melancholy, Christmas renews a vow, "We keep moving forward. We fight for justice, for each other. The Expendables endure, no matter what."

The final scene fades out with the remaining team members, silhouetted against the dim lights of the bar, raising their glasses in a final toast to the fallen. The shadows of justice may cast long, but the Expendables, undeterred, carry the torch forward, ensuring that their legend endures through time.

Oct 2, 2023

This is what EXPEND4BLES really stands for: the four OGs of the series!

Very quick (like very quick) photoshop on my mobile but for me this is what EX4 was all about. The four core members of the series!

Sep 28, 2023

Reviving The Expendables: Keys to Explosive Success

The Expendables franchise has solidified itself as the embodiment of classic action cinema, blending iconic action stars, explosive set pieces, and a dash of nostalgia. With four films already in the rearview mirror, the burning question remains: What elements are necessary to propel a potential fifth Expendables movie to greatness if it ever gets made? This exploration delves into the components that could breathe new life into the franchise, drawing inspiration from past successes and addressing prior shortcomings.

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

A persistent request from fans since "The Expendables 3" has been the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger with his own team. This addition could breathe new life into the franchise by incorporating B-movie action actors like Michael Dudikoff, Lorenzo Lamas, Carl Weathers, Michael Jai White, and others. These actors bring a nostalgic charm that complements the existing ensemble.

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, Alan Ritchson or Joe Manganiello 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."

Effective Villains

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.

Katheryn Winnick: Known for her role in the TV series "Vikings,"
she brings a compelling combination of combat skills, acting talent, and fan appeal that could make her a strong and exciting addition to the Expendables team. Her inclusion could contribute to the franchise's evolution and appeal to a wider audience.

Maggie Q: Known for her roles in action-packed TV series like "Nikita" and films like "Mission: Impossible III," Maggie Q has a strong background in martial arts and could contribute both in terms of action and character depth.

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.

Nostalgic Callbacks

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

EX4 Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, October 1

Expend4bles is supposed to finish its theatrical run this weekend at the North American box-office at $14,300,000. At this rate the movie might finish below $20M before going digital on Oct 13.

Throwback: EX reviews by Outlaw Vern

The very cool reviews of THE EXPENDABLES franchise by Outlaw Vern.









Expend4bles: Why It Failed with Critics and Audiences

"Expend4bles," the fourth installment in the iconic "Expendables" franchise, was highly anticipated by its fans, promising a high-octane thrill ride featuring a star-studded ensemble cast. However, as we dissect the film's shortcomings, it becomes evident why "Expend4bles" failed to strike a chord with both critics and audiences alike.

A Dull and Repetitive Formula:

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.

Expend4bles’ VOD Release Date Revealed

The VOD release date for ‘Expend4bles‘ has been revealed. The film will become available on digital HD platforms like Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play Movies & TV on October 13, 2023. Additionally, the film’s DVD, 4K UHD, and Blu-ray releases are scheduled for December 2023.

This is not a good sign for the movie to go online less than a month after opening in North America.

Source: Maxblizz

Sep 26, 2023

Expendables 5: A Risky Gamble or a Potential Redemption?

The "Expendables" franchise, once hailed as a nostalgic action fan's dream come true, seems to be at a crossroads after the lukewarm reception of its fourth installment, "Expend4bles." Let's explore the possibility of an "Expendables 5" movie, and analyze whether it's a risky gamble or a potential redemption for the series.

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."

The Potential:

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.
Directorial Vision: Choosing a director with a clear vision for the franchise can make a significant difference. They should understand what makes "Expendables" unique and have the skills to elevate the material.

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.

Nine reasons EXPEND4BLES bombed at the box office despite $800M franchise history

Sep 25, 2023

JoBlo Interviews Scott Waugh on the cast, future, and more!

‘Expend4bles’ Signals the End of the Elderly Action Hero - By RollingStone

The latest entry from Sylvester Stallone’s franchise — and recent action movies starring actors of a certain age — is a reminder that nothing last forever. Not even multiplex staples

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.
Assuming that Cruise can only outrun Father Time for so long (a bet we’re still reluctant to take), we may be finally nearing the end of the AARP-age action-hero era. The novelty of, say, seeing Helen Mirren man a Gatling gun in something like Red is long gone, even if she’s still game to grace the Fast & Furious series and burn rubber. Reeves and Washington, both of whom can still handle their own elaborate, close-contact fight scenes onscreen like guys half their ages, have said they’re done with their respective franchises. You spend part of your time watching Dial of Destiny in awe of how Ford can still do those Indiana Jones set pieces and the other part worrying about him breaking a hip. Given the diminishing returns of his last few thrillers, we feel like Neeson should consider retiring from the genre and focus on playing conflicted, gravelly-voiced men in other types of moving pictures. The news of Willis being diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia — and that he was showing symptoms even as he was being trotted out in cut-rate shoot-’em-ups — served as a reminder to many of us that movies make stars immortal, but it doesn’t prevent them from being human.

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.

Source: RollingStone

Expend4bles: Vern's Reviews - Lots of Spoilers!!

EXPEND4BLES is the official title, not just the internet nickname, for the fourth EXPENDABLES movie. It’s hard to believe that this series has now been going for 13 years – the first one is as old as COP LAND, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA AND AMERICA, THE PEACEKEEPER, THE JACKAL, BATMAN & ROBIN and DOUBLE TEAM were when it came out. So most of us have long since given up on our dream of what we thought an all-star team up of iconic action stars could or should be. THE EXPENDABLES was never a return to the glory days of ’80s and ‘90s action, always hamstringing itself with misguided attempts to appeal to some other audience. It was never an amplification of the stars’ powers, as they had to work so hard to fit them all in that most of them didn’t get a chance to shine. And it was never the action genre at its best, as the scripts were never focused enough, they were often too winky, with jokes that were so basic they arguably don’t even count as jokes, and even the one Stallone directed had him trying to fake some bullshit modern style instead of do what he did best.

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 [2015], EXTRACTION [2015]), 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.