Expend4bles sees the titular team attempting to stop a terrorist organisation from igniting conflict between the US and Russia.
It’s a simple premise, with no ambitions beyond facilitating action scenes, but Expend4bles fails to clear even this low bar with its phenomenally weak script. Puerile, mean-spirited and misogynistic, it’s tremendously difficult to form any sort of emotional attachment to anything that unfolds onscreen. There are no character arcs and nothing that even remotely looks like a narrative, and the writing is so insecure about itself that every piece of dialogue is excruciating to sit through.
One thing Expend4bles does have is jokes, which it has in spades, but tragically it doesn’t understand that jokes need to be funny. It’s almost impressive how the film fumbles every attempt at comedy – in defiance of probability, the script cannot even accidentally trip over a punchline.
One of the franchise’s primary storytelling gimmicks is its considerable star power, and this entry is no exception: returning stars include Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Dolph Lundgren, with newcomers including Megan Fox, Tony Jaa and 50 Cent. Expend4bles boasts some great actors – performers with presence and charisma, who have sometimes carried entire films – but the movie gives them absolutely nothing to work with, squandering the considerable talent at its disposal.
All of these sins could be pardoned if they were compensated by fun stunts or interesting set pieces, but Expend4bles even fails on this front. None of its action is memorable or engaging; dispassionately shot and barely choreographed, with CGI so bad it occasionally looks like videogame footage, and definitely not worth the price of admission that is the movie’s writing.
Action movies often get a bad rap, and a film that lacks narrative substance can still be enjoyable if there’s enough pageantry, creativity or even just enough sheer enthusiasm behind it. Expend4bles has none of those things and offers nothing to replace them. It’s miserable and dull, not even having the good grace to be funny-bad for an ironic watch.
To make matters worse, there is a wealth of other, readily accessible films that outshine this one so comprehensively that there is no reason for even the most forgiving audience member to indulge in this movie. In short, Expend4bles is, appropriately enough, completely and utterly expendable – as a piece of cinema, as a piece of art, even as just a distraction.
Expend4bles is released nationwide on 22nd September 2023.
Watch the trailer for Expend4bles here: