Fool me once shame on me, fool me four times then maybe I should stop having hope. The Expendables on paper should be one of the biggest action franchises ever. The first instalment starred some of the biggest action stars of all time like Stallone, Statham, Li, and Lundgren. But this franchise has been products of their time and not fun and exciting call-backs to classic 80’s action flicks. The first two are filled with shaky cam, CG blood, and containing more shades of grey than a 50 Shades film. If you had a bingo card featuring the worst aspects of modern action cinema you would have bingo by the mid-way point of the second film. But we are living in a post John Wick and The Raid world. A world where colourfully and vibrant cinematography runs wild and quick-cut editing is only a fleeting memory. So, in a way, I hoped The Expendables 4 would change course and set this franchise on the right track. In mere minutes though, my hopes were crushed in front of my view eyes.
Following the titular Expendables who are tasked with stopping Saurto Rahamt from smuggling a nuclear weapon to Russia that would start a war between the US and Russia. I will start with the positives; in theory, the plot should be cool. Most of the film takes place on a cargo ship that is made to look like a US aircraft carrier. The isolated and small setting should be a call back to similar films like Die Hard, Air Force One and The Raid. Instead, we get a film that I felt never really embraced this single location plot and is just window dressing to allow the film’s plot to carry on. It doesn’t help that the plot is as boring as a slice of bread. It had the potential to be a simple yet entertaining story but from the very opening, the plot is hampered by bizarre editing choices which edit events not in chronological order without informing the audience, so it creates this feeling of whiplash as you start watching the initial action scene to cut straight into showing off how sexy Stallone’s Chopper is.
Speaking of Stallone, he and the cast do an okay job. No one is bad but you can tell that no one was going out of their way to put in their best work. Statham is the best member of the cast, but I could not tell you if that’s because he was good or because he had the most screen time. The biggest disappointment was Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais, these are two of the best martial arts stars in the entire world and their scenes do not showcase their skills to their full potential. Even if it did the cinematography and the editing of the action just led to a film that had me squinting my eyes as I could not see what was happening during the action. The camera was too close, the editing was too quick, and it led to a film that has action that was duller than a knife with no edge.
I wish this film was more like John Wick and I am not talking in terms of the style of action what I mean is when it comes to cinematography and editing. John Wick Chapter 4 is colourful and beautifully framed with every shot and is edited to showcase its action and drama perfectly. The Expendables 4 has none of that the film while not as grey as the previous films. The film has no shot that stood out nor paced and edited together In a way to kept me on the edge of my seat. Simply put the only thing that isn’t stale and poorly made is where they put the 4 in the title.