The Expendables 4: It’s Absolutely Terrible

I love “The Expendables.” Ever since the first film, I’ve embraced the series as a fun popcorn flick completely devoid of reality. It’s a fun, over-the-top throwback to the 80s and early 90s action movies. The films have this optimistic quality to them. Sure, lots of nameless villains are dead, but go, team! The Expendables are super soldiers, but the films portray them as grounded, often silly, people.

I don’t expect these movies to be moving, emotional rollercoasters, or worthy of awards. I want to see “The Expendables” for fun. However, “The Expendables 4” isn’t fun. It’s absolutely terrible. I can’t write this without spoiling the movie because it’s absolutely insane they thought this would be a follow-up to a fun action series. If you don’t want spoilers, leave now, but trust me, it doesn’t even matter.

The Expendables 4 — What the hell happened?

First off, this movie might be evidence of the crime of embezzlement. How did they spend $100 million on this movie? They spent the same amount of money on “The Expendables 3,” which, while weak for the series, looked fine and was great. This film looks like crap. The sets look cheap, and the vast majority of the movie takes place on a bland-looking cargo ship.

stallone poster
Sadly, Stallone is not in the movie much. (Lionsgate)

Some of the sets are just terrible green screens that don’t make sense. For example, in the beginning, two characters go to a bar. It’s clearly a set, but in some scenes, they use a green screen for a bar. WHY? In another scene, Dolph Lundgren separates from the team to provide sniper support. He runs towards a hill….and that hill is CGI/green screen. They couldn’t find a small hill?

All of the green screens are terrible. The CGI is also terrible. I’m not exaggerating when I say the graphics look like they come from a PS2 video game. Or maybe a PS3 on a good day. It’s Sci-Fi channel-level effects. Like Sharknado-level effects. Where did the budget go?

The Action

The action is atrocious and very boring for most of the parts. We get shaky cam like it’s 2010 again, which is a shame because this film brings Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais to the series! Tony faces off with tons of tons of thugs and Uwais fights Statham, but the fights are stilted and hard to see. Why would you bring those two masters of martial arts and stunt work and not even have them fight each other? Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais put in great work but are sadly underused.

man walking with weapons
They waste this man’s talent. (Lionsgate)

The gunplay is boring as hell for 99% of the movie. I don’t need realism in this film, but the gunplay in this film boils down to pointing a gun, followed by a fire burst — and that’s it. Outside of a few scenes with Tony Jaa doing Gun fu, the action is so freaking boring.

The only strong point I really remember is the silly motorbike scene. It’s a dirt bike chase on a cargo ship. It’s a neat idea, and there is some over-the-top coolness to it that does strike the level of cheese we expect from an “Expendables” film.

The Cast of Expendables 4

The cast is part of the series’ charm. It brought back the old guys from action movies we love. “The Expendables 4” fails to recognize that, and we lose the greatness of the cast. We don’t see Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Wesley Snipes, Van Damme, and worst of all, we barely see Sylvester Stallone.

new guys expendables 4
The team is full of new guys. (Lionsgate)

Seriously, he’s in it for about five minutes total — more or less a cameo. “The Expendables” is his baby, but he’s nowhere to be seen, and I see why. It’s terrible. Stallone fires one shot, and the majority of his appearance in the movie is sitting in a cockpit.

We even lose some of the better members of the cast, like Terry Crews. We do get a few new Expendables. 50 Cent joins as Ez Day, Jacob Scipio as Galan, Megan Fox as Gina, and we get Levy Tran as Lash. None of these actors are really action movie stars, but we need new blood, right? Not really, because they don’t do anything and aren’t very memorable.

A New Leader

For some reason, Gina is the leader of the team. She’s seemingly brand new but now leads the team after Barney dies and Statham is fired. Why is she the leader? It’s never explained. 50 Cent has a few quips, but really does nothing in the movie. The same could be said for Lash. She just pops up, and we accept that. Scipion, as Galan, is the only one that stands out. He’s silly, fun, and charismatic. He gets used well and stands out.

Gunnar with rifle
Gunnar has a prescription scope, one of the few jokes I giggled at. (Lionsgate)

The acting sucks, like way worse than you’d expect. It’s like most of the actors are reading cue cards. There is no life, charisma, or effort outside of Statham, Scipio, Jaa, and Uwais. Outside of those actors, the performances are mostly lifeless. Couture tries, but he’s an MMA fighter, not an actor.

Oh, and Gunnar, a recovering alcoholic, is struggling. For fun, he breaks sobriety and drinks a flask full of booze. The consequence? He’s a better fighter and shooter. Also, Barney kills an innocent man. His crime? He expected Barney to live up to his side of a bet.

The John Wick Effect

The action really suffers from the fact that “John Wick” exists. I call it the “John Wick effect.” Those movies put so much effort into their action that it makes anything lesser even worse. You can’t get away with minimum effort anymore. The problem with “The Expendables 4” is they put no effort into the action. Point the gun at the target, fire a burst, and repeat over and over. It’s just boring. Sometimes, we have some cool martial arts scenes, but they are sadly few and far between. Statham puts in some real work, and I’ll appreciate it, but he deserves better!

50 cent on a 50 caliber
50 Cent on a 50 cal is an interesting mix. (Lionsgate)

The Expendables, as a team, suck once Barney is dead and Statham is fired. They all get captured without firing a single shot. Statham’s character is a one-man wrecking crew who never once needs a team to back him.

Guns and Gear

What about the guns and gear? “The Expendables” movies were pretty big on hero weapons — guns that stand out for our heroes. Terry Crews had the AA-12, Stallone had the Single Action Army, Li had an F2000 Carbine, and the list goes on. Even when the crew uses generic rifles, they are decked out Noveske Diplomats.

“The Expendables 4” uses boring rifles. They use some AR-15 variants with Hera furniture from the Tomorrow War. They wear ACOGs, and sometimes ACOGs and red dots. We see lots of AKs, Glocks, and one Tavor, and what appears to be a Benelli series shotgun. Outside of Christmas using his knives, the hero guns are gone. One highlight is Uwais and his Chiappa Rhino. It’s the only gun that stands out.

The gear is all crappy nylon stuff from the 1980s. I don’t need them to use modern Crye plate carriers, but why are they all adorned with tons of empty pouches and cheap web gear? Sadly, the guns and gear are as boring as the movie.

“The Expendables 4” is a terrible movie. It’s a disappointing ending to a fun and silly film series.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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