In “Expend4ables,” the thoroughly disposable fourth entry in the turgid “Expendables” franchise, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson plays the newest member of the musclebound group of mercenary brutes.
“Is this the new guy?” is how 50’s character, Easy Day, is introduced as he saunters across the floor of a giant airplane hangar as the gang is loading up its weapons and preparing for its next mission. And that is all we get on him: nothing about his background, who he is, why he’s called Easy Day, how he found this giant airplane hangar or why he’s even there. He’s just the new guy. Nothing else to see here, moving on.
That’s “Expend4ables,” a movie that’s so unnecessary it doesn’t even bother coming up with characters, let alone motivations or backstories for those characters. This is a dumb-as-rocks exercise in violence and stupidity, which represents a low for a franchise that was already scraping the bottom of the barrel, and it’s on the very short list of candidates for the year’s worst movie.
The first “Expendables” was released in 2010 and was kind of a catch-all for aging action stars who were past their glory years but were still down to explode some stuff. Led by Sylvester Stallone, the movie featured Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke and more, along with Jason Statham, who never met a franchise he could turn down.
Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme jumped on board in the 2012 sequel, and Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford and Wesley Snipes enlisted for 2014’s “Expendables 3.” You get the picture. But the “Expendables” movies never made an impression beyond their cast lists and were so tossed off they never left any sort of cultural mark; you could say Bill Clinton was in the third movie and no one would really remember. (“Yeah, that sounds right?”)
Now along comes “Expend4ables” and yeah, 50 Cent is on board because he fits the profile: big arms, middle aged, looks good toting a machine gun. This time around, Barney (Stallone) and Lee (Statham) are leading a mission to stop a guy from securing some detonators, because movies like this are always about stopping a guy from securing some detonators.
Megan Fox plays Lee’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Gina, and the way she’s handled when she shows up on screen leads the audience to believe we have some sort of previous relationship to her. (We don’t, this is her first “Expendables” movie.) Lundgren is back as Gunner, who’s locked in a losing battle with sobriety and is struggling to perform at his usual high level because of it. Andy Garcia plays a CIA agent who hires the Expendables for a highly secretive operation, off the books, blah blah blah.
There’s not much more to it than that, except to say the entire enterprise is cheap, mean-spirited and juvenile, not to mention lugheaded and emotionally vacant. It’s directed by Scott Waugh (2014’s “Need for Speed”) and features some truly unmemorable CGI work to match its clunky fight scenes and hapless action choreography. Even the scenes where there isn’t machine gun fire or explosions — which are few — are charmless and witless, and the movie eradicates the one interesting choice it makes (no spoilers, it’s not worth it) by tossing it back in viewers’ faces. It’s a movie that truly, maddeningly lives up to its franchise name.
MPA rating: R (for strong/bloody violence throughout, language and sexual material)
Running time: 103 minutes
Where to watch: in theaters