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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Scott Waugh
scr Kurt Wimmer, Tad Daggerhart, Max Adams
prd Yariv Lerner, Jason Statham, Kevin King Templeton, Les Weldon
with Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Andy Garcia, Iko Uwais, Megan Fox, Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa, Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson, Randy Couture, Jacob Scipio, Levy Tran, Lucy Newman Williams
release US/UK 22.Sep.23
23/US Lionsgate 1h43
Is it streaming?
Almost a decade after part 3, old and new faces gather for another slice of pointless action. The script is flimsier than ever, never bothering to create characters while only barely connecting random fight and stunt sequences. And director Scott Waugh fumbles these with too-close camerawork that's edited choppily. But there's a certain nutty charm to the gung-ho cast, as they unapologetically dive into increasingly corny mayhem.
When ruthless baddie Rahmat (Uwais) violently attacks a weapons warehouse in Libya, the Expendables fly into action. But the mission goes awry, and Rahmat gets away with a nuclear device. CIA boss Marsh (Garcia) sacks Christmas (Statham) for breaking rules, sending out a new team headed by his girlfriend Gina (Fox). So Christmas tracks down rogue teammate Decha (Jaa), and they all rendezvous on a cargo ship sailing into Russian waters with an armed nuke. And in addition to finding Rahmat, the team is looking for the mythical Ocelot, nemesis of veteran colleague Barney (Stallone).
Each person is established with precisely one characteristic, eliminating all nuance. Dialog is bluntly expository, a series of plot details punctuated with barbed banter as these mercenaries relentlessly tease each other. At least this lightens the tone as dozens of faceless goons are dispatched in digital sprays of blood. Even the settings are simplistic, moving from Northern Africa's sand to a ship somewhere off Asia's east coast, with regrouping moments in New Orleans in between.
Even with limited screen time, Stallone casts a long shadow over the film, holding everything together with a running joke about his enormous skull ring. He has terrific father-son chemistry with Statham, who brings his usual snarky attitude and bristles especially against the feisty, over-groomed Fox. Garcia gets to merrily chomp on scenery, Lundgren has enjoyable nonsense of his own, and Scipio is amusing as annoying hot youngster Galan. Meanwhile, Uwais and Jaa blast terrific physical skills into their scenes.
Startlingly violent confrontations are sytikingly choreographed whenever Waugh allows us to see what's going on. A climactic fight between Statham and Uwais has terrific energy, and Jaa is always great, even if his engagingly offbeat character gets lost in the crowd. There's never a moment when we wonder what might happen here, so we can just smile at things like a gravity-defying motorbike chase on a ship. If the filmmakers had made it look good, or provided something we could identify with, this might have been a guilty pleasure.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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