Rahmat (Iko Uwais) is no joke. Not only will he shoot the child, but he will also steal the nuclear detonator. And all with a smile on your face, an arsenal at hand, a private army within reach… and money from a mysterious client. Before a supervillain’s unleashed will trigger World War III, igniting a conflict between the Yankees and the Russians, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) will have to stretch his bones, assemble a team and reach for shooting toys. Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) – a friend to the grave and an ideological heir – will extend a kind fist to the old man. The visually impaired sniper and alcoholic Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), Toll “Cauliflower Ear” Road (Randy Couture), known from the old guard, and Dech (Tony Jaa) – who is agile enough to put your cat to shame – will also help. The mission will be supervised by tailor Marsh (Andy Garcia), and eventually there will also be room for debutants with the faces of rappers (50 Cent) and the figures of sexy models (Megan Fox, Levy Tran).
Could this be a generational passing of the baton? More like a random casting. Although the “Expendables” series was never great cinema, its advantages were faces identical to the genre, not completely flabby biceps and the ability to use them in neatly staged action solos. The growing network of wrinkles on the faces of Reagan-era stars did not belie the elitism of the cast – feeding us equal parts over-steroided masculinity and “ejtis” nostalgia. The ass kicking specialists did it with grace, the peasants were like oak trees tearing doors off their hinges, and the lone wolves didn’t spare ammunition. The limits of their body determined the limits of their world, and the limits of their language determined the next one-liner. Just enough? So much.
“The Expendables 4” is a mix of unsurprising patterns (mission impossible, assembling the team, revenge after many years) that despises the thinking audience. Three clearly tired screenwriters incorporated sentiments about the legacy of their comrades in arms and self-ironic insertions about the aging of the body into the old-school genre. The relatively interesting leading duo (Statham-Stallone) are accompanied by conventional background figures for whom more than one feature is definitely too much. The exhibitions of individual tough guys are longer than the fights in which they could individually fight for the viewers’ hearts. However, when they attempt this, invisible miracles happen on the screen: digital effects remind us of the late 1990s, and our aesthetic feelings are offended by the ubiquitous green screen.
The backgrounds of the chases are blurred, the sea waves and blood explosions suffer from pixelation, and the choreography, shot in maximum close-up, instead of hiding it, reminds us of the actors’ age. There are three exceptions: Statham, Uwais and Jaa bring some life to this retirement home and supermodel catwalk, but their waving of white weapons has been filmed more than once or twice. There is no tension here and the stakes are very conventional. In Scott Waugh’s film, even the one-line retorts, a hallmark of this type of cinema, are missed; even though they know their place in the script, they are still waiting for a refinement that will never come. Violence? The return to the R rating means explosions of cartoonish red before a sharp edit, rather than a thrill of satisfaction for viewers craving old-school bloodshed.
As a result, nostalgia has disappeared and it’s hard to find the strength to feel sentimental. All that’s left is bad cinema. Bad cinema about a box office heist. Don’t get robbed.
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