Expend4bles is a sequel so dire you’ll feel that even Sylvester Stallone deserved better

Sylvester Stallone in Expend4bles
Sylvester Stallone in Expend4bles

The director of the new Expendables film was one Scott Waugh – but in fairness, the job was never going to go to a Scott Peace. A former stunt performer in 1990s action titles like Last Action Hero and Speed, Waugh is just the sort of person you’d hope might have been able to lick Sylvester Stallone’s now flabby and bumbling action franchise back into shape. Sadly, though, this fourth instalment might as well have been directed by a shoe on the end of a broom handle, and finds the gang at their most clodhoppingly unwatchable to date.

For the unwary viewer, two missions await. The first is in Libya – at “Gaddafi’s old chemical plant,” no less – during which Stallone, Jason Statham and friends pretend to drive armoured vehicles around in front of a green screen and bellow “GEDD THUH DEDDONAYDAHS” at each other until everything has exploded.

The second is on a cargo freighter chugging gloomily through Russian waters, and on which the detonators – sorry, THUH DEDDONAYDAHS – have been wired to a nuclear bomb, which has been primed to go off in the middle of the Arctic Ocean and trigger World War Three, for uncertain reasons. Everyone keeps yelling in this part too, and the line delivery is so relentlessly gruff that if you close your eyes, you could almost be listening to a carpenter taking it in turns to saw through six different planks of wood.

Who could be the shadowy mastermind behind this scheme? Well, the film presents us with a roster of one possible suspect, who claims he’s done it for an unthinkably vast sum of money – although given he’s also on the boat where the bomb is, it’s unclear when he thought he was going to spend it.

It’s a sad state of affairs when you feel a screenplay hasn’t managed to capitalise on the acting talents of Sylvester Stallone. It’s a frankly terrifying one, however, when you could say the same thing vis-à-vis 50 Cent. The rapper/human shipping container plays Easy Day, one of a number of new recruits to Stallone’s mercenary squad, and is required to do almost nothing apart from fire a machine gun while roaring and occasionally look confused at something another Expendable has said.

50 Cent in Expend4bles
50 Cent in Expend4bles

The main addition to the team, though, is Megan Fox’s Gina – the girlfriend of Statham’s Lee Christmas, who’s been a stalwart presence since the first (pretty good) one of these things came along in 2010. Statham and Fox share a certain Poundland Mr and Mrs Smith chemistry that’s quite a lot of fun, so naturally after giving them a few minutes together, the script keeps them apart for most of the rest of the film. Mind you, it’s hard to say if Statham was ever in the same room as any of his cast-mates: most of his action scenes are solo, every other backdrop looks digitally airbrushed in, and when the team go drinking in an American biker bar, attentive viewers may note the tequila bottle on Statham’s table for one has a UK duty stamp on the side.

How can it be possible that nine years have passed since the previous instalment, yet every facet of this one feels so woefully first-draft? Expend4bles: wh4t a lo4d of cr4p.

15 cert, 103 min. In cinemas from Friday Sept 22