Last September, The Expendables 4 arrived in theaters, reviving the action franchise after a nearly-decade-long hiatus. However, this latest installment ended up being the worst-performing of the bunch, as not only was The Expendables 4 met with terrible reviews, it also only made a little over $50 million at the worldwide box office, an astounding decrease from The Expendables 3’s $214 million haul. There’s no denying that the 2023 movie release was a bomb, and Dolph Lundgren, one of its actors, has some pretty good ideas why this happened.
Lundgren reprised Gunner Jensen in The Expendables 4, once again performing alongside Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Randy Coture, as well as sharing screen time with newcomers like Megan Fox, 50 Cent and Tony Jaa. Unlike the previous three movies though, Stallone was not involved in any with The Expendables 4’s behind-the scenes process, and Lundgren thinks that, along with the director being replaced at the last minute, led to the movie failing to meet expectations. As the actor told ScreenRant when asked about the reactions to this latest Expendables chapter:
Yeah, that's a good question. I didn't read the reviews, because I kind of knew what they were gonna say. That project had issues from the beginning, and it usually starts with the script, it really didn't really have a good script. I'm not playing the lead, so it's hard for me to weigh in on some of those issues, but I know Stallone wasn't involved, like he usually is. He just played a character in it, and when he's in charge, the quality is going to be pretty good, it doesn't drop below a certain level. But he wasn't involved, so I think the problem was with the script, and then the director was replaced, like, a month before shooting.
So Dolph Lundgren knew full well The Expendables 4 wasn’t going to be a hit ahead of it being released to the public, which boiled down to him not caring for the script and recognizing that changing the director right before filming is about to begin can cause problems. Regarding that latter topic, originally The Man from Toronto’s Patrick Hughes was originally supposed to helm the project, but in August 2021, Need for Speed’s Scott Waugh replaced him, and cameras began rolling a month later. As for the former topic, while Stallone did briefly appear as Barney Ross in The Expendables 4, his involvement in the project was certainly a far cry from its predecessors, all of which he co-wrote, along with directing the first movie.
Lundgren continued by pointing out that The Expendables 4 not only suffered by having so few of the familiar faces from the previous movies return, but it also didn’t help that the new movie opened in the midst of both the writers strike and actors strike were still happening, meaning this action flick couldn’t be properly promoted. In his words:
So between those two things — it's hard to make a really good movie, and I also think that the originals, the first two especially, it was kind of about the team. It was about a team effort, and some of that got lost, so I was sad to see go that way. Because 50 was in it, he was great, and Megan Fox, they were all good assets. Also, the picture opened during the strike, which wasn't very clever, so they couldn't do any publicity. If you would have had a big star-studded premiere with Megan and 50 and Stallone and Statham, and the rest of them, myself, Andy Garcia, there would have been more eyeballs on it. And I'm sure it would have done better, but it's too bad. I was disappointed.
Because The Expendables 4 was such a critical and commercial dud, it’s hard to imagine The Expendables 5 being greenlit. To be fair, if you’re like our own Rich Knight, you may believe this is one of those long-running film series that should have ended two or three movies ago. Still, on the off chance another movie does move forward, Expendables fans should cross their fingers that there’s more working in its favor compared to this last one.
The Expendables 4 isn’t available on any streaming services, so you’ll need to buy or rent it if you’re keen to judge it for yourself. Dolph Lundgren can also be seen reprising Nereus in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, which is still playing in theaters. His latest movie, Wanted Man, hits select theaters and VOD starting January 17 on the 2024 movies calendar.