As The Expendables 4, the final entry of the franchise whose USP was assembling yesteryear’s action movie icons together, releases worldwide this week, the burning question regarding its relevancy arises. To be honest, even die-hard fans of the series didn’t expect the release of yet another sequel after the completion of the trilogy, and considering how much production trouble this one has gone through, there was always a warning sign looming over its future. Adding to its misery was the gap between the previous movie and the latest one being nine years—a rather long period in an ever-evolving pop culture landscape that is bombarded with content every day. There was still an off chance for The Expendables 4 to prove the naysayers wrong, concluding the saga in a memorable manner, but unfortunately that didn’t come to pass.
The Expendables meanders around a totally drab and clichéd plotline of nuclear armament falling into the wrong hands, betrayals, and utilizes very B movie-type action sequences that ruin the legacy of the series. Having half of the series’ regular action icons like Schwarzenegger and Willis miss this venture makes the movie fall short in the fan service department, which could have been a saving grace for the flick, sealing its fate of disappearing in ignominy, a quiet sendoff for a quiet release.
A Tragic Loss: What New Mission Takes the Expendables to Libya?
As The Expendables 4 begins, viewers are taken to an abandoned chemical plant in Libya, where a warlord and his family are living at a fortified palace, protected by troops of soldiers. Seemingly out of nowhere, ruthless martial arts expert/mercenary Suarto Rahmat raids the location with his private military in search of nuclear warheads and acquires them by forcing the warlord into revealing the details by brutally killing his family in front of him.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, in New Orleans, the lead member duo of the Expendables, Barney and Christmas, get on with their usual banter regarding how Christmas’ love life with his girlfriend Gina (who is also a new member of the team) is in total shambles. Barney takes Christmas to the local bar, his favorite place to hang out, where the duo fights with a local gang to retrieve Barney’s favorite ring. With the morning chore finally over, they gear up and head towards the Expendables’ base to meet old members Toll Road, Gunner, and also some new ones. Galan, the son of former team member Galgo (and as annoyingly talkative as his father) and Easy Day, is supposedly the team’s new muscle.
The CIA agent and the team associate, Marsh, brings the team up to speed about the situation in Libya and assigns them to seize the nuclear warheads and detonator from Rahmat’s forces. Boarding their trusted steed, Grumman Albatross, the team travels to Libya and engages with Rahmat’s mercs. Barney stays in the plane to aid the team with aerial support while the rest of the team gets into a prolonged chase with the opposition on the ground. However, during the mission, the aircraft suffers damage, and Christmas disobeys Barney’s direct orders to pursue Rahmat in a desperate attempt to save Barney. Rahmat personally shoots down the plane afterwards, and the team finds out that Barney indeed perished in the crash, identifying his ring still affixed to his corpse.
Where Is Rahmat’s Nuclear Warhead Heading To?
The team mourns Barney’s loss and swears revenge on Rahmat. Christmas is broken, as Barney was like family to him, and like an elder brother, he always stood by him. However, soon Marsh and the rest of the team drop bomb on him in the form of excommunicating him from the team for insubordination, but especially for almost ‘ruining Barney’s sacrifice’—if that makes any sense at all. Marsh informs the rest of the team that Rahmat is working for an extremely elusive leader codenamed Ocelot, who was responsible for the deaths of Ross’ comrades almost two decades ago. Ross had tried to nab Ocelot for a long time and even helped the CIA capture his right-hand man, who can identify him if need be. At present, Rahmat is taking the warheads on a cargo ship through the South China Sea to reach Russia and plans to cause an international incident significant enough to result in World War III. Given the seriousness of the operation, Marsh joins the team, Gina replaces Christmas, and her friend Lash, a projectile weapon expert, joins as well.
Christmas tracks the team destination using the GPS navigation he attached with a knife he had previously given to Gina. The team infiltrates the cargo ship but got themselves captured in an ambush, as it seems an insider has been transmitting information to the opposition since the mission in Libya. Meanwhile, Christmas goes to Thailand and seeks help from Barney’s associate and former Expendables member Decha, who agrees to take him to his destined location after learning of his friend’s tragic fate.
Did Christmas And Co. Manage To Avert a Third World War?
Rahmat plans to exchange prisoners by contacting the CIA, and demanding the release of Ocelot’s right hand man in exchange for Marsh’s release. Christmas infiltrates the ship and notices that it is being disguised as an American craft, to ensure the nuclear detonation on Russian soil triggers a Third World War. Killing a bunch of mercs with proficiency, he soon finds himself cornered, and Decha comes to his aid by obliterating mercs left and right using superior blade and martial art skill. Soon the duo rescues the captive Expendables and engage in a firefight with Rahmat’s troop. Christmas gets into hand to hand combat with Rahmat, and after a prolonged battle, manages to stab him to death – thereby avenging Barney’s death.
Adhering to Rahmat’s demand, CIA sends the captive associate of Ocelot and a chopper to rescue Marsh out of the battle zone, and at that point of time it is revealed that Marsh himself is Ocelot, who planned the crisis strategically to profit from the eventual World War. During their battle, Toll Road gets stabbed by Rahmat’s right hand man, which prompts the team to retreat to attend to Toll Road’s wounds, and they board Decha’s boat to change their course. However, Christmas decides to stay on the cargo ship to ensure he can avert the global crisis, and turns the ship in the opposite direction. Marsh rallies the rest of his troops to flank Christmas – who prepares himself mentally for his inevitable death, but all of the remaining mercs get killed in a sudden air strike. With nothing left to lose and minutes to spare for the nuclear detonation, Marsh confronts Christmas in a final battle, but gets riddled when Barney flies in out of nowhere and attacks using an assault helicopter.
Barney rescues a dumbfounded Christmas and destroys the cargo ship to contain the nuclear explosion underwater in order to minimize the damage. As the duo fly away after successfully averting an international incident, Barney finally reveals the reason why he staged his fake death. He wanted to set a bait so that he could convince Ocelot to reveal his true identity to the world, and his plan eventually worked in favor of the team.
Will The Elite Mercs Return For Another Rodeo?
During The Expendables 4‘s ending, the team return to New Orleans and celebrate their latest victory at the bar, and Christmas can’t help asking Barney exactly how he faked his corpse as well. Barney states that he had put one of the gangbangers they confronted previously at his place in the cockpit, even leaving his ring with him to make the situation more convincing, and jumped off of the plane at the right moment before the crash. Christmas and Gina seem to have patched things up as well, and the team enjoys their fortune in high spirits.
Although the movie leaves possibilities for future adventures, this fourth entry is supposed to be the last time we see the team together, so it is highly unlikely that any more sequels are on the cards as of now. Adding to the injury, this lackluster entry is quite possibly the worst one of the saga, which curbs any possibility of a return as well. But in spin-off movies centered on individual characters, prequels can still happen, depending upon how much of a positive response The Expendables 4 manages to gather. Also, who knows, perhaps after a decade or so, new generation action stars will decide to remake the franchise, as is pretty commonplace for the industry nowadays.