The new trailer for “Expend4bles” kicks off with a voice reading off a few tweets from folks begging that this fourth installment be R-rated, which of course the trailer then delivers in spades: Blood, gore, beheadings, the implication of sex and the usual ultraviolence are the order of the day.
You can’t say Lionsgate didn’t learn their lesson from the last time.
In a bid to win over younger audiences, the third Sylvester Stallone/Jason Statham “Expendables” film got edited to a PG-13. The designation turned off the older fans who might have otherwise indulged, and the kids had no interest in seeing their parents’ favorite action heroes saving the day. In August of 2014, the youngins opted for “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
“Expendables 3” earned just $215 million worldwide on a $100 million budget. That was well below the $288 million total of the 2010 original and the $315 million finish for the 2012 sequel.
Nine years later, Lionsgate has another installment. Statham gets top billing and Stallone may — second billing aside — play a smaller role. Megan Fox joins 14 years after “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “Jennifer’s Body” made her a world-famous sex symbol. It might be just in time to bank on generational reclamation of her status as a woman done wrong by the press.
Meanwhile, franchise vets Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture are joined by franchise newbies Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Jacob Scipio, Levy Tran and Andy Garcia. Those who walked out of “Furious 7” mourning its lack of a Statham/Jaa showdown may get their wish.
There are no signs of the deluge of big-name stars who popped up throughout the first three, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Jet Li, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford and Wesley Snipes.
Fair or not, “Expend4bles” is an example of how even commercial failure isn’t always the end of a franchise. No franchise can die when studios and shareholders want IP and known properties no matter what. “The Expendables” was a franchise that just barely did the job a decade ago. That was when the idea of veteran action stars all appearing in the same movie was a unique idea. It was also just before streaming started pulling the casual moviegoer away from theaters.
The first three films evoked nostalgia for the 1980s action spectaculars like “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” “Commando” and “Invasion U.S.A.” This sequel will also flirt with invoking nostalgia for its former glory in the early 2010s as well. “Expend4bles,” directed by Scott Waugh, opens globally in theaters on September 22.
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