Monday, 24 June 2024

‘Expend4bles’ at an end; ‘Kevin Costner’s The West’ on TV




‘EXPEND4LES’ Rated R

Panned almost universally by any critic with a pulse, “Expend4bles,” the fourth installment of the Sylvester Stallone franchise makes no excuses for being what it has always been, namely a B-movie action thriller that cares little about plot and character development.

Given the critical disdain, it seemed almost irresistible to see for oneself how lacking it might be, or is it just a case of reviewers running with the pack mentality, lest one’s cred be irreparably damaged?

What fans of the “Expendables” series are interested to know is whether Stallone, along with Jason Statham and the rest of the gang (there are some new members) are delivering mindless entertainment with a heavy dose of gunplay and explosions.

The answer to the question is that the action, though practically nonstop, is so generic that one’s mind may drift to other better films. With Statham’s Lee Christmas killing an endless army of goons with ease, he risks being little more than an emulator of Keanu Reeves’ John Wick.

In all fairness to Statham, who is usually more than workmanlike in his body of action picture endeavors, his character is the glue holding the exploits together, even when he operates with only the help of retired Thai Special Forces operative Decha (Tony Jaa).

The plot, such as it is, involves the Expendables on a mission to retrieve nuclear detonators that might be used by international arms dealer Rahmat (Iko Uwais) to trigger World War III, but for inexplicable reasons.

Stallone’s Barney Ross remains the senior leader of a team that includes veterans Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll Road (Randy Couture), whose cauliflower ear is still a subject of derisive banter.

With Mr. Church no longer available, stepping in as CIA honcho is Andy Garcia’s Marsh, who is now in charge of orchestrating who goes where and how on the mission.

Newcomers to the team of avenging mercenaries include Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, underused as a former Marine; Jacob Scipio as Galan, the son of former Expendable Galgo (Antonio Banderas); and sassy Lash (Levy Tran), a tattooed ninja with unique skills.

The leading female role goes to Megan Fox’s Gina, who is dressed in either lingerie or stylish clothes as if she was a guest on a Kardashian reality show. But she’s a tough cookie – just ask her lover Lee Christmas after a stormy tryst.

At least, Lundgren’s Gunner remains a crazy mercenary who always carries some weird baggage with him. He’s trying to stop drinking, though he seems unable to shoot straight when sober.

Even if some fans may have tired of this genre, “Expend4bles” is nothing more or less than a diversion. With massive gunplay and explosions, there are no pretensions of cleverness.

In the final analysis, the best way to look at this last chapter is with low expectations and to wait until it’s on a streaming service. Take “Expend4bles” for what it is – some wisecracks and an excess of fight scenes that lack the style and punch of the “John Wick” franchise.

‘KEVIN COSTNER’S THE WEST’ ON THE HISTORY CHANNEL

In his varied career, Kevin Costner has been successful in several film genres, and as of late, he’s had a good run with the “Yellowstone” TV series, a dramatic Western about a ranching family in Montana.

Costner’s first foray into television was the “Hatfields & McCoys” on the History Channel, and that is where he is scheduled to return in the future as the host of “Kevin Costner’s The West,” an eight-episode documentary series.

This original program intends to transcend the cliches and myths of the “Wild West” and from a myriad of perspectives capture the spirit of opportunity, adventure and peril through the untold stories that defined the era and continue to shape our country today.

“I am in love with history. I love the rich, heroic and harrowing stories of the West. The people and their stories have always held a fascination for me, but there’s an urgency today to put those times and the men and women who we think we know in perspective,” said Costner.

According to legendary biographer and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, an executive producer for the series, “Kevin Costner’s body of work on the American West has defined him as one of the finest storytellers of this genre and our time.”

Told through extraordinary characters, historical archives, and distinguished expert interviews, “Kevin Costner’s The West” will capture a portrait of the American frontier from the literal trailblazers to the law enforcers and the bloody battles for both land and freedom.

“Kevin Costner’s The West” will mark the History Channel’s fourth overall project with Doris Kearns Goodwin, who produced the 2022 docudrama “Abraham Lincoln,” the five-hours event “Teddy Roosevelt,” and this year’s “FDR” miniseries.

With the strikes that shutdown production for television and film in Hollywood, the release date of the documentary remains uncertain as does its title. “Kevin Costner’s The West” is a working title until further notice.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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