BY CLAIRE FARROW
This film review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.
So no one did indeed tell you that life would be this way–that you’d go broke seeing Expendables 4: Exfriendables. It’s the reunion peice you never thought you would want, but it’s the piece you need. Forget the ‘80s rehash of has-been macho stars, and bring on the lovable ‘90s. That’s right; the Friends cast is back in the latest installment of The Expendables franchise, and they’re better than ever. Just when you thought they had walked into the proverbial sunset, Hollywood crafts a story of what happened after the Friends all moved away and on with their lives.
It’s the classic Friends story narrative, just with more guns, explosions and curse words. But in this film it’s more than your love life that’s DOA.
As the film opens, we see how their lives have evolved from where season 10 left them. Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Monica (Courteney Cox) are living the perfect life in the suburbs with their pre-teen twins. Joey (Matt LeBlanc) has moved out to LA and is finally a famous star after he landed the lead role in the hit show Series playing an over-the-top version of himself. Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and Ross (David Schwimmer) are still together, but have found that their often contested relationship needs to be balanced by frequent breaks. However, they still make an effort to be a family as they raise the now-teenage Emma. Phoebe and Mike live quiet lives. They all still keep in touch and make an annual trip to meet at Central Perk.
This year, however, Phoebe is missing, something that makes all of the friends worried and concerned. When they go to surprise her at her home, they find a distraught Mike, who hasn’t seen Phoebe for days. As the friends draw up a plan to search for her, they all receive a message from the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis). He informs them that if they take on a mission, they will find Phoebe. The mission–to take out an environmental terrorist cell’s unknown leader and prevent them from blowing up Grand Central Station. Clearly confused, the friends wonder why they have been chosen for such a task. That is, until Chandler takes charge. He leads them back to Central Perk’s basement, where we and the friends finally learn what Chandler did for a living–a trained killer for hire. Now, it is his task to train the rest of the group.
The humor and heart of this film comes from when Chandler begins the training. His biting sarcasm is as sharp as ever. And of course, since Ross and Rachel have an incessant need to make their relationship bleed into everything the group does, constant ridiculous arguing and slapstick training mishaps slows down the team’s progress. But what is an even more delightful treat is how everyone easily develops their own skillset. Monica discovers a knack for explosives, Joey for languages, Ross for martial arts, and Rachel for firearms. Chandler’s expertise lies mainly with computers.
After a hilarious and thrilling training montage, the team is ready to put a stop to the terrorist ring. However, in an unexpected twist, they discover the leader of the cell is Pheobe. The team now faces a difficult choice–save the world, or their friend. In the heart-pumping, action-packed, and bickering-filled climax, the team is discovered and attacked by the cell. The friends are able to decimate the terrorists, leaving only Phoebe alive. The team confronts her, demanding an explanation. Phoebe then reveals that the team had it all wrong–she was planning an attack to release all the animals from the Central Park Zoo, and the guns were to protect the animals from the people.
Relieved that their friend isn’t a cold-blooded killer, the friends now wonder again why they were selected for this mission. It is at this point that the original Expendables team comes into play. In an epic final battle scene, the Friends defeat the Expendables team.
Upon returning to their normal lives, they each receive a payment from Mr. Church and a personal thank-you for taking out the Expendables.
What’s great about this film is the writer’s knack for infusing a constant nostalgia while seamlessly bringing these beloved characters into a new environment. The story and writing is brilliant, and deftly weaves both old and new into the film. In terms of any future mashup films in the works, if they are as well done as Exfriendables it’s safe to say they are welcome.
Claire Farrow can be reached at email@example.com.