When “The Expendables 3” landed with more of a whimper than a bang at the box office, there were extenuating circumstances. Three weeks before it hit theaters, a high-quality version of the movie was leaked in its entirety on movie pirate websites, and had been downloaded by an estimated 5.12 million people by the end of its opening weekend. Though Lionsgate didn’t comment on the impact of the leak publicly, Variety reported at the time that studio executives were privately pointing the finger at piracy for stealing away potential ticket sales.
Sylvester Stallone, meanwhile, pointed his finger at the movie’s PG-13 rating, which was a step into gentler territory after the R rating of the first two entries. The actor didn’t hold back in an interview with Crave Online, saying that the lower rating was “a horrible miscalculation on everyone’s part in trying to reach a wider audience but in doing such, diminish the violence that the audience expects. I’m quite certain it won’t happen again.”
Sure enough, the trailer for “The Expendables 4” was very emphatic about the fact that the fourth movie was R-rated. As in, the entire trailer was built around bragging about the rating and implicitly apologizing for “The Expendables 3” being PG-13. “WE HEARD YOU” the intercut text shouted, quoting random tweets from people asking for more violence before announcing “THEY A[R]E BACK.”
The impact was somewhat spoiled by most of the R-rated violence in the trailer consisting of unconvincing CGI blood splatter. But perhaps a bigger problem for “Expend4bles” this weekend is that it promised to scratch an itch that other movies are already scratching.