Expendables team

Review by C.J. Bunce

What you want to see in a giant ensemble movie is probably different than what you’d expect to see in any other movie.  Above all, you’re probably after sheer entertainment—whatever that means to you—and you’d likely judge the movie using a different standard than what you’d expect to see in the next Academy Award nominee for Best Picture.  These ensemble movies are plentiful enough today that they deserve their own sub-genre in the “Action” tab on streaming Netflix or Amazon Prime (what used to be the “Action” aisle in Blockbuster or Movies To Go).

We’re talking about those movies that crammed in every star that could be found, showcases where studios would show off their current talent, but always big in scope and always a box office draw.  A comedy like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World!, disaster movies like Airport ’76, Earthquake, and The Towering Inferno, epic Western films like The Magnificent Seven and How the West Was Won, and biblical efforts like The Greatest Story Ever Told.  Each offered some of the best stars of the day, sometimes full of current stars, sometimes full of has-been stars.

Expendables Ford and Stallone

The Avengers franchise seems to have turned around the ensemble film with its many lead actors in leading roles, or at least reinvented the sub-genre, but they still don’t have the sheer volume as past ensemble cast films.  The Avengers suffers like many past efforts—with so many actors, how can you please every movie watcher with so little time to devote to each actor?  Ultimately it’s all about finding a good balance.  None of these films ever get a nod for filmmaking perfection, and many would hardly even rate a 5 on a 10 star scale, but that doesn’t mean they don’t often result in good, old fashioned entertainment.  Which brings us to The Expendables 3.

Remember the joke about Rambo, The Terminator, The Transporter, Zorro, Jack Ryan, and Mad Max walking into a bar?  Probably not.  It would probably not be that funny.  But it would be fun to see.  It’s that visual that is enough to make The Expendables 3 work.

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