Saturday, 9 March 2013

No.76 : The Professionals

The Professionals at the IMDb

This is gonna be great - a big screen adaptation of the adventures of Bodie, Doyle and that bloke off the Fine Fare ads. What? 1966 western ? Buggeration!

This film had passed me by despite its stellar cast but it is a lot of fun and well worth a look.

The film opens with small vignettes featuring four characters from the early 20th century wild west. Lee Marvin is making a living demonstrating machine guns to the army, another chap works on a horse ranch and shows he’s a good guy by beating up a horse abuser. Elsewhere a chap who looks like Virgil off the wrestling is collecting a bounty while Burt Lancaster is hopping out of a lady’s bed in his long johns as her husband appears.

They appear unconnected but soon we are in a box car with Lee Marvin who is being offered a contract along side the two who aren’t Burt. Ralph Bellman (the rich guy who isn’t Don Amiche’ off ‘Trading Places’) offers a fat reward if they can return his wife from kidnappers. The Mexican revolutionaries who have her want $100,00 and although Ralph has the cash he doesn’t trust the gringos to return his wife when payment is made.

He’s picked Lee as he used to ride with the revolutionaries and knows their leader Raza (a moustache twirling Jack Palance). He agrees $10k a head and asks for an explosives expert to be hired too. Of course the expert is Burt who, when his bail is paid, has once again lost his clothes.

The guys set off into the badlands of Mexico and within an hour they are at the Mexican’s camp with a cunning plan. Things are complicated when the ‘kidnapped’ wife seems quite happy in Raza’s clutches but they grab her all the same and set off on the long journey home. This is fraught with danger and it’s not clear who’ll survive or what will transpire at the showdown when the rewards are due. They are ‘Professionals’ right? Surely they’ll take the cash from the evil rich guy?

This was a fun two hours with wall to wall recognisable faces. The performances vary but Marvin and Lancaster are true stars who shine in every scene. Lancaster especially exudes charm and is happy to take the less glamorous but easily most fun role of the clothes shy Dolworth. Marvin exudes his usual quiet menace and Palance is fine although most of his dialogue is yelled in Spanish.

The film looks great in HD and is as sharp as something shot yesterday. The familiar red rock of Arizona never looked better and the action scenes are well staged with plenty of blood and bullets flying. The plot is a bit straightforward with the big surprise signalled as soon as the rescued  wife offer to tend someone’s wounds - she’s nice, you see. They do try to tack on some stuff about the morality of a hired gun and your debt to brothers in arms, but ultimately what you remember is loads of Mexicans getting shot off their horses.

The film doesn’t take itself too seriously and although you won’t learn much about the revolution you will have a good couple of hours in the company of some great, long lost talent. You couldn’t see Zac Efron doing this!

THE Tag Line - Professional Job All Round  75%

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