Friday, 5 April 2013

No.87 : The Revengers

The Revengers at the IMDb

I’m not sure that ‘revengers’ is a word, and certainly my spellchecker doesn’t think so, but if it is a made up word at least it’s one that tells you what to expect. Yes people seeking, if not always getting, some revenge - western style.

William Holden plays Mr Benedict, an ageing rancher who returns to his family after business away. He’s a firm but fair father and has brought presents for all. Things are looking up as the army has offered his son a place at West Point owing to Benedict being a Civil War hero. As you’d anticipate this five minutes of contented bliss is shattered when bandits kill all his family while he’s away hunting a mountain lion. The bad guys are mostly Indians but they also have two white men in their ranks, one of whom has a distinctive milky eye.

Benedict takes the time to bury the five murdered family members before setting off on a mission to kill all the men who have condemned him to lonely Christmas dinners. He gets some clues and realises that as the bad guys are holed up in a notorious trouble spot that he’ll need to hire some guns. Rather than go to a bar or other desperado hangout he heads to a prison camp where he recruits six colourful characters including Ernest Borgnine (last seen in ‘The Vikings’) and a German and a Frenchman. If this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke you are quicker on the uptake than me!

Our trusting hero kits his now fugitive felons in new clothes and gives them guns and horses. It is no surprise when they all bugger off apart from the loyal black chap, but for no obvious reason they all return the next day having drunk and spunked away all their cash. They are soon ready to launch an assault on the bad guys’ base and manage to infiltrate it with an unlikely ruse regarding empty boxes. They shoot the place up but old Milky Eye gets away.

Not one to give up, Benedict chases after his man and is soon followed by his petulant posse who show an unbelievable streak of loyalty. A montage shows a year passing with all our guys still together - the Milky Eye bandit must be the World Hide and Seek Champion at this rate! Things start to fray and after a shocking bar room showdown they go their separate ways. While Benedict recovers with an Oirish lovely, his men start to catch up over some red eye. Can a new tip lead them to their quarry and will revenge be best served extremely cold?

This was as straightforward a western as you can imagine. Benedict is set up as happy and then revenge driven in the first ten minutes, and after that it’s basically ‘The Fugitive’ in cowboy hats. The locations and cinematography were great but the characterisation was lacking with the main bad guy barely getting a word in during his couple of brief scenes. OK this was an exercise in assessing the benefits of revenge and what it can do to people, but when the final showdown appeared I doubt any watcher was urging Holden to pull the trigger.

There was one clumsy scene where an old friend catches up with Benedict a year into his quest and says he’s now a stranger to him. He also is repulsed by a bloodstained bottle and retreats into one of his own. I get it that a bloodlust isn’t necessarily a good thing, but the character’s struggles with his dilemma didn’t convince.

On a more positive note the posse of six prisoners was good fun and they were grotty enough to be a ‘dirty half dozen’. Their motivations were mixed and I liked the self interest of Borgnine’s Mr Hoop, the only one who seemed realistic,. The rest looked like they were hanging about as they’d nothing better to do apart from one who, in a pointless sub plot, thought he might be Benedict’s long lost son.

The final battle was well staged with plenty of explosions and people falling off horses, as you’d expect. The final confrontation didn’t surprise but neither did the film in general so at least it was consistent!

Best Bit : Translator works from Hungarian phrasebook  64%

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