Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Professionals ★★★ 1/2

    The old west is full of exciting tales involving gunfights, whiskey, and beautiful women in distress. "The Professionals" is a 1966 western film that includes all of these aspects and much more in a delighting fashion. This film is based on the 1964 novel entitled A Mule for the Marquesa, which was written by Frank O'Rourke. Nominated for three Academy Awards and featuring an all-star cast, "The Professionals" is a film that will linger with you for years to come.

    This western begins with a short montage of the four "specialists" that will be the centerpiece of the plot. There is a weapons expert, a horse wrangler, a scouter and expert tracker, and, lastly, a master of explosives. The hirer, J.W. Grant, is a rich Texas rancher who has nowhere else to turn except to these four men. His wife has been taken captive by a Mexican outlaw named Jesus Raza. The mission is to travel into the unforgiving and wretched Mexican desert to obtain the location of Raza's hideout and bring Mrs. Grant back home safely. This task will prove most dangerous, and, ultimately, everything is not what it seems to be between Mr. Grant and his blushing bride.

    "The Professionals" features one of the most entertaining ensemble casts I've ever seen in a western film. Henry "Rico" Farden, the weapons expert, is played by the most talented Lee Marvin. Marvin is genuine in this role of an ex-soldier who now makes a living by instructing militias in weapons training. (Earning a measly forty dollars per week.) When given the opportunity to earn a "big score" from Mr. Grant, Farden becomes the leader of this group of professionals and will stay true to his word. The secondary leader to this group of men, recommended to Mr. Grant by Farden, is the explosives expert Bill Dolworth. Now, Dolworth is played by the ever youthful Burt Lancaster. He is a notorious ladies man who served with "Rico" a few years back. Additionally, he is fearless in his line of work and is very tempted by money and the lure of beautiful women. In recent years, Lancaster has personally become one of my most cherished actors, and it is easy to see why. Lancaster is a natural performer with a voice that any radio personality would kill for. He works well with his environment here and is truly a pleasure to watch.

    Other notable performances include Jack Palance as Jesus Raza and the most luscious Claudia Cardinale as Mrs. Grant. Palance is a seasoned, veteran actor who brings a sense of dignity to the role of a Mexican bandit. (It is difficult to even recognize Palance under a coat of dark toned make-up and with him fluently speaking Spanish.) Claudia Cardinale is an Italian actress who is as talented as she is beautiful; Cardinale brings a certain spark and an air of humility to this male-dominated cast of characters.

    If you have not previously had an interest in the western genre of films, then this film will give you a reason to engage it. "The Professionals" will excite you from scene to scene and will leave you wanting more. Richard Brooks lends his hand to the direction and to the writing of the adapted screenplay, both of which earned him Academy Award nominations. Splendid scenery and your typical western musical scores accentuate this film in a respectable manner; however, this picture is made by the performances. Lancaster and Marvin are the pulse and livelihood of this movie. A masterpiece will be unmatched in direction, cinematography, and script. Unfortunately for this film, the performances outshine these essential components. "Amigo, we've been had."

No comments:

Post a Comment