A blog about movies and filmmaking.

The Professionals

In western on February 19, 2010 at 10:26 am

I have to admit there’s been a number of times that I’ve come across THE PROFESSIONALS, as an option to watch. But, for whatever reason, I always chose to go with something else. A decision that I now have to question myself over, as this movie is awesome! It crosses THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN with CHINATOWN, and then add THE SEARCHERS, THE ALAMO and even 300; to become a western that might not be as potent as favorites like UNFORGIVEN and HIGH NOON. but is pretty damn epic.

The movie stars Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Woody Strode, Robert Ryan, Claudia Cardinale, Jack Palance, and finally, Ralph Bellamy. It starts off with a flurry of introductions to each character; where we learn what each of their personalities are like in the tiniest of moments. Marvin is a hard-core military man; Lancaster likes the ladies; Strode is tough as nails and can handle himself; and Ryan likes horses. Bellamy’s character brings them all together for a mission. They’re to go to Mexico to return his kidnapped wife (Cardinale), who has been abducted by the villainous – and former colleague of Marvin and Lancaster’s – Jesus Raza (Palance). The men set off, determined to return for the bounty of $10,000 each – quite the sum in the post-Mexican Revolution times. (Who am I kidding, I’d go on a job like that today, for that much money.)

Along the way we learn how the men work together – mostly through the eyes of Ryan’s Hans Ehrengard, who is new to the group – as he discovers the way that Lancaster’s Bill Dolworth scouts ahead and marks certain areas as either safe or not. We see their lack of humanity and Strode’s deadliness with a bow and arrow; and how Marvin’s ‘Rico’ is a perfect strategist and leader. Then there’s the cruelty and mercilessness of the desert and the banditos; who will both gladly kill.

But, beyond that there’s some great philosophical moments in the movie – mostly spouted by the always watchable Lancaster. After a run-in with some bandits, Hans asks what to do with the remaining horses (after Dolworth had shot a horse to get one of the fleeing bandits), should they let them go or shoot them; Bill laughs at the contempt Hans feels about killing the animals he loves, and says, “We just killed ten men, nobody bats an eye. But when it comes to one of God’s most stupid animals…”

The movie is another in a line of westerns that seem to concern themselves with being anti-violence, anti-war, and even anti-intervention; as again Dolworth comes up with the words about war, “The revolution? When the shooting stops, and the dead are buried, and the politicians take over, it all adds up to one thing: a lost cause.” And the minor twist at the end of the movie works despite it going against what would normally be considered “the good guys winning.” And with how epic this movie gets, it’ll keep you on the edge of your seat and never knowing when it’s going to zig when you think it might zag. Which all starts with the fact that it’s a western that takes place in the 20th century and even has a couple of cars in it.

Not to be outdone, here’s a snippet of Palance’s character’s speech about war: “La Revolucion is like a great love affair. In the beginning, she is a goddess. A holy cause…La Revolucion is not a goddess but a whore. She was never pure, never saintly, never perfect. And we run away, find another lover, another cause. Quick, sordid affairs. Lust, but no love. Passion, but no compassion. Without love, without a cause, we are… *nothing*! We stay because we believe. We leave because we are disillusioned. We come back because we are lost. We die because we are committed.”

Sort of the same reason I return to movies, and classics like THE PROFESSIONALS.

Also, once again check out my friend, Elisabeth Rappe’s Western Wednesdays’ review of THE PROFESSIONALS, on The Flickcast.

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  1. With all the doggone snow we have gotten as of late I am stuck indoors, fortunately there is the internet, thanks for giving me something to do. 🙂

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