Friday, May 23, 2014

The Professionals (1966): A Mini-Review

The Professionals is a well-made, fast-paced action-adventure western starring Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode. It's a sharp, witty caper flick with a team of amusing specialists engaged in a job—rescuing a rich man's wife from a Mexican revolutionary—that should get everybody killed by the end of the first reel but you damn well know won't. A sort of Ocean's Eleven, if you will, set in the Mexican desert.
But underneath all the rousing action is a melancholy meditation on the end of things (in this specific case, the Mexican Revolution) that, to me at least, makes The Professionals both a sublime western and something other than a simple caper flick.

"La RevoluciĆ³n," Jack Palance says in a great speech toward the end of the film, "is like a great love affair. In the beginning, she is a goddess. A holy cause. But every love affair has a terrible enemy—time. We see her as she is. La RevoluciĆ³n 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."

It's a very good western, and may be the best of a list of those that, despite its cast and three Oscar nominations, no one seems to have ever heard of. Written and directed by Richard Brooks, with Oscar-nominated cinematography by the great Conrad Hall.

Oh, and Claudia Cardinale is spectacularly bosomy.

My rating 4.5 stars (out of 5).

3 comments:

DKoren said...

I love this movie, and yes! I so often feel no one else has ever heard of it. Nice to see it spotlighted.

KC said...

I love Woody Strode's physicality in this movie. You can see what an amazing athlete he was. He manages to be a pretty good movie star too.

Paul S said...

When they cast The Professionals, someone obviously had a vision of my perfect film cast. Just look at those names you listed. It’s what the word 'powerhouse' was invented for.
What could be finer than watching Lee Marvin picking off guys with a pistol whilst hoisting a machine gun on his shoulders; Woody Strode calmly firing off a volley of arrows attached with lit dynamite; and Burt Lancaster doing, well, basically anything over the course of this film? and not forgetting Jack Palance, who despite being shot multiple times still gets to ride off into the sunset with Claudia Cardinale.

"Captain Jesus Raza. Jesus, what a name for the bloodiest cutthroat in Mexico!"