Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Professionals (1966)

Marvin, Lancaster And Palance Are Not So Professional
But The Film Works In Other Ways

- Out in the old west, a wealthy Texan hires four professional problem eliminators to rescue his wife (Claudia Cardinale) from the menacing Jesus Raza (Jack Palance) - these four men are The Professionals. There's Hans Ehrengard (Robert Ryan), the horse expert; Jake Sharp (Woody Strode), the bow-and-arrow man; Bill Dolworth (Burt Lancaster), master of all things explosive; and Rico Fardan (Lee Marvin), the leader of the bunch. As these men tackle the rough and rowdy job, things turn out more complicated than they had anticipated.

The Professionals (1966) contains a few crippling flaws but remains a pretty good western through other entertaining aspects. First of all, the film looks very good. Conrad L. Hall's cinematography is wonderful, Richard Brooks' direction is right on the money, and there are plenty of action scenes that entertain throughout the film. Also, The Professionals sees some great supporting roles. Robert Ryan is great, sincere yet tough as Hans Ehrengard; Woody Strode portrays the skilled Jake Sharp in a cool and quiet manner; and Claudia Cardinale emits beauty and strength in her role as Mrs. Maria Grant.

Overall, The Professionals is a very well filmed, action-packed, and generally fun western but it also lacks in ways that make it a little ho-hum. The biggest problems of the film exist because of its biggest stars. Headline actors Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster are less than totally convincing in their tough guy roles - unlike supporting actors Robert Ryan and Woody Strode. Marvin cannot get a handle on his character, he seems to either over do his role or not quite hit the mark, and Lancaster, the cast member with the most Oscar nominations, gives his character a slice of annoying immaturity and a healthy serving of flat charisma. Outside of Marvin and Lancaster's failed performances we have a laughable Jack Palance, who sounds like he is practicing his Speedy Gonzalez impression for the entire film as Jesus Raza, and an tiresome Maurice Jarre score, that is so overly clichéd it quickly becomes irritating, to further downgrade what could have been a much better film.

CBC Rating: 6/10

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