DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE MERCENARY (A PROFESSIONAL GUN) (IL MERCANARO) (director/writer: Sergio Corbucci; screenwriters: Sergio Spina/Luciano Vincenzoni/story by Franco Solinas & Giorgio Arlorio; cinematographer: Alejandro Ulloa; editor: Enzo Ocone; music:  Ennio Morricone/Bruno Nicolai; cast:  Franco Nero (Bill Douglas/Sergei Kowalski), Jack Palance (Ricciolo, Curly), Tony Musante (Eufemio), Giovanna Ralli (Columba), Franco Giacobini (Pepote), Eduardo Fajardo (Alfonso Garcia), Raf Baldassarre (Mateo), Vicente Roca (Elias Garcia); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alberto Grimaldi; United Artists; 1968-Italy/Spain-in English)

"An overtly leftist political pic, that's also a stylish spaghetti western comedy of excessive violence and cruelty."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Italian cult filmmaker Sergio Corbucci ("Django"/"The Big Silence"/"Companeros") passionately directs an overtly leftist political pic, that's also a stylish spaghetti western comedy of excessive violence and cruelty. Fans of the director consider it with The Big Silence and this film's sequel, Companeros, as one of his best films. It's based on a story by Franco Solinas & Giorgio Arlorio, and is written by Corbucci, Sergio Spina and Luciano Vincenzoni. It's set in 1915, during the mid-point of the Mexican Revolution.

Mercenary Polish immigrant in Mexico, Sergei Kowalski (Franco Nero), called The Polack, is hired by the greedy mine owner Alfonso Garcia (Eduardo Fajardo) to smuggle his silver across the border into Texas. At Garcia's Mexican silver mine, Kowalski meets the idealistic peasant Paco (Tony Musante) and his group of revolutionaries, who have overtaken the mine and easily switches allegiances when offered a healthy fee to be a military adviser to help the naive Paco escape his pursuers and execute the revolution. The mercenary decries: “I’m on my side, always.” In pursuit of the revolutionaries is General Garcia (Vicente Roca), the mine owner's nasty brother, and the depraved Curly (Jack Palance), the mine owner's mercenary henchman, a ruthless homosexual gunman. The revolutionaries escape from the Federales, and under Kowalski's orders raid the silver mines of Mexico.

Using Kowalski's tactics, the revolutionaries soon become rich. But the sexually liberated beautiful revolutionary lady, Columba (Giovanna Ralli), Kowalski's love interest, voices her own agenda for the revolution and speaks out with moral outrage at her compatriot's greed and how the revolution has been corrupted by its mercenary hire and has lost sight of its ideals.

In its grandest baroque touches, it has Curly eliminate a revolutionary by exploding a grenade in his mouth and in an abandoned bullring, while wearing a white suit with a flower in his lapel, Curly meets his end in a bloody duel with the now on-the-run clown attired Paco.

Though it lacks directorial discipline, it has value because of Palance's enjoyable campy performance; the heartfelt performance by Musante, as the revolutionist who learns by the climax what it is to be a revolutionary and to walk away from the mercenary; and the strong lead performance by Nero.

REVIEWED ON 10/2/2013       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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