|PIRATES (director/writer: Roman Polanski; screenwriters: Gerard Brach/John Brownjohn; cinematographer: Witold Sobocinski; editors: Herve de Luze/William Reynolds; music: Philippe Sarde; cast: Walter Matthau (Capt Thomas Bartholomew Red), Damien Thomas (Don Alfonso), Charlotte Lewis (Maria-Dolores), Cris Campion (The Frog), Olu Jacobs (Boumako), Richard Pearson (Padre), David Kelly (Surgeon), Ferdy Mayne (Capt. Linares). Anthony Peck (Spanish Officer), Bill Fraser (Governor); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Tarak Ben Ammar; Cannon; 1986-France/Tunisia-in English)|
entertaining hokum adventure film."
by Dennis Schwartz
major box office disappointment (it cost 30 million
dollars and made less than a million) but,
nevertheless, an entertaining hokum adventure film
that had Tunisian backers when Hollywood wouldn't bite
on it. Not one of the better ones in the oeuvre of
Roman Polanski ("Knife in the
Water"/"Repulsive"/"Chinatown"), but the controversial
director still brings something to the table in the
form of quirky humor via calculated jabs at his
critics and a sort of Monty Python comedy to the
action scenes. Polanski co-writes with Gerard
Brach and John Brownjohn.
production values were grand. The full-scale replica
of a Spanish galleon built just for the film and cost
a king's ransom. The ship was made in Malta, while the
location of the shoot was in the Seychelles.
17th century, while adrift at sea on a
raft because of a shipwreck, the Hollywood
cockney-accented black bearded, peg-legged buccaneer,
Capt Thomas Bartholomew Red (Walter
Matthau), and the younger handsome French sailor
Frog (Cris Campion) climb
aboard a Spanish galleon, in the middle of a mutiny
that's being put down by Don Alfonso (Damien
Thomas) and his evil officers. The
castaways are placed in the brig and join another
prisoner (Olu Jacobs). He tells Red
that a priceless gold Aztec throne is being
transported to the governor (Bill Fraser). While Red
thinks of ways to steal the throne, Frog thinks of
ways to romance the governor's attractive 15-year-old
niece, Dolores (Charlotte Lewis), who
is aboard the ship.
Polanski's hero is the greedy, perverse and piggish Matthau. The great character actor is at the top of his game, giving a colorful performance. Though paced too slow, the fight scenes are eye-popping and the spectacle is first-class. If you have a thing for the old-time Errol Flynn swashbucklers, this film might spoof them but it also makes you fondly remember them. An under-valued film, one that received a lot of hate from critics, but it has much you can enjoy about it--even if it couldn't get Jack Nicholson for the lead as originally intended.
REVIEWED ON 5/24/2015 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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