Rated | Alphabetical
Andrew V. McLaglen, 1978, UK
Posted: May 24, 2003
War! What is it good for? If you're a movie buff, it's a thematic base for
some of the greatest movies of all time. Midway, A Bridge Too Far,
Patton, The Dirty Dozen, Full Metal Jacket. See? I told you
so. Most war films have gotten their just desserts, but we're talking today
about one of the most under-appreciated military action films of all time,
somewhere after the WWII classics and before the Vietnam War era became a
popular Hollywood subject. That film is The Wild Geese.
Is this some kind of low budget effort, you may ask, filled with B-grade
actors? How about a thin plot serving only as an excuse for explosions and
gunfire? Your concerns are just, my friends. Regarding the actors, however,
there was this one guy -- maybe you heard of him? -- a little fellow
known as Richard freakin' Burton! Another bloke, who was he now, oh, yeah: how
about Richard Harris! Ring any bells? And a third chap, distinguished, was in
some kind of spy movies. That's right, none other than Roger Moore himself! You
want actors? Playa, we got actors.
The plot? A wealthy Englishman (and aren't they the snootiest kind?) hires
Col. Alan Faulkner (That's Burton) to assemble a team of mercenaries, parachute
into Africa, rescue an ousted African leader and restore him to power. Why? So
the snooty Englishman can make good on some investments there, investments that
are threatened by the current regime. The team is assembled, the mission is
started, and then, well, let's just say the snooty Englishman shows his true
colors and acts like a -- well, like a snooty Englishman.
You want thrills? Watch Roger Moore force a Mafioso's nephew to eat a bag of
heroin. Also, don't miss one of the mercenaries taking out a military compound's
sentries with (are you ready for it?) a crossbow with cyanide tipped bolts!
Cyanide tipped bolts! That's the perfume on the letter, the sprinkles on the
donut if you will. It's that little extra you never would have missed, but once
experiencing it, you'll wonder how you ever went without seeing a guy shot with
cyanide tipped crossbolts. Oh, and you'll get your fill of grenade throwing,
submachine fire and narrow escapes. This movie avoids all the usual clichés, and
nothing turns out quite the way you expect.
Let's pause here to give a shout-out to Jack Watson as RSM Sandy Young; think
of him as the British equivalent of our own beloved R. Lee Ermey (Siege
of Firebase Gloria). While practicing for the actual parachute jump, RSM
Young critiques Roger Moore's jump by informing him that he's "jumping out of an
airplane, not a whorehouse window." Later ,when Witty, the homosexual medic
(don't ask), has some difficulty keeping up with physical training, Young uses
the threat of, er -- how do I put this? -- sewing Witty's anus shut as a
motivational tool. Strong words. Strong, disturbing words. And finally, when a
new recruit falls to the ground and pronounces himself "dead," Young stands over
him, draws a pistol and fires a single shot into the ground, one inch from the
recruit's head. Now that's a drill sergeant for you!
The Wild Geese is simply a great movie, far too good to remain as
overlooked as it is today. As a military action film with a sound plot and good
acting, it may be one of a kind. It's unique in that it delivers all the goods,
yet remains a heady, interesting story all the way to the very last scene,
something few films have ever done well. Friends, I implore you: The next time
you journey to the video store, put down that copy of American Ninja (a
fine film in its own right) and pick up The Wild Geese. It may be the
very best action film you've never seen.
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