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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Stream-And-Run: The Mercenary (1968)

     One of the great Sergio Corbucci’s best.

    NOTE: Netflix is taking down virtually all of their MGM titles on May 1st, so I thought it might be fun to see how many I can watch in the next two weeks, and then post quick, little hit-and-run reviews here. Hope you enjoy, and if you want to see any of these movies and have Netflix, better watch ’em now!

    He wasn’t the most famous Sergio of the spaghetti westerns, but Sergio Corbucci was every bit as influential to the subgenre as that other guy. Although both men took relish in subverting the classic Hollywood western, stylistically they couldn’t be further apart - Leone was more elegiac, preferring sweeping vistas and long moments of stillness, whereas Corbucci had a messy style, full of quick zooms and fast edits - it was chaos, barely controlled. Corbucci also was far more political in his films, as The Mercenary will attest. Corbucci reunites with his Django star Franco Nero as the titular mercenary of the title, who gets involved with a band of Mexican revolutionaries led by the buffoonish Paco, played by Tony Muscanti. What follows is both a fierce political satire and rousing Western adventure, all shot with style and panache by Corbucci. The director has a lot of fun sending up the nature of revolutionary figures in Paco, although the satire never comes across as harsh or petty - Corbucci clearly errs on the side of the proletariat, but is careful to point out that while starting a revolution is easy, maintaining and finishing one is a bit rockier. Nero and Muscanti develop a nice chemistry throughout, and their uneasy truce leads a handful of great showdowns and standoffs. I was also particularly fond of Giovanna Ralli as the rifle-wielding conscience on Paco’s shoulder, and of course Jack Palance in his patented suave villain role. Add in a suitably fantastic score by Ennio Morricone, and you have yourself a spaghetti classic.

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