A rich Texas landowner (the elderly Ralph Bellamy) hires three men (Robert Ryan, Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin) to go into Mexico and return his beautiful wife (the ultra-erotic Claudia Cardinale) to him after she was kidnapped by a gang of ruthless thugs led by Jack Palance (made up to look Hispanic). The three accept the challenge, wanting to get paid handsomely of course, but as they advance and get closer to Cardinale a thin line develops and it becomes unclear if everything is really the way it appears to be. The scope of a quickly changing West before a backdrop of the Mexican Revolution only adds to a movie that nearly touches greatness. Writer/director Richard Brooks (Oscar-nominated in both categories) began to knock on the door with a potentially very dark Western here and in 1969 director Sam Peckinpah would knock that door down with the amazing "The Wild Bunch". Brooks, not known for this genre, created a legitimate winner here with this production. Sometimes though the characters lose out because of the beautiful cinematography by Conrad L. Hall (Oscar-nominated) and the fact that Cardinale is just illuminating when on the screen (she is the only actress with any substantial screen-time). Her amazing beauty overshadows all the males throughout. Thought-provoking, action-packed and highly interesting, "The Professionals" is a sometimes forgotten would-be masterpiece from the usually impressive genre. 4 stars out of 5.