While a Mexican revolutionary lies low as a U.S. rodeo clown, the cynical Polish mercenary who tutored the idealistic peasant tells how he and a dedicated female radical fought for the soul of the guerrilla general Paco, as Mexicans threw off repressive government and all-powerful landowners in the 1910s. Tracked by the vengeful Curly, Paco liberates villages, but is tempted by social banditry's treasures, which Kowalski revels in.Written by
The original draft of the screenplay was written by Franco Solinas and Giorgio Arlorio, and was largely inspired by Bertolt Brecht's "The Exception and the Rule". Gillo Pontecorvo was the intended director. The screenplay was, however, largely rewritten by Luciano Vincenzoni and several others, who re-conceived the film as a Mexican Revolution-based Spaghetti Western. Solinas and Arlorio disowned the new script, and Pontecorvo stepped down as director, believing he did not have enough experience with Westerns. He instead directed Burn! (1969), a film with a similar concept. Alberto Grimaldi then hired Sergio Corbucci to direct because of his experience with Spaghetti Westerns. See more »
Sergei Kowalski uses a Spanish Astra 400 pistol. The pistol was not introduced until 1921, after the Mexican Revolution. See more »
Kowalski aka the Pole:
So, Paco Roman is a clown. Well, better a live clown than a dead hero. As I, Sergei Kowalski, Polish emigrate to the New World, always realised...
[fade-in to flashback of Paco working in a mine]
Kowalski aka the Pole:
When our story began, Paco was only a peon. But one... with a difference.
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An Mexican outlaw, with the help of a hired Polish gunslinger go out to make an massive rebellious army to take back what they believe is an poorly treated Mexico that is run by crooked and rich upper-class folk. So now they are part of the growing revolution, but the two men seem to have their ups and downs on who really is in-charge here, as the Mexican peasant actually relies on the European cowboy most the time. While, the army might be on the rebels' tails, but also too is another gunslinger that has a score to settle with the two men.
I don't know how long I've had this for, but I nearly missed the opportunity of watching this more than decent spaghetti western. Basically I recorded it off TV some time back onto a blank DVD, which I was going to use, until I realised that this flick was ready to go. Phew, lucky I decided to check it before erasing it. Also after the opening credits the film actually went black and dead quiet for 3 minutes or so, and I was thinking maybe I wasn't meant to see it, but that was short-lived and I was back right into it.
Anyhow, away from my pointless ramble "The Mercenary" which is first I've seen of any Corbucci's films was an exciting gung-ho spaghetti western that doesn't let up on the violence and colourful characters. Although the violence isn't terribly graphic and sometimes it happens off screen, but these minor glitches don't take away anything from it. The actual characters might be hard to like as they come across as incredibly greedy and downright blood thirsty for violence. Which I say isn't too much of a bad thing for this type of flick, because that's one of the draw cards of this sub-genre, but it's just that the characters are expendable to it, well maybe not Franco Nero's easy going character. Sergio Corbucci direction is the key also because the story isn't planned out with any real sort of purpose but just to stage one comical scene or action packed moment. But at least those moments actually worked to make you forget the plot's shortcomings. Plus it was jokier than I thought it would be. From that point it did kind of reminded me of Leone's 'The Good, the bad and the Ugly', that was because of the buddy humour that they played around with and like another reviewer mentioned Paco Roman did have an uncanny nature to that of Taco from GTBTU. Other than that, you can see other influences from the dollar trilogy evident too. For me Nero's gunslinger has a striking resemblance and steady persona to that of Eastwood's character of Dollar trilogy and the showdown in a bullring you could think the same too. But that's enough about that.
What else it has going for it is the great and thunderous score that you come to expect by the ever-reliable Ennio Morricone and the cinematography gets some dynamic treatment. The script is filled with cynical humour and leaden dialog on that of the rich and poor, and how greed can blind you to true intentions. There an over abundance of sharp and witty replies and that's especially between Kowalski, Paco and Columba. The three leads Franco Nero, Tony Musante and Giovanna Ralli as ever gusty but beautiful Columba put in exceptional performances and Jack Palance as Ricciolo 'Curly' the gunfighter on the trail of the group brings the added venom to the villain role, but I thought he was vastly under-used and his agenda with Kowalski would've made for more interest than what is given.
We're thrown right into this baroque western with the backdrop splashing off the screen with such exuberant touches of flair and gusto. Corbucci paces the film swiftly by making it more compelling and surprising the further along it went, without letting you doze off because of some well stage scenes like a bank heist, bombing of an Mexican town and the final shootout. Actually it would be hard to doze off with the loud sound effects and bellowing score. Even so just when you think its finished and the climax feels like it came too early, there's even more to come afterwards. Overall, Corbucci takes advantage of this good rolling adventure, even if it does lack some sort of killer punch or impact to make it overly memorable and grand. But nonetheless it's swell escapism fun that's bursting at the seams with madness, double crossings, plentiful violence, promising performances and grit.
It's a more than decent way to the past time with. I see 'Companeros (1970)' gets praised a lot, so it looks another to hit my must-see list.
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