31 October 2008

THE PROFESSIONALS (Dir. Richard Brooks, 1966, US) - 'Let's go to work!'

Long before Quentin Tarantino made an illustrious cinematic career out of recycling instantly quotable dialogue from the popular series of 'men on a mission' movies that struck gold at the box office in the 1960s, films populated by the unmistakable screen presence of the legendary Lee Marvin were leaving a lasting impression on audiences who were constantly being exposed to changes in genre and contexts. As audiences were busy deserting auditoriums for a newly found liberalised lifestyle, auteur's like Richard Brooks, Sam Peckinpah and Robert Altman were creeping in under the radar of dis empowered studio executives to take on the orthodoxy of a system that had faltered badly at the domestic box office.

Though 'The Professionals' is not a revolutionary and deeply radical piece of cinema, it does subvert many of the conventions of the Hollywood western by borrowing elements from the new European cinematic renaissance. Unlike traditional westerns, the image of an enemy represented as the savage other who indiscriminately murders and massacres for reasons to do with instant gratification is no where to be seen as the character of 'Raza' played by Jack Palance actually turns out to be a revolutionary figure, advocating a radical ideology that happens to make sense to many of the men set to assassinate him and bring back the ill fated damsel in distress.

Beautifully shot by Haskell Wexler and Conrad Hall, 'The Professionals' is a slick and dynamic film that predates the fatalism of Peckinpah's 'The Wild Bunch' by a number of years. And if you are wondering, yes, this is the film that inspired Tarantino to borrow the infamous 'Let's go to work' line for his debut, 'Reservoir Dogs', and the link between Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen) and Lee Marvin is evidence enough of the debt contemporary auteur brats owe to the most unlikely of film stars.

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