By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Three Beers) –
The Mercenary is a Spaghetti Western which follows everybody’s favorite Italian-playing-an-American-playing-a-cowboy (Franco Nero). This time around he is Sergei Kowalski, a Polish Gunslinger hired by an aspiring rabble-rouser to help organize and plan a revolution. The revolutionary (Tony Musante) and Sergei soon encounter Curly (Jack Palance), a killer with a sadistic streak, fighting for the other side.
Jack Palance has about 15 minutes of screen time in this entire flick but every minute “Curly” is on screen is more menacing than the last. He was born to play bad guys, and this one is one of his best.
He was also apparently born to play people named Curly…
Clearly played for laughs, with over-the-top performances from all considered, they rarely overplay the comedic hand too much. There are a handful of genuinely dark moments that help give the film some grit. Also noteworthy; not one of the three “main” stars of the film are “good guys”. Sergei is a money-grubbing hired gun whose loyalties are only to himself, often taking advantage of people in desperate situations. The Revolutionary becomes quickly intoxicated with power, forgetting the reason he took up arms to begin with. And Jack Palance is a Jack Palance.
You just don’t fuck with the man…
Director Sergio Corbucci is clearly trying to emulate his hero Sergio Leone, utilizing many of the director’s trademarks, such as close up face-shots, giving each character theme music, and the epic showdown. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t really feel like Corbucci actually understands the reasons Leone employed these techniques. They lack the context and sly commentary which worked in films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Duck, You Sucker.
The story often attempts to be too smart for its own good, with plot twists left and right, and at least four separate times it should have ended. The 105 minute film could have been cut down to an even 90 minutes without sacrificing any substance. In fact, it would likely have improved the comedic rhythms of the film.
Not perfect, but definitely worth it for Western fanatics.
Take a Drink: when Sergi demands money
Take a Drink: whenever you realize that you’ve heard this score before in Kill Bill
Drink a Shot: every time someone mentions the Revolution.