Pick a Character: every time something bad happens to him, take a drink.
Take a Drink: any time fate deals any character an unfair hand
Take a Drink: for death
Do a Shot: when any bridge is crossed
Do a Shot: when helpless depression sets in
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
Four men, all from different walks of life, find themselves on the run. The film opens with an extended prologue establishing the reasons Mexican assassin Nilo (Francisco Rabal), Arab terrorist Kassem (Amidou), French Investment Banker Victor (Bruno Cremer), and American Mobster Jackie (Roy Scheider) found themselves in Porvenir, an obscure South American village. The four men have all carved themselves out a meager living in Porvenir, but are weary of the poverty that comes with it. When a terrorist bomb sets fire to the oil well in a small mining town, the owners find that the only thing which can snuff out the fire is a controlled explosion. The only dynamite in the area, though, is in a depot 200 miles away, in Porvenir, and the long-dormant stockpile has begun to leak Nitro, making it dangerously unstable… The managers of the mining company seek 4 men brave (and suicidal) enough to truck the boxes of unstable explosives across mountain and jungle roads safely.
Based on the same story that inspired The Wages of Fear, Sorcerer is nominally a remake, though it changes up the character backgrounds and motivations completely, as well as most of the plot elements, to the point that the film stands on its own. The ambitious film was made on a rapidly ballooning budget, with director William Friedkin given total creative control. The film unfortunately failed to recoup on its investment, with some blaming the film’s deceptive title,
and others blaming the release of Star Wars, which basically swallowed competitor films whole. In reality, it seems baffling that such a cynical, nihilistic story ever got greenlit by a studio. One can only guess that the success of Friedkin’s prior film The Exorcist clouded the better judgment of producers hoping for an equally runaway critical and commercial success.
Sorcerer is certainly not a film for the weak-hearted, or for those of a sentimental mindset. It is a brooding and brutal examination of the darkest side of humanity, leaving little space for sentimentality. The elemental theme in Sorcerer is fate, as each character in the film resigns themselves to their own personal hell with decisions they make in the first act, and those consequences are meted out scene after scene afterwards.
Roy Scheider is the closest thing to a “Hollywood celebrity” in the film, and the rest of the main cast, Francisco Rabal, Amidou, and Bruno Cremer, are all highly respected character actors. The film’s cast was chosen perfectly; whereas most Hollywood filmmakers would choose a host of celebrities, Friedkin chose actors for the legitimacy they brought to their roles, rather than their marquee value.
The soundtrack, by pioneering music group Tangerine Dream, is perfectly befitting the film’s dark themes. This was the first film score by Tangerine Dream, who would go on to produce music for countless Hollywood films throughout the late 1970s into the 1980s. Fans of electronic music should take note of the film’s score, the theme of which I’ll post for your listening pleasure.
Fate has a nasty habit of biting you in the back just when you thought you had it all figured out. Director William Friedkin’s Sorcerer bears this truism out, warts and all.