Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

(Image from IMP Awards)

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

'The Dirty Dozen' is a slightly comical action movie set during WWII about a team of misfit soldiers (the eponymous dozen), each of whom has been convicted of murder, who are given one last chance to redeem themselves and earn their freedom. That chance involves receiving rigorous training under the stern supervision of one Major Reisman (Lee Marvin), with their actual mission being a virtually suicidal attack against a castle that is a nexus for Nazi bigwigs. The first two acts of the movie revolve around their training at a secret compound and their participation in war games exercises, with the final act depicting the crazy assault on the castle itself.

Given the nature of the 'heroes' involved, it should come as no surprise that much of the humour and conflict is derived from their aggressive, unruly, contempt for authority laced behaviour! Lively character interactions make up the bulk of the movie, and they are very entertaining, with the remainder being composed of some quite effective action sequences that don't shy away from brutality.

Lee Marvin is the marquee name, and this sort of thing is his bread and butter - steely badass! I can't think of too many other actors being as effortlessly convincing as the unflappable instructor of a dozen ruthless killers. Marvin's superior is, naturally, played by the preternaturally grumpy face possessing Ernest Borgnine. Among the dozen, some of the more notable faces include Donald Sutherland as a somewhat goofy doofus, Charles Bronson as a shrewd and taciturn tough guy (natch), and Telly Savalas (Who loves ya, baby?) as a creepy religious fundamentalist. The cast is quite an appealing one, and they do a great job of representing a wide range of caricatures - besides the aforementioned three there's also the gentle giant, the surly complainer, and the big black guy, amongst others, and they all get along swimmingly.

It offers no more than what it promises on the tin, but when that turns out to be a very entertaining (if slightly overlong) two hours and twenty-something minutes it's hard to find fault. It's good for what it is - a straightforward war / action comedy with a diverse ensemble cast. So if that sounds interesting (it did to me), then 'The Dirty Dozen' comes highly recommended.

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