Blu-ray Review: The Mercenary | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, June 19th, 2024  

The Mercenary

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Nov 22, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

At the height of the Mexican Revolution, gunman Sergei “The Polack” Kowalski (Franco Nero) sells his services to the top bidder. When he’s hired to smuggle silver across the border but then finds his employer hanged by bandits, he sees a money-making opportunity. Their leader, Paco (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’s Tony Musante), views himself as a revolutionary, robbing the rich to finance an armed uprising among the working poor. With The Polack’s help – secured by a steady stream of stolen gold – Paco cuts a bloody path across Mexico, ousting the bourgeoisie and liberating village after village. Problems soon arise, though, when Paco’s idealism clashes with The Polack’s strictly mercenary stance; meanwhile, The Polack’s dangerous American rival, Curly (Jack Palance), is hot on their trail, seeking revenge on both men for a prior humiliation.

Released in 1968, The Mercenary reunited director Sergio Corbucci with Franco Nero, the star of his cult classic Spaghetti Western Django. In spite of its remarkable violence, The Mercenary manages to keep a sense of humor; this is as much a black comedy as it is an action film. The laughs here are a lot more highbrow than many tongue-in-cheek Westerns, much of it coming from the interplay between the serious, Man With No Name-like Polack and the oafish, optimistic Paco. (Both Nero and Musante relish these roles, as does Palance playing the dandy-ish villain.) Giovanna Ralli, a Fellini veteran, plays an intelligent, tough, and beautiful soldier in Paco’s bandit army – it’s an unusual and highly refreshing strong, female role for a Western of this era. The Mercenary alternates quickly between humor and action-oriented excitement, and The Polack’s ever-shifting loyalties give the plot plenty of twists and turns. (At 106 minutes, it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, either.) The fantastic musical score by the master, Ennio Morricone, also has to be mentioned. If you’re any sort of fan of Italian Westerns, there’s no conceivable way you won’t thoroughly enjoy this entry into the genre.

Kino Lorber’s HD presentation of the movie looks great on Blu-ray, with bright color and bold contrast. Bonus features include a full-length audio commentary by filmmaker (and fan) Alex Cox, two animated galleries featuring set photos and international marketing materials, and trailers for The Mercenary and other recent Westerns released by Kino Lorber Studio Classics.


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