Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: The release of George Clooney’s The Monuments Men has us fondly recalling other movies about groups, teams, squads, and merry collectives.
The Professionals (1966)
Greedy self-interest is pitted against ideology and honor—not to mention the allure of a faithful (and gorgeous) woman—in The Professionals, a 1966 all-star saga about four horseman hired to retrieve a tycoon’s kidnapped wife. In order to reclaim his spouse Maria (Claudia Cardinale), who’s been snatched by ruthless Mexican revolutionary Raza (Jack Palance), wealthy Mr. Grant (Ralph Bellamy) enlists a team of pure badassery: military stud Fardan (Lee Marvin), dynamite pro Dolworth (Burt Lancaster), sharpshooter Jake (Woody Strode), and wrangler Ehrengard (Robert Ryan). Sent into Mexico, where both Fardan and Dolworth previously fought alongside Pancho Villa and Raza, the men are routinely beset by bandits, whom they dispatch with a mixture of firepower and guile. Along the way, Dolworth continually finds himself missing his pair of pants, and thus left to fend for himself in dirty long underwear.
No matter their garb, these heroes are the epitome of no-nonsense toughness, even when Ehrengard’s sensitive sympathy for steeds puts the crew’s mission in jeopardy. Though they routinely claim to be driven by the $10,000 payday they’re set to earn once Maria is returned to Grant, a stream of jaded one-liners suggest that they’re truly guided by underlying principles: honesty, keeping one’s word, and doing what’s right no matter the personal consequences. In sequences of the protagonists silently going about their duty, writer/director Richard Brooks conveys how actions, more than words, define a man—a notion that carries through to a third act in which, after having felled numerous adversaries, Fardan, Dolworth, Ehrengard, and Jake learn that they’re victims of a ruse that puts the justness of their goal into question. That they discover a way to remain loyal to their benefactor and still enact justice is merely the last bit of slyly humorous macho excitement delivered by The Professionals. Well, that or Fardan’s famous final kiss-off line, in response to being called a bastard by his employer: “Yes sir. In my case, an accident of birth. But you, sir—you’re a self-made man.”
Availability: The Professionals is available on Blu-ray and DVD (which can be obtained through Netflix) and to rent or purchase through the major digital providers.