Writer/director Richard Brooks had just come off the critical and commercial failure of Lord Jim and wanted to make a simpler film. He found an obscure Western novel called A Mule for the Marquesa by a journeyman writer named Frank O’Rourke, cast leading actors who were either not yet or no longer big names, took everyone to Mexico, and made one of the greatest Western films of all time.
Released in 1966, The Professionals is thematically linked to both Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Wild Bunch, which would follow three years later. Set in 1914, the story concerns four soldiers-of-fortune whose world has passed them by. The four are hired by a rich industrialist — and symbol of the new world order — to rescue his wife, who has been kidnapped by a Mexican bandit leader.
What follows is a brilliantly scripted, photographed, and played reflection on mortality, loyalty, honour, and changing times. The movie is rife with terse and memorable dialogue and stunning set pieces. Conrad Hall was nominated for an Academy Award for his beautiful wide-screen cinematography, as was Brooks for his direction and for his lean and elegant screenplay.
Add a sparkling cast led by Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, and Jack Palance, and Maurice Jarre’s potent score, and you have a great evening at the Royal. Of course, you don’t have to come and see this movie, but you’ll be happy if you do.
Wednesday, Jan 22 - 8:00pm