Director: William Friedkin
USA - 1972
the current fanaticism over Lord of
the Rings and Harry Potter,
one might surmise that I may try to capitalize on the nuttiness with a
review of a fantasy flick. Well, I hate to bust your bubble, but Sorcerer has absolutely nothing to do
the Sword of
Damocles, or anything else of
that nature. So please, don't
let me interrupt your costume preparation for next year's Renaissance
going as Pandar! Half man! Half panda! Keeper of the Sacred Shield of
can I, in clear conscience, promote something like Harry Potter? Every law-abiding, God-fearing fundamentalist knows
that chocolate frogs are the minions of Lucifer!
nothing to do with Beelzebub, and little to do with chocolate frogs.
Itís about four men on the lam: one for murder; one for a terrorist
bombing; one for embezzlement; and Roy Scheider for Jaws
actually sought for robbing a
church. To make matters worse, the Scheider gang kill a priest in the
process. To even further complicate the situation, itís soon discovered
that the church is run by the Mob; the dead priest, of course, being the
Don's brother. That Roy! He gets into more wacky predicaments than Zack
from Saved By the Bell!
felons escape to South America. Of all the places they couldíve escaped
to, Our Heroes choose the dirtiest, nastiest town in the western
hemisphere. Perhaps the planet. Maybe even the universe
(excluding, of course, Uranus). There must've been some sort of county
ordinance proclaiming that everyone and everything within city limits had
to be caked in approximately one inch of mud (at least I hope that was
the pseudonym of Juan Dominguez and gets a job at the local oil refinery.
have picked a better name than that? I'm sorry, but Roy Scheider looks as
Hispanic as Dick Van Patten. I think the whole rationale behind a
pseudonym is to keep a low profile. If someone looking like Roy Scheider
introduced himself to me as Juan Dominguez, I would automatically think
this guy was either full of it or delusional. At any rate, he would raise
So, it takes
RoyÖexcuse me, Juan,
approximately five minutes of living in complete squalor to decide that
his current abode, for lack of a better term, sucks eggs. But having
exhausted his small booty (i.e. money - this isn't a prison film, you
know) while escaping the U.S., Dominguez is basically trapped.
enough, a chance at freedom manifests itself in the form of an
uncontrollable fire at the refinery. Apparently, the only way to
extinguish a blaze of such magnitude is through carefully-calculated
explosions. But as luck would have it, the dynamite required for such an
endeavor has been sitting in storage so long that the nitroglycerine has
leaked out of the sticks, culminating into puddles at the bottom of the
boxes. To further complicate
matters, said dynamite is inconveniently located three hundred miles away
from the blaze! Now where could they possibly find four idiots desperate
for money, with nothing to lose, who are willing to drive unstable
explosives in a rickety truck through the treacherous rain forest?
first guess was the new Monkees, too. Unfortunately, they werenít on the
lam in South America. Dominguez and compadres, of course, take the job.
The risk may be great, but the possible payoff canít be passed up.
having an interesting premise, Sorcerer
begs the question: Why these specific six boxes of dynamite? Are they
blessed by the Pope? Would it have been so hard to fly some dynamite in?
And perhaps the most important question: Why settle for explosives which
are not only three hundred miles away, but could explode if you simply
stare at them cross-eyed?
I suppose if the finale involved someone flying in relatively safe
explosives and extinguishing the fire without incident, it might've
detracted from the drama just a bit.
holes aside, Sorcerer is a
pretty good movie. The acting, for the most part,
is top notch. Roy is convincing as a desperate fugitive (just not so as a
desperate Hispanic fugitive).
highlight of Sorcerer, however,
is the filmís look; or more specifically, its feel and mood. As I
mentioned before, when Our Heroes are hiding out in Scumville, the locale
alone gives the distinct impression of what it may be like to hit absolute
rock bottom. Donít even get me started on the townís denizens. When
Roy and the gang risk their lives for an unlikely chance at skipping town,
I had no doubts that, if given the same situation, I would do the same. It
sucked that much.
example of Friedkinís mastery of mood is the scene where the volatile
truck gets stuck on a dilapidated bridge that could collapse at any given
moment. Which is going to come first? The explosion, or perhaps a
plummeting death? Or perhaps plummeting death followed by an explosion?
The pounding jungle rain. The teetering bridge. The immovable, menacing
truck. A small, insignificant man surrounded on all sides by impending
doom. Itís great cinema like that found in Sorcerer
that almost makes me forget about tripe like The
Sea Serpent. Almost.
movies (save Michael Bayís dazzling repertoire), Sorcerer
is not without its flaws. The film has a tendency to drag a bit at times,
and the aforementioned plot inconsistencies are pretty annoying.
Nevertheless, I whole-heartedly recommend checking it out.
(Footnote: Several astute readers have pointed out the fact that I
forgot to mention that Sorcerer is a remake of a French (not to
mention superior) film entitled Wages
of Fear. Thank you for pointing out my oversight.)
-- Copyright © 2001 by J. Bannerman