A truly adventuresome, action-filled film that is played more for thrills than for conveying a story, THE PROFESSIONALS offers a field day for Lancaster, Ryan, Marvin, and Strode. All four are hired by wealthy cattle baron Bellamy to retrieve his voluptuous young wife, Cardinale, who has been kidnaped by Palance, a Mexican bandit of no redeeming virtues...read more
A truly adventuresome, action-filled film that is played more for thrills than for conveying a story, THE PROFESSIONALS offers a field day for Lancaster, Ryan, Marvin, and Strode. All four are hired by wealthy cattle baron Bellamy to retrieve his voluptuous young wife, Cardinale, who has
been kidnaped by Palance, a Mexican bandit of no redeeming virtues whatsoever. Each of the professional volunteers is paid for his particular expertise. Lancaster is a dynamiter with an eye for women; Marvin is a long-range rifle marksman; Strode is a silent bowman whose arrows never miss their
marks; and Ryan, a tough pistoleer and horse trainer who cannot bear to see an animal suffer. The four ride 100 miles into Mexico until they find the camp of Palance, whom Marvin describes as "the bloodiest cutthroat in Mexico." They devastate the Mexican fortress by having Strode use his longbow
to shoot sticks of dynamite into the encampment. While this diversion is occurring, Lancaster breaks into Palance's bedroom and yanks a half-naked Cardinale from the clutches of the incensed bandit lover. As the four make their escape with Bellamy's wife, they are suprised to learn that she does
not want to be rescued. She loves the sleazy Palance and wants only to remain within his oily embrace. It becomes instantly apparent that there has not been an abduction after all; Bellamy has only been trying to use his enormous wealth to buy back a woman who detests him and has fled his
insidious control. But the four professionals are being paid $10,000 apiece for their efforts and a job is a job. Actually, the ransom money Palance has demanded of Bellamy is really a fund-raising opportunity to finance his ongoing revolution. Palance follows the group with his men but Lancaster
and Strode dynamite a narrow gorge, blocking it so that only a few of the Mexican bandits can get through at a time. While his compatriots flee, Lancaster stays behind and kills off the Mexicans until only Palance, whom he wounds, is left. During this running battle Lancaster finds time to frolic
with Gomez, who remembers him from the time he fought with Villa. She feigns affection for him but finally shows her loyalty to Palance by trying to kill Lancaster, and he must kill her in self-defense. Before rejoining his friends, Lancaster kisses his dying victim. When Lancaster does catch up
to his friends, he brings along a badly wounded Palance. They are back in the US by then, and Bellamy gloats over the capture of his rival. He orders one of his goons to kill Palance, but Marvin shoots the goon and lets Palance and Cardinale flee, while he and his fellow adventurers hold Bellamy's
thugs at bay. They have lost their commission but take immense satisfaction in "doing the right thing."
In spite of its dependence on gratuitous sex and violence, the action is nevertheless fascinating. Brooks's script is witty and full of irony; his direction is on the mark and whirlwind fast. Although Lancaster's grin is not as ludicrously broad as it was in VERA CRUZ, he is still a one-man
tornado, while sidekick Marvin is droll and deadly. Strode has few words, but flexes his muscles with his drawn longbow. Ryan turns in a solid performance as the conscience of the group. Bellamy does a good job as the villain of the piece, but his two-sided personality is not developed well
enough. Cardinale fractures English with her thick Italian accent. Hall's photography is exceptional, and the locations he and Brooks scouted are perfect. The production suffered a number of natural calamties, including dust storms and a flash flood that trapped everyone in a box canyon for
several days. In spite of the delays, the film went on to earn $9 million in its initial release, and it is still considered one of the best pictures of the 1960s. Brooks'attention to detail, so evident in this film, would serve him well in such future films as BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID.
The story he chose to tell and the script he developed around it are also typical of Brooks. The closing down of the Old West can be seen in the aging heroes who live more in their memories than in the present. Although raucous and often repulsive, THE PROFESSIONALS can never be labelled dull.
Nominated by the Academy for Best Direction, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.