, 18 Aug 2009
An oil well is on fire and the only way to extinguish the flames is to dynamite it.
The company has plenty but its been left to sweat and so the two hundred mile journey to the well now looks like suicide.
Six cases of volatile explosives, two trucks and four desperate men
William Friedkin is a badass. He is one of a small group of American directors that make films that couldnt give a damn if you like them or not sure, Im the first to admit that I dont like half of them (including The Exorcist, 1973) but the rest are pure gold and Sorcerer is no exception.
So what makes it so good? Firstly, and most obviously, its a remake of Henri-Georges Clouzots suspense masterpiece The Wages Of Fear (1953) and plenty of people hate remakes, especially when the original is so highly regarded. That it is just as good only makes it all the more satisfying.
Secondly, non of the main characters are truly likable. These guys are true anti-heroes, not the modern 2D Riddick / Punisher edgy cool type but the proper 70s variety. Here you have a group of grade-A scumbags and the film wallows in it. Why else would the first twenty minutes be there? Friedkin wants us to know that he is gonna make us root for a hitman, a terrorist, a mobster and, worst of all, a banker (who obviously didnt get a great pension). Out of those four Scanlon (Roy Scheider) seemingly takes the central role on the basis that he might steal collection money from priests but he doesnt carry a gun. Even the minor characters and extras are less than reputable in a neat twist on the originals Bimba who fled persecution in Hitlers Germany the bar owner is a Nazi in hiding whilst a bride in an early scene sports a black eye.
Finally, there is the reason why we care about these guys the tension. The slow building feeling of danger that starts as soon as we know that the dynamite is unsafe and rockets the moment they start the engines. Whether driving along the stable(ish) dirt tracks or caught in the middle of one of several fantastic set pieces (including the daddy of all rickety bridges) Sorcerer remains white knuckle stuff and the nihilism manages to outrun the film itself.
as I said the genius of Friedkin is that he doesnt seem to care what people think. He makes films that suggest an attitude of take it or leave it and as a result we get films like Sorcerer that just feel dangerous.
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