Theatrical Release: November 11, 1978
Blu Ray Release: December 11, 2012
Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
Review by James Klein
Maybe Sylvester Stallone should take a look at this film before he makes Expendables 3 to try and get it right. While The Wild Geese is 35 years old, it remains a much better “men on a mission” film than the recent Expendable films. In fact, Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Roger Moore were all well past their prime when they signed on to make The Wild Geese much like the recent all-star cast of The Expendables but in this film, it is done with drama and a much more serious tone that make The Wild Geese so enjoyable.
A British multinational hires aging alcoholic Col. Allen Faulkner (Richard Burton) to travel to central Africa to rescue an imprisoned rebel leader whose not only ill but is also going to be executed. Burton is allowed to make up his own team of mercenaries and hires bomb expert Captain Rafer Janders (Richard Harris) who is now a single father and happily retired. Faulkner also hires Lt. Shawn Fynn (Roger Moore) a cigar smoking mob associate who is on the run from the mob after beating up his employers son for giving a young girl a lethal dose of drugs. The three men gather various soldiers for a quick training session run by the hard nosed Sandy Young (played by Jack Watson who steals the film away from the three leads whenever he is on screen).
When the group is ready to break out the rebel leader and the mission is a success, they are black mailed by their employer and left for dead, forced to fight on their own with the sick leader as they all try and get out of Africa alive. With the African military hot on their tail, the mercenaries know that getting out of the jungle alive is a slim to none chance.
Much like The Dirty Dozen, another “men on a mission” film, The Wild Geese takes its time in getting to know the characters as we find out all about these men and why they are risking their lives for a cause that they could care less about. Harris’s character of Janders is especially interesting as he wants to get back into the soldier life but is now a single father who wants to just be with his son for the holidays. Although it may be a bit obvious as to what will happen to him, its none the less heartbreaking to see what his character goes thru. This is one of the problems I have with the recent Expendables franchise; I don’t care what happens to any of the characters in those films. It may have more action but the films are cold and too silly to be memorable. The Wild Geese, while taking its time to get to the main action, still entertains the viewer by showing who these older men are and what they used to be in their prime.
While The Wild Geese isn’t flawless by any means (I don’t quite understand the reasoning for the gay mercenary and the political racial banter between the rebel leader and Hardy Kruger’s racist character had me rolling my eyes from time to time) the film has some rip-roaring action scenes and plenty of bloody squibs to keep action fans happy. The Wild Geese even has the balls to end rather darkly and while that may be a more realistic ending, this may shock certain moviegoers who are used to their predictable modern action films. Don’t forget, this film was made in the 1970’s, back when film makers took chances (as well as the studios who supported these films).
The blu ray / DVD combo by Severin is pretty damn good. The picture, while at times looking a bit dark during the evening scenes, is clear and crisp. The 2.0 sound is rather disappointing given the amount of explosions and gun fire this film contains. Severin dropped the ball in this regards but maybe they were focusing their attention on the special features because the disc is loaded. Commentary, a documentary on producer Euen Lloyd, a new featurette featuring a very old Andrew V. McLaglen who has some great stories about Richard Harris and his love for the drink, an old featurette from back in the day on the making of the film, some trailers…this blu ray is packed with special features.
If you like old school action and manly films, The Wild Geese is a must see. It would make a great triple feature with The Dirty Dozen and the original Inglorious Bastards. And pretty much any real man knows that anything starring Burton, Harris and Moore is a must see anyways.