Saturday, 14 April 2018

Movie Review: 100 Rifles (1969)


A clumsy western, 100 Rifles boasts some decent star power but is otherwise bereft of style, substance and significance.

The setting is Mexico early in the 20th Century. American police officer Lyedecker (Jim Brown) goes looking for half-breed bandit Yaqui Joe Herrera (Burt Reynolds), who stole $6,000 from a Phoenix bank. But Joe has already used the money to purchase 100 rifles he intends to hand over to peasant revolutionaries. Local woman Sarita (Raquel Welch) witnessed her father's hanging by the brutal General Verdugo (Fernando Lamas), and joins the rebels.

Lyedecker just wants to get on with the business of transporting Joe back across the border to face justice, but he cannot avoid getting caught up in the peasants' struggle. An attraction also develops between him and Sarita. Eventually Lyedecker, Sarita and Joe team up to help the rebels launch audacious attacks against the army in the name of freedom from oppression.

Directed and co-written by Tom Gries, 100 Rifles is busy, noisy, and cheap. Unconcerned with characters or any semblance of coherent plot, the film jolts along from one shoot'em-up set piece to the next, linked together by lots of scenes of lots of people riding lots horses across the landscape.

The three main characters share no chemistry. Reynolds struggles to convince as a scrappy rogue, Welch radiates her brand of pouty sex appeal but is given nothing else to work with, and Brown is most let-down by a dead-on-arrival script that creates the character of a strong, black stand-up officer of the law and then just allows events to swamp him. Brown and Welch are thrust into some then-daring interracial sex scenes, but the result is more jousting than lovemaking, validating rumours of rampant on-set tensions between the two.

Dan O'Herlihy hangs around the film as a train company executive not quite sure what his role is supposed to be, while Eric Braeden is a German advisor lurking next to General Verdugo. Nothing better than throwing in a random corporate suit and a menacing Nazi predecessor as distractions from a limp story.

The action scenes are mindless but executed with reasonable panache, Gries carving out some individual space between dominant Spaghetti Western sensibilities and the genre's more familiar traditions. And at least nothing in 100 Rifles lasts for too long. With no patience for any sort of meaningful build-up or artistry, the film lines up the scenes of rebel and army extras exchanging gunfire and mows then down with admirable efficiency.

Humourless and witless, 100 Rifles contains plenty of firepower, but most of it is misdirected.






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