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UK 1978
Directed by
Andrew. V. McLagen
138 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
3 stars

The Wild Geese

The Wild Geese is a paradigmatic action film harking back to the days when your average action hero was a hard-drinking, chain-smoking man's man. The alcohol consumed by Richard Burton and Richard Harris alone would be enough to kill the entire cast of most action movies today. These actors lived the myth and their grizzled, world-weary exteriors suit them perfectly as the crusading mercenaries of The Wild Geese.

Burton and Harris are joined by a wise-cracking Roger Moore and all three leads excel in this boys’ own adventure lark shot on location in South Africa. From the opening in the dark streets of London to the panoramic landscapes of Africa the film looks fabulous. This is back in the days when if you needed a fighter plane to blow up a bridge, you got one. None of those woosy computer-generated effects for these guys. This really helps sell the story. The film is also surprisingly brutal in its depiction of violence but manages to counter this with the character of Faulkner (Burton) and his relationship with his son. The other intriguing aspect of The Wild Geese is its depiction of racism.  Hardy Krueger plays South African Lt. Pieter Coetze who is charged with the task of carrying the injured Limbarni and whose racism is gradually worn down as he gets to know his passenger. It’s simplistic and heavy handed, yes, but it gives the film a heart.

The Wild Geese started a stream of war movies starring the old guard. Andrew V. McLaglen went on to direct The Sea Wolves and there was even a belated sequel, The Wild Geese 2 starring Edward Fox and Sir Laurence Olivier. The sequel failed at almost every level but fortunately the original still stands the test of time. An action film with a message starring some of old school Hollywood’s finest.




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