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Film / The Professionals

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The Professionals is a 1966 American Western starring Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode, and Claudia Cardinale. The supporting cast includes Jack Palance and Ralph Bellamy and the film was written and directed by Richard Brooks, whose screenplay was based upon the novel A Mule for the Marquesa by Frank O'Rourke.

In the latter period of The Mexican Revolution, Rancher J.W. Grant (Bellamy) hires four men, who are all experts in their respective fields, to rescue his kidnapped wife, Maria (Cardinale) from Jesus Raza (Palance), a former Mexican Revolutionary leader turned bandit.

Team leader Henry "Rico" Fardan (Marvin) is a weapons specialist, Bill Dolworth (Lancaster) is an explosives expert, the horse wrangler is Hans Ehrengard (Ryan) and Jake Sharp (Strode) is a scout with traditional Apache skills, particularly with a bow and arrow. Fardan and Dolworth, having both fought under the command of Pancho Villa, have a high regard for Raza as a soldier. But they are hard and cynical professionals so they have no qualms about killing him now.


However, once they get across the border they discover that all is not at it seems to be.

Not related to the late '70s/early '80s UK television series The Professionals. Or the 1994 film The Professional.

The Professionals provides examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Ruthless as he may be, Raza gets more and more sympathethic as the film goes on.
  • Anti-Villain: Raza.
  • Avengers, Assemble!: The film includes a sequence where each character is named and briefly described in voice-over while being seen doing what they do.
  • Bandito: Revolutionary banditos make up one of the bad guy groups.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Dolworth does it to J.W. Grant's man at the end of the film.
  • Bounty Hunter: Jake Sharp.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Many, many scenes. Fardan rescuing Dolworth in the canyon is the outstanding example.
    Bandito: Put down your gun, mister.
    Fardan: If I do that, how do I know you'll still be friendly?
    Bandito: Do I gotta kill you to prove I like you?
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  • Cattle Baron: J.W. Grant. He thinks his money can buy him anything.
  • Demolitions Expert: Bill Dolworth is hired specifically because the teams needs an explosives expert.
  • During the War: WWI is raging in Europe.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Does this by montage. Fardan is introduced test-firing a machine gun; Ehrengard beats up a man abusing horses; Sharp clobbers a convict he's arrested; Dolworth... jumps out his lover's window as her husband returns.
  • Ethical Slut: The voluptuous and cheerfully slutty Chiquita, Raza's right hand woman.
    Dolworth: Chiquita. How's your love life?
    Chiquita: Terrific!
    Dolworth: Don't you ever say no?
    Chiquita: Never!
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Rico is choleric, Dolworth is sanguine, Ehrengard is melancholic and Jake is phlegmatic.
  • Friendly Enemy:
    • Dolworth has to Hold the Line against Raza and Chiquita and they spend their climactic gunfight talking like old friends while still doing their level best to kill each other. Raza's bravery and Motive Rant even convinces Dolworth to see Raza as a Worthy Opponent worth sparing.
    • Dolworth also has a strong case of Dating Catwoman with Chiquita, and the two flirt shamelessly with each other. Her death at his hands is enough to cause him a minor Heel Realization.
  • Insult Backfire: A truly epic one.
    Grant: Bastard!
    Rico: Yes, sir, in my case, an accident of birth. But you, sir, you are a self-made man!
  • It Works Better with Bullets: It saves Dolworth's life.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Grant is clearly a rude entitled bastard at first glance but he desperately wants his kidnapped wife back and will pay through the nose to get her back. Then, it's revealed he strongarmed her into marriage and she simply escaped, erasing any sympathy for him.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Rico and Dolworth were once ardent supporters of the Mexican Revolution but are now cynical and bitter mercenaries willing to kill an old comrade for money. As the film progresses, they slowly regain their honor.
  • The Load: Ehrengard, especially in the second half when he's wounded. The gang even leaves him behind for their raid on Raza's compound.
  • New Old West: Comments are made about the Great War raging in Europe and the heroes have to face the traditional dangers of the West combined with more modern threats such as machine guns and artillery pieces.
  • Noble Demon: The movie makes no bones that Raza is a brutal killer but there's no mistake he loves Maria and the cause.
  • Private Military Contractors: Rico is first shown demostrating his machine gun on sale to the American military.
  • The Remnant: Raza's men are still fighting the Mexican Revolution.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilised: Raza openly murders captured soldiers in his first scene.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Grant.
  • The Stoic: Jake.
  • Thirsty Desert: A problem for the professionals as they journey south to find Raza's compound. Ehrengard faints from the heat at one point.
  • Twilight of the Old West: To the point of machine guns and automobiles being available.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Maria wasn't kidnapped, she escaped and reunited with Raza, her lover, after being forcibly married to Grant. She is consistently trying to get free of Rico and his crew.


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