Thursday, 8 August 2013

Review: Code Name: Wild Geese (1984)

Code Name: Wild Geese (1984) is an Italian Macaroni combat war film by Antonio Marghariti, the B-Movie director responsible for cult movies such as Cannibal Apocalypse (1980) and Castle of Blood (1964). Here, he guides a team of seasoned mercenaries on an explosive mission to destroy opium factories in the infamous Golden Triangle. The film begins in Hong Kong where Drug Enforcement Administrator, Fletcher (Ernest Borgnine) heads up an operation to cut off the supply of opium to the West. To fund this operation Fletcher has found himself allied with a wealthy American businessman named Brenner (Hartmut Neugebauer). 

Brenner and his partner, ex-mercenary Charlton (Klaus Kinski), employ Robin Wesley (Lewis Collins), a father who is still grieving over his dead heroin addict son, to destroy opium factories in the Golden Triangle. Wesley and his team enter the Golden Triangle by boat, while Fletcher, Brenner and Charlton remain in Hong Kong waiting on every piece of news transmitted from their base. After travelling a distance down river, the team disembark for a march through the jungle, where they meet up with a group of guerrilla fighters who guide Wesley's team through the jungle to a remote base, located in a quarry. Wesley and his men descend a zip wire into the quarry, where mayhem ensues.

The rest of the commands enter and shoot all enemies prior to escaping on a helicopter and head deeper into the Triangle. The helicopter lands in a depot where the commandos shoot their way out, killing all the enemy soldiers that stray into their sight. Wesley and his men destroy heroin laboratories and blow the opium container to shreds with grenades. During the operation a woman who was captured by the enemy is released and continues the journey with the commandos. But when Wesley enters a burning office and finds a computer disc, he uncovers some secrets. Secrets that encourage him to avenge the death of his son...

The complications in this movie begin early on as so much information is given to the viewer one barely has time to work out what to do with it. Primarily, it is hard to develop an affinity with any character as the line between good and evil is blurred as the vast array of actors bombard you with redundant dialogue. With his brooding looks and deadly serious delivery, leading man, Lewis Collins sticks out like a sore thumb. You can see professional determination in his eyes as he delivers his role with utmost seriousness but unfortunately his skill is lost whilst attempting to uphold an appallingly weak screenplay.

The supporting cast - none of which gel together, proceed with little confidence, creating the impression that nobody really knows why they’re there or what they’re doing. Klaus Kinski never fully commits to the villainy of his role and like Ernest Bognine, he simply reads the lines as opposed to immersing himself in the role. Following their penetration of the opium den, the team are left with more than they bargained for, in the form of Kathy Robson, a reformed addict imprisoned beneath the burning building and with a shrill scream and an arm full of scars. Kathy is played by Mimsy Farmer. The character serves no purpose whatsoever other than to tick a lady shaped box. Kathy's introduction comes in the form of frenzied screaming – that has a similar effect to nails being dragged down a blackboard. Her discomfort is immediately apparent, not necessarily due to the scriptural requirements but due to the sheer lack of chemistry between her and fellow members of the cast. Farmer cannot be held to blame for this as it is evident in all relations from the cast down to production.

The film proceeds amidst a massive lack of communication. The direction is embryonic as there is no confidence or fluidity in the aesthetic. The editing is often clunky leaving some scenes looking like they've been cut short. On several occasions the soundtrack is also met with a sharp cut, which, when met with silence becomes wince-inducing. The sound in parts is embarrassingly discordant. Bullets occasionally sound realistic, yet the final gunfire sounds as if it was ripped from a Bugs Bunny cartoon, ridding the climax of both suspense and drama. On the whole, the entire composition is an undeniable mess. However, amidst the chaos exists one memorable (for all the wrong reasons) stand-out scene, involving an incredibly bizarre car chase. Wesley and Fletcher are driving when they realise their car is being followed. Wesley slams his foot down and heads into a tunnel when he realizes that he is blocked in by construction workers. He suddenly increases speed and then, in a move so ridiculously nonsensical, he drives the car up the side of the tunnel - completely defying gravity and diminishing any sense of belief. The scene is constructed using an exquisitely appalling display of model miniatures. It is intercut with expressions of intensity on Wesley’s face and various looks of comedic shock on Fletcher’s. The scene ends with a camp Kinski delivering the line "isn't that funny?" and although not intentional, it most definitely is.

Code Name: Wild Geese has action sequences aplenty, with countless explosions and relentless gunfire, all blowing up extravagant sets and in paradisiacal locations but it's hard to immerse yourself in the adventure as the stilted and often redundant dialogue acts as a constant reminder that these people are acting or attempting to, at least. This re-release of the film seems pointless unless there is a demand for a master-class in bad writing, terrible acting, horrific editing and incongruous sound. There is many a lesson in how NOT to make a film right here, in what can only be described as a futile and largely forgettable Euro-trash bomb.

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