13 July 2003 | curtis-8
Great Potential + Wacky Anachronisms= CHINO
"Chino" had such potential. It was directed (partially) by the great John Sturges and its star, Charles Bronson, gives a wonderful performance, exuding the kind of quiet masculine strength that no one in Hollywood has these days. Most of the complaints about the film have to do with its atypically downbeat ending. I won't spoil it for you, but I will say that I thought the ending, though viscerally unsatisfying, was intellectually and emotionally appropriate, more along the lines of something you'd read in a novel than see in a pop movie.
But what really goofs the film up is the see-saw realism brought about by being directed by two different men, the ailing Hollywood icon Sturges, and Duilio Coletti, unknown in the states, who may have been even further down the slope of his career in Europe. Formalist Sturges strove for at least the inner-logic of "movie reality." Coletti's work had devolved into the worst of sloppy Eurowesterns.
Parts of the film seem to strive for realism, using natural lighting effects, etc. But as the film progresses, more and more glaring anachronisms pop up, such as perfectly square hay bales, only possible with baling machines. This break with even a third-grader's knowledge of the old west reaches its zenith when a character burns down a house, using a PLASTIC JUG of kerosene. A PLASTIC JUG in the old west! Hard to believe that even a European wouldn't know that there was no plastic in those days. I don't know what the circumstances were behind Sturges either quitting or being fired from the director's chair part-way through the filming of "Chino," but it certainly seems as though the scenes he left missing were shot by Coletti as quickly and with as little thought as possible.
The film is also hobbled a bit by it's international origins. The villian is obviously French while his sister, played by Jill Ireland, is obviously British. Ireland has a brief bit of dialoge explaining this, but it only leaves you scratching your head all the more. Otherwise, "Chino" has many wonderful segments, thoughtful and well-acted.
As a postscript: I wish someone would restore this and other of Bronson's more unusual Euro flicks and make them available on high quality widescreen dvd. The currently available vhs and dvd versions of Chino, Red Sun, Honor Among Theives, Cold Sweat, You Can't Win 'Em All, and etc, all suck bigtime. MGM? Anchor Bay? HELLO?