7 February 2017 | dglink
Decent Action Flick with Distinguished Cast
In concept, "The Wild Geese" resembles many other action movies; "The Dirty Dozen" immediately comes to mind, despite obvious differences. Tough veteran with a murky background is hired to assemble and train a team that will carry out a dangerous assignment; the opening interview explains the mission; the team is recruited from among the vet's old friends; the team is trained under a tough drill sergeant; and the climactic raid unfolds.
A late-career Richard Buron is fine as Colonel Faulkner, the mercenary with experience and myriad capable ex-confederates. Enter Stewart Granger as Sir Edward Matherson, a stuffy Brit with ambiguous motives; Matherson secretly brings Burton to England for a dangerous mission to rescue a kidnapped African president named Limbani, sensitively played by Winston Ntshone. Burton quickly enlists Roger Moore, on hiatus from his James Bond franchise; Richard Harris; and Hardy Kruger. An old buddy of Burton, Jack Watson, is the tough drill sergeant, who gets the aging group in shape. And they all badly need the exercise, because Burton enlists his team from among the retired, the underemployed, and malcontent, and most seem too mature for the mission; they are not exactly a dirty dozen, but more an arthritic thirty. Beyond the aging leads, the rest of the seasoned cast includes Barry Foster, Frank Finlay, Kenneth Griffith, Ronald Fraser, and Jeff Corey. As expected from the distinguished names, the acting throughout more than meets the demands of an action flick.
The screenplay by Reginald Rose, which was based on a novel by Daniel Carney, is riddled with such stereotypes as the fey gay man, the noble African leader, and the racist white South African. The plot is often predictable, and clichés abound from hostile wives, who tolerate their adventure-seeking husbands, to the requisite "if something happens to me" speech to a sappy fade out. The superfluous clichés and gratuitous political exchanges between Ntshone and Kruger slow the film, and the running time is a bit long at 129 minutes. However, Andrew V. McLaglen directs professionally and manages to overcome the script's weaknesses to deliver a satisfying action movie.