A passable Western with a few meritorious elements, including a lively supporting performance by Ernest Borgnine and a zippy musical score by Pino Colvi that borrows textures from the work of Elmer Bernstein and Ennio Morricone, The Revengers represents a milquetoast response to the cinema of Sam Peckinpah. Whereas Peckinpah’s Westerns upended the genre by accentuating gritty realism and moral ambiguity, The Revengers has the feel and look of an old-school cowboy movie, even though the broad strokes of the story are quite grim. Had the filmmakers taken their endeavor to its logical conclusion by emulating Peckinpah’s gutsy style instead of simply copping a few of his narrative tropes, The Revengers could have been something special. As is, the movie provides about 90 minutes of so-so entertainment during the course of a bloated 106-minute running time.
William Holden, giving a phoned-in but still authoritative performance, plays John Benedict, a former Union solider now living quietly on a Colorado ranch with his family. A band of rogue Indians led by a white man raids the ranch one day while John is away hunting, so he returns to find his family slaughtered and his livestock stolen. John ventures into he wilderness in order to find and kill the guilty parties, eventually tracking them across the border to a hideout in Mexico. Realizing he needs extra guns, John manipulates the warden of a Mexican prison into loaning the services of several convicts, among them Americans Job (Woody Strode), a runaway slave, and Hoop (Borgnine), a fast-talking varmint. Adventures and betrayals ensue.
The Revengers moves along at a good clip, except for a dreary interlude during which John spends time with frontier woman Elizabeth (Susan Hayward), and even though there aren’t many full-out action scenes, the bits of John and his outlaw gang living on the trail have color. Borgnine easily steals the picture by playing a two-faced creep prone to vulgar aphorisms (“That one-eyed rooster got away cleaner than a fart in a high wind!”). And while Holden’s gritted-teeth intensity suits the material well, his boredom during much of the picture is evident. Worse, director Daniel Mann’s periodic attempts at comic relief are punctuated with cringe-inducing musical stings, a sure sign the filmmakers lacked confidence in their own work. Fans of south-of-the-border Westerns should find The Revengers sufficiently distracting, though anyone expecting a proper follow-up to the previous Borgnine/Holden oater will be disappointed—instead of The Wild Bunch (1969), this is more like The Mild Bunch.
The Revengers: FUNKY