Wednesday, December 8, 2010

You Can’t Win ’Em All (1970)

Boasting upbeat leading performances and impressive production values, this action flick set in turbulent post-World War I Turkey has everything going for it except a coherent story. Charles Bronson and Tony Curtis star as a mercenary and a mystery man, respectively, and their personas mesh fairly well; Bronson plays up his lighter side and Curtis goes tougher than usual, so they meet somewhere in the middle. If only their entertaining buddy-movie dynamic was supported by a better script. The narrative is murky at best, with underdeveloped characters pursuing the myriad new goals and motivations that are introduced in almost every scene, so from moment to moment it’s impossible to tell if the heroes are after justice, money, revolution, women, or just escape. After a broadly comedic opening involving a boat heist and a bar brawl, the movie drags on through one ineffectively expositional scene after another, laying pipe for a story that never congeals. Worse, all the cumbersome plotting limits the screen time shared by Bronson and Curtis, so they don’t get as many extended scenes together as they should. For a good stretch of the movie, charismatic Turkish actor Fikret Hakan gets to do more interesting stuff than either of the leads, because his role as an opportunistic military officer is so much more clearly defined. The movie gets a little more watchable in the last half-hour, when the big combat scenes and a series of double-crosses kick in, but even with grandiose visuals like two airplanes dive-bombing an army encampment, everything feels inconsequential because the story gives viewers nothing solid to grasp. In fact, the movie is such a muddle that one wonders if the title was the producers’ way of apologizing.

You Can’ t Win ’Em All: LAME


Tommy Ross said...

Wow, I never knew Tony Curtis and Charles Bronson starred together, who woulda thunk? Not sure if I can even wrap my brain around that pairing but I guess I don't have to since this looks pretty darn LAME. ;-)

F. Ben Martin said...

I like it. I wish Bronson and Curtis would have made more; to me they came across as a very modern updating of the Hope Crosby type of mismatched pals who double cross each other but get along anyway. Director Collinson went out of his way to vilify Bronson in the press for his "unprofessional behavior" on the set and went on to blame him for the movie's failure. I find it fascinating that costar Leo Gordon, one of the toughest real-life ex-con actors who ever worked in Hollywood, is the sole screenwriter. He and producer Gene Corman were buddies I believe. The closing shot to this opus is a hoot.