Friday, February 4, 2011

Red Sun (1971)

Revealing the pedigree of Red Sun should separate those who couldn’t care less from those who can’t get their eyeballs onto this movie quickly enough. Terence Young, the director of Dr. No (1962) and From Russia With Love (1963), helms this zippy “East-meets-Western” that pits unlikely buddies Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune against cold-blooded bad guy Alain Delon, and Dr. No bikini girl Ursula Undress (ahem, Andress) is along for the ride as high-spirited eye candy. If that recitation doesn’t quicken your pulse, then move along to the next movie, but if it does, then praise the movie gods because, lo, ye have just been delivered a prime example of early-’70s manly-man action/adventure cinema. The convoluted plot begins when a train delivering the Japanese ambassador through the Old West is robbed by a group of bandits led by Delon. Overpowering sword-wielding bodyguards including Mifune, the thugs rip off an ancient samurai sword the ambassador was supposed to deliver to the U.S. president as a gift. During the robbery, however, Delon comes to a violent parting of the ways with his accomplice Bronson, so Bronson and Mifune join forces to kick their Gallic adversary’s derriere. The movie is loaded with action right out of the gate, and it delivers exactly what is promised, blending fistfights, gunfights, and swordplay in sequences like the stylish finale, wherein most of the major characters face off against the backdrop of a burning wheat field. At 112 minutes, Red Sun is longer than it needs to be, but the filmmakers devote a fair amount of that excessive screen time to giving Mifune’s character dimension (if a string of earnestly presented samurai-movie clichés, like the inevitable near miss with hara-kari, counts as dimension). Bronson and Mifune do their best to sell the story’s many contrivances, although their real focus is providing swaggering badass coolness, Delon is a solidly hissable villain, and Andress brings the requisite amount of sexy. Red Sun isn’t any kind of classic, but if you’re a fan of vintage action, this is the movie you never knew you wanted to see.

Red Sun: FUNKY


F. Ben Martin said...

To me, it is 100% Outa Sight!!. I indeed spent hours "praising the movie gods" for this international miracle, and consider it, as John Huston did, one of the best westerns ever made. What transforms the movie from just being a hell of a lot of fun to entering into the realm of cinematic greatness is the pulling together over situations extreme and desperate of the clashing cultures of macho "East-ness" and macho "West-ness" into something that becomes satisfyingly universal. Hanging long enough with an ass-kicker with a code can make an aimless, self-serving ass-kicker a hero with a purpose. Is that profound? Well, no, not necessarily. But depending on how personally invested you are in this movie, the effect can be singular and everlasting. Mifune? Bronson? Please - movie nirvana.

Jocko said...

Good movie that I just watched based on your recommendation. The combination of Western and Samurai genres reminds me a little of when I'd have my Star Wars figures mixed with my G.I. Joes as a kid.

Plus, 'The Magnificent Seven,' connection makes this one a treat. Surprised it's not more well known and regarded.