A group of four desperate men, from all corners of the Earth, escape to a decrepit South American oil mining village. A fire breaks out at the company’s new oil well, burning out of control. The only option to get production back on track is to blow the fire out, using dynamite. The only dynamite available is highly unstable and the only means of transportation is by truck, 200 miles through the jungle. The oil company offers a large reward, enough for each of the four men to escape the living hell.
“Sorcerer”, produced in 1977, and directed by William Friedkin, is a remake of the French classic “Wages of Fear”. Usually, I can’t stand remakes, but in the case of “Sorcerer”, Friedkin reinterprets parts of the film, while retaining the white-knuckle suspense sequences. He doesn’t create a new film, but when compared to “Wages of Fear”, really one of the best films ever made, “Sorcerer” is really very good.
“Sorcerer” was one of the many International productions studios created in the 70s. These films were filled with international casts in an attempt to secure an audience in the various countries. Now, American movie stars are so big oversees, they really don’t have to worry about it.
“Sorcerer” begins with the story of why each of these men found it necessary to live in this South American hell hole. I am not certain, but I think that “Sorcerer” did not make a lot of money. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that each and every character has many, many faults. Personally, I like this. No one is perfect and these characters are more interesting to me. Roy Scheider plays Scanlon, a New Jersey hood who participates in the wrong job. Bruno Cremer plays Serrano, a French investment banker. Francisco Rabal plays Nilo, a South American hitman. Amidou plays Kassem, a bomber on the run from Tel Aviv. Each of these characters makes a decision to escape to the little South American town, but then desperately wants to escape. The town is in the Rain Forest and they quickly become tired of the poverty, disease, mud and rain surrounding them. Their willingness to accept such a high risk mission is very believable.
The cinematography is lush and waterlogged, adding to the realism of the film. Once they begin their journey, they traverse land in just about every climate and the viewer feels as though he is along for the ride.
Scheider has never been one of my favorite actors, but in this film, he is very believable. He and the other three members of the team all seem very desperate to escape, very determined to make it through the obstacle course they have embarked upon, and very determined to make it home.
Much like “Wages of Fear”, the first half of the film sets up the circumstances of the four characters and then life in the village. This is a very necessary part of the process. They hate living there and we, the viewer, have to see why. The second half involves the trek to get the dynamite to the oil drilling site. It is a harrowing journey, one that had me on the edge of my seat, even though I watched the journey in ‘Wages of Fear” a few months ago.
There are two problems with “Sorcerer”. The first is the score by Tangerine Dream. I didn’t think it added anything to the suspense scenes and would have preferred to watch the scenes with no score. To me, this is so much more effective. Let us determine when we should get excited. If you don’t cue us, we will be that much more excited when something happens.
The second is Roy Scheider’s performance is ruined in the last few moments. Cheesy graphics and voice overs are used to tell us the state of his character. Again, unneeded and it simply provides an opportunity for Scheider to chew the scenery.
Overall, “Sorcerer” is a very good film and a really good example of superb action filmmaking. Rent “Wages of Fear” first and then watch this film. You won’t be bored for a second.