The Dirty Dozen Reviews
"Train them! Excite them! Arm them!... Then turn them loose on the Nazis!"
The Dirty Dozen is one of the more interesting war films I have seen. It's madly serious, while being wildly silly. I can't help but compare this to a later film Robert Aldrich would direct, which wouldn't seem comparable; that being The Longest Yard. Both of these movies involve a leader having to train inadequate men to be great in order to beat the enemy. Here it is more serious, because it is a matter of life and death. But it is cool to see that Aldrich used basically the same formula for a football movie a little later in his career.
The Dirty Dozen has a reputation as a guys film, and it is easy to see why. There's not a whole lot of femininity going on here. It's a lot of guns, tough talk, and fighting. It also has a reputation as being a fun film, which many war movies can't say. And this is a pretty fun movie. The characters, except for one notable exception, are easy to like. The cast shines. And most notably, you have to love the ironic way the Americans kill the Nazis. There is a long line of these kill the Nazi movies. Of all of them I have seen this is probably my favorite, but I haven't watched Inglorious Basterds in awhile.
The story is about Major Reisman who is assigned a crap job. He must train convicted murderers, many of whom are going to be hanged, for a secret Nazi assassination mission. Most of the movie takes place in the training facility, where the Major must bring his men together. The film isn't all shoot em up, but the last 30 minutes or so are not lacking in suspense and action.
I guess the performances in this film is what sets it apart from other films of this genre. Lee Marvin as Reisman exerts a tough and excellent performance. It helps when you're backed up by Donald Sutherland, Jim Brown, Charles Bronson, Telly Salvalas, and John Cassavetes. The other actors whom I don't recognize are pretty good at bringing out the most in their characters as well.
The Dirty Dozen is one of those must see movies. It is deservedly classified as a landmark film and the fact that it has held up so well to this point is a testament to Aldrich's terrific direction.
Joseph T. Wladislaw: Killin' generals could get to be a habit with me.
A US Army Major is assigned a dozen convicted murderers to train and lead them into a mass assassination mission of German officers in World War II.
Refreshingly devoid of heroism (while remaining gleefully knee-deep in sensationalism), this movie honestly surprised me with it's depth. Lee Marvin is a marvel as a tough Army major assigned to whip a bunch of violent Army felons into shape for a covert mission in German territory. John Cassavetes and Charles Bronson, both smoldering, anchor the charismatic cast of convicts (half of whom remain rather anonymous, unfortunately), and Telly Savalas adds an addled charm as the psychopathic Pvt. Maggott even though his character's story arc is somewhat mishandled down the stretch. The film is rollicking at times but it remains clear-eyed throughout, and revels in the coldness of armed conflict as opposed to cheap dramatics it could have plumbed out of such a familiar story.
The film feels as if it's trying to be The Great Escape, but doesn't quite get it. Yes, Charles Bronson is back playing another Polish character. Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas, and Jim Brown are the highlights of the dozen with Ernest Borgnine playing the general that sends Marvin on his mission and George Kennedy as the major that seems to be the voice of reason between Marvin's charcter and the brass. It's a great cast and a good script, though it seems to lull during the initial training phase the film builds up into a harrowing climax that leaves you on the edge of your seat as they take the chateau. It's this 20 minute sequences that real makes this a great film.
The Dirty Dozen is one of those World War II films that raised its head from the pool of hundreds of WWII films that have been released during the last sixty years. The story is implausible, yet the characters are engaging with some wit thrown in for good measure. It may not be the greatest war film, but it deserves recognition as a film filled with action and a bit of sarcasm at the guys that make the decisions.
Sergeant Clyde Bowren: I think you'll do just fine, sir.
Major John Reisman: [emphatically] I said what do you think?
Sergeant Clyde Bowren: I think the first chance one of those lovers gets, he's going to shoot the Major right in the head... sir.
A fun war time comedy in the same league as movies like M*A*S*H and Kelly's Heroes.
Lee Marvin leads an all star cast as Major Reisman, a good leader who is assigned the mission of leading 12 American military prisoners, all either serving life in jail or headed for the death penalty, into a special assassination assignment.
The cast of cons include Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, and Jim Brown. For the record, my favorite of the dozen was Bronson.
The dozen is assembled, with the majority of the movie being spent developing these cons in their training before getting to their actual assignment in the big action finale.
The majority of the movie is fairly light in tone, but all of the actors make this a very entertaining movie to watch. By the time you get to the end of the film, you do care about the ones that don't make it out of the mission alive.
Lee Marvin, who has to carry this movie as the leader, kicks ass the whole way through, from his no-nonsense dialog to the strut in his step.
Its a very entertaining movie, with a great ensemble cast.
Pinkley: [impersonating a General] Where are you from, son?
Soldier: Madison City, Missouri, sir!
Pinkley: Never heard of it.
The film is fairly well-known for its audacious originality in quite a few areas as a Hollywood war film of the time, but the uniqueness is a little subtle, and yet prominent enough to make it all the more glaring when the film does fall into formula, whose reinforcement of predictability is problematic enough. The ambition to have an edge which is ultimately limited in the long run also makes it a little difficult to embrace the grime of the characters, all of whom are intentionally thoroughly flawed in a manner that is forgivable for only so long, before your investment begins to become a little loosened because of the characters' being, in a way, a touch obnoxious and occasionally limited in dimension. Perhaps there would be more consistency to a sense of humanity in this film if the story itself had more depth, because no matter how entertaining, this "drama" is more action-oriented than anything, and you can do only so much to flesh out an "epic" of that type. Really, the issues discussed up to this point, as far as being serious enough to hold the film back, pale in comparison to mere natural shortcomings that go stressed by an ambition to flesh out this film, with a series of somewhat episodic segments who shifts feel a smidge jarring, due to each segment being fleshed out for way more than a smidge too long. I've already touched upon how there's not much in the way of conceptual dramatic consequence to this film, yet the final product still comes out clocking in at a whopping two-and-a-half hours, on the dot, and it doesn't get there as organically as it probably should, meandering along with a lot of fat around the edges that doesn't really add as much to this narrative as it wants to. Again, there's little to really complain heavily about, with even the bloating not being as excessive as it could have been, but the film's reward value is still threatened by those subtle hiccups and prominent natural shortcomings, in addition to limitation in the quantity of things to praise. Of course, what there is to praise is all but worth lauding in its crafting a thoroughly entertaining war flick of solid intrigue, even in concept.
Under the weight of natural dramatic limitations which are stressed by a hint of conventionalism, overly grimy characterization, unevenness and fat around the narrative edges, the final product ultimately comes to the brink of underwhelmingness, ultimately overcome by an intriguing story's being done enough justice by sharp writing, lively direction, tense action and, most of all, sparkling charisma and chemistry throughout a solid ensemble cast to make Robert Aldrich's "The Dirty Dozen" an ultimately rewardingly entertaining war thriller.
3/5 - Good