The Less Than Wild Ones
The last time I watched "The Wild Geese" was back in the early 80s, I was a teenager and the story about a group of mercenaries going into Africa on a rescue mission was right up my street. I hadn't got a clue as to the stars except for maybe Roger Moore who I knew as James Bond, but that didn't matter because this was a movie from my imagination, men with guns battling their way through trouble and I liked it. That is my view from the 80s, watching it now over 30 years later and it's still entertaining but for all the wrong reasons because now "The Wild Geese" comes over as corny, rushed, weak and to be honest all a little comical.
Having travelled to London, veteran mercenary Colonel Allen Faulkner (Richard Burton - Where Eagles Dare) is persuaded to put together a team of mercenaries to head into central Africa and rescue President Julius Limbani (Winston Ntshona) who has been held captive for two years by Dictator Colonel Mboya. With two of his old team Captain Rafer Janders (Richard Harris - The Cassandra Crossing) and Lieutenant Shawn Fynn (Roger Moore - The Spy Who Loved Me) on board they set about building a team of old service friends to go on the dangerous mission. But whilst their attempt to rescue Limbani from his prison is a success their escape plan doesn't work and they are forced to try and find another way out of Central Africa whilst fending of Colonel Mboya's soldiers.
The thing about "The Wild Geese" is that the purpose of the mission, the rescue job in central Africa really doesn't matter because even now "The Wild Geese" is a movie all about the action scenes full of male bravado. It could have been set in Italy, Switzerland, France or Germany and it would have made no difference because this is a movie about action heroes the stuff you pretended to be as a young boy. As such the storyline is weak and although it broaches the subject of apartheid and dictatorship in Africa none of it is that important to the actual story. In fact the whole racial tension, apartheid side of things is so heavy handed that it is one of the elements that watching now ends up a little laughable as Lt. Pieter Coetze warms to President Julius Limbani's way of thinking, stopping calling him Kaffir along the way.
That is just one of the many things which watching "The Wild Geese" now ends up being unintentionally comical. From the initial set up as Col. Allen Faulkner puts his team together, the various characters, the initial rescue mission and also the ending it all seems almost spoof like. One of the more comical scenes, the interviews with all the ex army men, now in retirement, ends up as corny as hell with a sense of British stiff upper lip coming across as amusing rather than serious. It makes it impossible to now watch "The Wild Geese" and take the drama and action completely seriously.
Talking of the action, well again it's comical because it's all too easy, need to disarm a room of troops just creep up and throw a grenade in or spray them with a poison. Need to show drama, well just throw in a lot of gunfire to make it confusing as people get shot left right and centre. Strange how once this was right up my street yet now it just feels for want of a better word corny. Although saying that there are a couple of quite emotional and brutal action scenes which stand out as being impressive in a movie which now struggles to be just that.
As for the acting well these days I can appreciate the magnitude of having Richard Burton and Richard Harris in the same movie and it has to be said they are probably the best thing about "The Wild Geese". Yes they have cheesy lines and some cheesy action but there acting shines through although you do wonder how two of Hollywood's most renowned hell raisers, boozers of God like status managed to get through the movie together without appearing to be plastered. Plus of course there is Roger Moore who although not playing James Bond still manages to come across with that Bond like charm, an eye for the ladies and a turn for the ultra cheesy dialogue.
As for the rest of the cast well it's a case of recognizable faces but not memorable characters, which means you get the likes of Stewart Granger, Hardy KrÃ¼ger, John Kani, Jack Watson, Frank Finlay and Kenneth Griffith all appearing in various roles. Probably the most impressive performance from the supporting cast comes from Winston Ntshona who is surprisingly earnest as President Julius Limbani.
What this all boils down to is that "The Wild Geese" sadly is a movie which hasn't aged very well and where once it was entertaining for all the action is now more entertaining for being corny and comical. It still has some good moments and watching Richard Burton and Richard Harris on screen together is a joy but there are far too many terrible moments and a troubled storyline to make it that good anymore.