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Overall Rating

Awesome: 26.67%
Worth A Look: 26.67%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 10%

1 review, 24 user ratings

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Dirty Dozen, The
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by Dancing Potato

"Male Bonding and Killing Pompous Germans"
3 stars

In recent times, it has proved impossible to release a movie that incorporates patriotism without recieving criticisms; it has been like that for a long while. History has almost forgotten the times where the public was not sensitive about what was going on on-screen; they wanted to see the Commie/Nazi/Zombie bastards die. And they did.

The war movie, through its various shapes and forms, reflects the political standings of the world at the time of their release. The films released before WWII were mostly films that meant “thank God the war is over”. After this we had the war, where the movies were about “Americans kick your pansy ass”. Then there were the after-war pictures (like The Best Years Of Our Lives) and then, throughout the 60’s, as cinema changed and Vietnam slowly burgeoned, the world began to see America swelling up, becoming intensely patriotic with films that either starred John Wayne or Lee Marvin. These films were over-the-top, corny, all-American chest-thumping propaganda, and amny bit the hook. Some, like today’s audiences, gulped it down mindlessly like our very own Pearl Harbor. Others, I suspect, saw it not because they felt patriotic or lobotomized, but because it was pure and simple macho entertainment.

The Dirty Dozen is one of the later incarnations of the genre, after which Hollywood began to lose interest in the war film until the mid 70’s. It stars Lee Marvin as Major John Reisman, an army officer with a reputation for being a bad disciplinarian. Reisman is assigned a mission that is viewed by most as already failed. He is to take 12 convicted murderers, rapists and other criminals, shape them into functional soldiers and take them on a mission to infiltrate a German chateau and exterminate the people in it. Reisman takes his motley crew (which includes Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker, John Cassavetes, Jim Brown and Trini Lopez) to training camp, where he stands up to a superior (played by Robert Ryan), eventually gaining respect from his gang of hoodlums.

The Dirty Dozen is very much a guy’s movie; in fact, the only women in the film appear unbilled. It contains a lot of rah-rah patriotism, sexism and improbable macho action; it stars a solid ensemble cast of men who made their mark in action movies. Consequently, the film is cartoonish and implausible, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t entertained every minute of the film.

There are a few things that are a given even before you see the film. Number one, you don’t mess with Charles Bronson, and if you do, you’ll eventually regret it (while possibly stuffing your intestines back into your body). Number two, Lee Marvin cannot be fired, killed or humiliated unless his role is secondary. Third, if someone has doubts about making it back home, then they will assuredly die. Fourth, and perhaps the most noticeable, the majority of on-screen deaths are bloodless, children-playing-cowboys-and-indians affairs. The majority. Dirty Dozen surprised me by having some graphic scenes (like a head shot that rivals those of this year, and every year’s) but the majority of the deaths are simply ra-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta, you’re dead.

The Dirty Dozen has not aged well. Its special effects are acceptable at best, laughable at worst (most explosions look like poorly constructed Lego structures coming apart). Visually the film does not hold up to other movies of the era like Bonnie and Clyde. The characters are a bit cartoonish or over-the-top at times and the fistfights (which are plentiful here) look like poorly choreographed pro wrestling. That’s no to say, however, that the film cannot hold its own.

For what it is worth, the last hour of the film offers chuckles and quite a few nicely orchestrated shoot-outs. It cannot compare to later films like Kelly’s Heroes (whose problems lay elsewhere) or even previous films like The Guns Of Navarone, but it throws in everything to make sure the viewer has a pleasurable experience. More than once I felt that the film was silly; but not once did I feel like shutting it off. For better or for worse, the film entices you to follow it.

Lee Marvin was an actor that always gave one hundred percent, even if he didn’t always pick the best roles. Fresh off his Oscar for Cat Ballou, Marvin gives a typically strong performance as the Major. There is not enough time devoted to his character to make it a deep one, but Marvin makes the best with the material. Ernest Borgnine and George Kennedy (who went on to win an Oscar for another male classic that year, Cool Hand Luke) both have a couple of scenes as superiors to Marvin. They lend solid support in unimportant roles. The Dozen itself is composed of then unknowns (with the exception of Bronson, who was still not as huge a star as he would become after Death Wish). The best performance comes from Oscar-nominated John Cassavetes (a year away from Rosemary’s Baby and Faces) as nervous soldier James Franco. The rest of the cast are worthy of praise, all except Savalas, who turns in a hammy, over-the-top performance as religious zealot Maggot.

After the events of September the 11th, it’s pretty obvious that we’ll see another cycle of war movies. First we’ll the ultra-realistic stuff but you can be sure that in ten years, we’ll be seeing Dirty Dozen-esque films by the bowlful. Its jingoistic patriotism may be too obvious so close to a world event such as this, but in 10 years we’ll have forgotten.

Not a terrific movie, but probably worth seeing if you're bored.

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originally posted: 01/26/02 11:38:12
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User Comments

7/05/18 Suzanne Lee Marvin is great, but the violence is sickening. 3 stars
11/15/17 Bents Enjoyable...but not sure why it is considered one of the classics 4 stars
1/25/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Should have been called "CARTON OF ROTTEN EGGS". 3 stars
1/02/10 Jeff Wilder Opened the door for the likes of Inglorious Basterds. 5 stars
8/16/09 mr.mike Good , for its time. 3 stars
6/03/06 R.W.Welch Well executed military "mission impossible" pic with colorful cast. 4 stars
8/22/05 ES An excellent guys movie, lots of fun and action to boot 5 stars
2/01/04 john not as good as you may expect but still fun to watch 3 stars
12/12/03 d.j. loved it 4 stars
4/09/03 Andrew Eastenegger Great action film with Bronson and Marvin. HEY 5 stars
10/24/02 Charles Tatum Classic and ultraviolent 5 stars
8/24/02 Evan All the "heroes" do is burn a bunch of trapped people. 1 stars
4/10/02 Mad Dog Great Guy Flick! 5 stars
4/09/02 Mike Lins It can derelicte my balls! 1 stars
4/03/02 Randall The theme is that once in war we are all criminals. Good commentary on war. 5 stars
3/20/02 ~*MARY*~ GOOD MOVIE, some scenes seemed pointless, watch if into war movies, etc 4 stars
3/15/02 R.W. Welch Off-beat, unusually well done commando flick with colorful characters. 4 stars
2/20/02 Xaver A bit dated, but a good story. 4 stars
1/27/02 Andrew Carden It Was OK, but Kelly's Heroes Was Alot Better. 3 stars
9/05/99 Weird Andy UUUUUUUNNNNNNNGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!! 5 stars
2/02/99 Matthew Bartley Get your mates round and get the beers in for the greatest guy movie ever 5 stars
12/13/98 Binky A great movie, what a cast! 4 stars
12/11/98 The Dude fucking suckes 1 stars
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  15-Jun-1967 (NR)
  DVD: 23-May-2006

  21-Sep-1967 (15)

  N/A (M)

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