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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Mercenary - aka A Professional Gun (Blu-ray)
The Mercenary - aka A Professional Gun (Blu-ray)
Kino // PG-13 // November 7, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted November 6, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Movie

Also released as A Professional Gun, 1968's The Mercenary, skillfully and stylishly directed by the late, great Sergio Corbucci, stars the original Django himself, Franco Nero, as a Polish mercenary named Sergei Kowalski operating in the Mexico of 1915 at the height of that country's revolution. When the movie begins, a mine owner named Alfonso Garcia (Eduardo Fajardo) hires him to help smuggle the silver he pulls from the ground across the border into Texas. At the mine, Sergei meets Paco Roman (Tony Musante), a leftist peasant who, along with his revolutionary cohorts, has taken over the mine. It isn't long before Sergei switches allegiances and starts helping Paco and his men.

This doesn't come without consequences, however. Alfonso's cruel but connected brother, General Garcia (Vicente Roca), and a psychotically cruel man named Curly (Jack Palance) on Alfonso's payroll, are out to put a stop to Paco and his crew. With the crafty Kowalski on their side, however, the revolutionaries have a shot. Not only that, they manage to get ahold of most of the mine's silver and find themselves with plenty of money to use as they see fit. Things get a bit complicated when Sergei falls for a beautiful revolutionary woman named Columba (Giovanna Ralli),a strong woman who has no qualms whatsoever about calling out the rest of the group on their newfound greed.

Clearly influenced by the success of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly made two years prior, The Mercenary relies heavily on the strength of its three leads. Franco Nero is as cool as they come, playing his Polish gun for hire with a straight face and plenty of machismo. Mustane plays Paco with a wink and a grin at times, his character is mischievous and we can tell early on that his greed will get the best of him. What we don't know is if that greed will change him permanently or whether he'll go back to his revolutionary ideals. Palance is, however, the real scene stealer here. As Curly he's flamboyant (possibly gay), strutting about in a white suit in stark contrast to the gritty attire worn by pretty much everyone else in the cast. All three deliver fine work here. If Palance is more memorable because he's occasionally over the top, so be it but Nero and Musante definitely hold their own. Supporting work from Fajardo, Roca and the lovely Ms. Ralli is also noteworthy, but it's the three principals that have the most to do.

Corbucci's direction is assured. The cinematography does a great job of capturing the sets and locations used for the picture, lots of very wide shots and then, of course, the requisite close-ups do a fine job of relaying tension and excitement. The script wears its politics on its sleeve as many Spaghetti Westerns tended to do (Corbucci's classic Django standing as a fine example) but it's never overbearing or at the expense of the picture's entertainment value. The script also interjects some effective humor into the proceedings. This works in the movie's favor as it feels natural rather than forced into the plot. Most of it stems from the interactions between the characters rather than the situations, though there are some situationally comedic moments in the movie as well, also pretty effective.

Ultimately, this one delivers. It hits the right balance between gritty action/adventure and quirky comedy thanks to a smart script, solid direction and a strong cast. And on top of that? A fantastic score from Ennio Morricone.

Video:

The Mercenary is presented on Blu-ray in 2.35.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer on a 50GB disc with the feature strangely taking up only a bit over 26GBs of space. Regardless, the encoding is fine, there are no noticeable compression artifacts to discuss. If detail levels aren't quite reference quality they're certainly very good. There's pleasing depth and texture throughout and the image is quite cleaning, showing only minor white specks here and there rather than any obvious scratches or larger instances of print damage. Skin tones look fine, nice and lifelike, while black levels remain solid and deep. Edge enhancement and noise reduction are never a problem, the film's grain structure looks nice and natural.

Audio

The only audio option on the disc, an English language DTS-HD Mono track, proves to be pretty solid. No issues here. The track is clean and nicely balanced offering up dialogue that is perfectly easy to understand. Hiss and distortion are non-issues, and there's a fair amount of depth and range to the track, particularly when the impressive score from Morricone is used in the picture. Gun shots do sound a little flat in some spots, but that's almost certainly an issue that stems back to the original recording rather than a problem with the disc. There are no subtitles of any kind provided on this release.

Extras:

Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring filmmaker Alex Cox, who is clearly a fan of ‘the other Sergio' as he dives pretty deep into Corbucci's career and does a fine job of talking up this director's importance in the Spaghetti Western genre. He also talks about the themes that are explored in the picture, details of the script, the contributions of the cast and crew members, the score, the locations that are used and quite a bit more. Again, as he did on his track for the Kino Blu-ray release of Death Rides A Horse, Cox proves to be an enthusiastic and well informed commentator making this track quite worthwhile.

Outside of that we get two still galleries, a trailer for the feature and bonus trailers for Navajo Joe, A Fistful Of Dollars, Death Rides A Horse and Valdez Is Coming as well as menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

The Mercenary is top notch entertainment, a gritty Spaghetti Western helmed by one of the best directors to work in the genre and played by a very game cast. Kino's Blu-ray debut for the picture is a good one, presenting the film in very nice shape and with an interesting commentary from Alex Cox. Highly recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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