From The Dirty Dozen to John Wick, via Enzo G. Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards, the man, or men, on a perilous mission movie is a staple of action thriller cinema, wherein our heroes embark on a seriously against-the-odds undertaking for revenge, to right a wrong, or simply to get hold of a huge amount of loot! They usually go up against a massive, well-protected organisation, a seriously ruthless crime lord, or a well protected bank – and will need the luck of the gods on their side to succeed!
Three mayhem-filled mission classics – High Crime, Kill Them All And Come Back Alone, and Extreme Prejudice are out on DVD and Blu-ray now, on the new Cult Classics label from STUDIOCANAL, with beautiful restorations of beloved genre films, packed with extras!
Here’s a breakdown of the three films, the heroes and their foolhardy undertakings.
Kill Them All And Come Back Alone (1968)
The Man: Chuck Connors (Branded) stars as mercenary Clyde McKay in this bloodthirsty Civil War tale set in 1864, directed by the great Enzo G. Castellari.
The Mission: McKay leads a squad of mercenaries on an extremely dangerous Confederate mission: to infiltrate and raid a Unionist army fortress where a million dollars in gold has been stowed away in boxes of dynamite. Among the gang, strongman Bogard, dab hand with a massive cannon, Blade, a lethal knife fighter, dynamite expert Deker, and the nimble man in black, ‘The Kid’- a killer crew, who take some beating.
The Odds: The job is hard enough – a stray bullet might blow the loot sky high – but then McKay is instructed, by his boss Captain Lynch, to kill all the crew once the job is done. And, as aforementioned, these are difficult men to get the better of! There are also all number of double and triple-crosses thrown into the mix for McKay.
Key scene: McKay goes across a river on a raft, into a restricted military area, right into a battalion of heavily armed soldiers. On the face of it, a stone cold crazy manoeuvre, but McKay cooly faces down the barrage of gunfire… after all, he has a special surprise in store for the soldiers.
Cool quote: “I wonder which one of you will survive, to share the gold – with me!”
Critical consensus: “Castellari keeps the action moving briskly and flamboyantly” Cinema Retro
High Crime (1973)
The Man: Franco Nero (Django) is Vice-Commissioner Belli, the assistant chief inspector in Genoa, is investigating a series of crimes committed by a drug-running gang, in this terrific crime thriller also directed by Enzo G. Castellari.
The Mission: Belli approaches the apparently reformed old-fashioned gangster Cafiero (Fernando Rey) for information on the gang, not knowing that Cafiero plans to take care of them himself. When Belli’s boss is murdered, he takes over as Commissioner and fights on, hoping for a chance to avenge his boss and take down the underworld organisation.
The Odds: Things are not looking good for Belli. He’s a marked man, and the gang will kill anyone who stands in their way, and if they can’t get Belli they’ll get his family… and if his superiors find out about his one-man campaign against corruption, he’ll be for the high jump!
Key scene: Drawing inspiration from the hit film The French Connection (also known as The Marseilles Connection, and features French Connection star Rey), High Crime features action sequences that match that film. Right out of the gate there is a thrilling car chase that ends in a massive explosion, and the film doesn’t let up from there.
Cool quote: “I want them all – from the bottom, all the way to the top.”
Critical consensus: “As good as 70s Italian crime movies get” rarecultcinema.com
Extreme Prejudice (1987)
The Man: Legendary screen tough guy Nick Nolte (48 Hrs., Under Fire) plays no nonsense, hard-as-nails Texas Ranger Jack Benteen, in director Walter Hill’s brilliantly exciting Neo-Western action thriller, that features a powerhouse of talent including Powers Boothe (Southern Comfort), Rip Torn (Men in Black), Michael Ironside (Scanners) and Clancy Brown (Highlander).
The Mission: Benteen is recruited by the CIA to terminate, with extreme prejudice, Cash Bailey (Boothe), a ruthless drug baron operating across the Mexican border. There is just the minor issue of Bailey and Benteen having been friends since childhood, meaning loyalties are torn and decisions are fogged with emotion (not to mention both men fighting over the affections of María Conchita Alonso, The Running Man).
The Odds: Benteen is truly up against it, and will be lucky to come out with his immaculate stetson intact. Not only is Bailey armed to teeth with his own private army of merciless soldiers, Benteen must also reckon with a clandestine army of veterans officially killed-in-action but now on a top-secret assignment in pursuit of the narcotics kingpin, leading to an epic and intensely violent showdown in true Walter Hill stye. There will be blood – and massive explosions, and bullets flying everywhere.
Key scene: Benteen goes into a bar looking for T.C. Luke, a farmer who makes a bit of money on the side running drugs across the border. He slings a pair of handcuffs on Luke’s table and tells him to put them on. Luke says “It ain’t right Jack”, draws on Benteen, and all hell breaks loose.
Cool quote: “I expect a little co-operation.” “I expect you to stay out of my damned way.”
Critical consensus: “The action is lean and tough, the body count huge” Time Out