William Friedkin’s Sorcerer

William Friedkin’s Sorcerer is less of a film than it is a visceral, ‘fly on the wall’ glimpse into the breathless plight of a rugged troupe of villains from various parts of the world, thrown into an impossible situation together, a lean, mean, anti-cinematic survival picture that has one of the most suspenseful set pieces ever filmed, now a legend and showcase in Friedkin’s rough n’ tumble career. The story focuses on a quarter of thoroughly rotten human beings who are an inspired choice to light as protagonists: a disgraced New Jersey hitman (Roy Schneider), a corrupt French banker (Bruno Cremer), a dangerous gangster (Francisco Rabal) and an Arabic terrorist (Amidou). They’re a heinous bunch, each on the run in their own way, but each’s situation is their own fault, which is the setup for the purgatorial horrors that befall them in the remote South American jungle. Each cast out into the primal ether of that region, their collective hope for a modicum of redemption, not to mention financial stability, comes in the form of a nightmarishly dangerous task: transport several giant tanker trucks across the region, each loaded with enough volatile nitroglycerin to blow a crater in the jungle. It’s low concept that pays off for high thrills, especially when monsoon season conveniently shows up right when our quartet are trying to navigate the trucks over a horrifically rickety set of of wooden suspension bridges, a sequence so unbelievably white knuckle, so deeply frightening it’s a wonder and a half it was allowed to be filmed. There’s a twisted catharsis in seeing these unsavoury fellows put through such fresh hell, but they’re so violently resourceful and charismatic that by the end of it we’re rooting for them, by both default and earned respect simply for the desperation of their situation. A simple, brawny piece of cinema that uses it’s straightforward story to tap into something more earthy and primeval, as well as a long standing, finely aged example of action/survival cinema and probably Friedkin’s best film to date.

-Nate Hill

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