Director: William Friedkin
Here's one of those oft-neglected gems by an accomplished director that gets thrown to the wayside for whatever reason. Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist, To Live and Die in L.A.) puts together a pretty tense little drama here that, even in my drunken state, resonates considering the background of what becomes the four main players.
Setup: four random guys in various countries around the world, all involved in some hinky shit. A bit scattershot a first, but it's refreshing to slowly put the gritty pieces of the puzzle thrown at you into place without annoyingly blatant exposition. Particularly insightful is the, I imagine, pretty realistic look at the shithole of a town somewhere in South America that they all end up in. Basically a place to go if you don't want to be found by anyone, maybe even yourself. Helluva price to pay, but every man has their reason. Since there's cervezas and booze, it's one step up from hell, which means there's the slimmest chance of actually getting out. When the rare opportunity arises under the greatest of personal risk, each man grabs for it in the hopes of digging their way out of such a fuckin' hole.
Ultimately, I gotta say I was pleasantly surprised how this played out. Pretty sparse on dialogue for awhile, english or otherwise, but it doesn't matter because of the setup involved. Great use of tense (albeit a bit cheezy at times) electronic score provided by Tangerine Dream creates the perfect backdrop to some truly remote jungle locations. Fuck Indiana Jones and his rope bridge shenanigans, there's a situation here that really would make you shit a brick. The beauty is seeing the justification for each man to take on the insane task given, truly those with no other hope. Definitely some Fitzcarraldo-type moments, give it a shot for some nicely played dramatic tension. Great job by Roy Scheider. Not too big of a stretch for him, but well cast in the role. The french guy was pretty good too. And if you're wondering where the title came from, I have a guess, but mostly I think it's got to come somewhere from the french book it was originally based on (and a french film adaption by the same name of The Wages of Fear). One surprising detail is that it's actually rated PG. Kinda surprising coming from Friedkin. With this story, though, again it really doesn't matter.
Great Scenes: Reflections of an alien world in the windshield as Roy drives on wondering where the fuck he's going. The almost final scene with a fan-fucking-tastic interior/exterior dolly out.
DVD Notes: Fullscreen shitefest, minimal extras. Nice though brief insight in the Production Notes, Backgrounds on all the majors, the trailer.