My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.

This week focuses on three films in the men-on-a-mission subgenre.



Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I watched this the other night for the umpteenth time with my friends John and Cara. He’d seen it. She hadn’t. It holds up time and time again.

I continue to be blown away by this men-on-a-mission movie. What I love most about it, a characteristic of my favorite action pictures, is the slow build up followed by an explosion of violence. More than half of WHERE EAGLES DARE features little to no action, setting the scene and tension, building the characters. Sure, there are a few fights peppered throughout the first hour but nothing like what’s to come. In that respect, it reminds me of THE PROFESSIONAL, taking its time to set us up for an unforgettable finale. I would very much like to make a movie like that one day.

Of course, the most unforgettable part of WHERE EAGLES DARE isn’t the non-stop hour of action that concludes the movie but the tense dialog scene that precedes it. The dining room sequence is masterful and features Burton at his best. It is at once complex, thrilling, and hilarious. I don’t see how the best part of Tarantino’s WWII picture could exist without it.

For me, WHERE EAGLES DARE towers above most men-on-a-mission movies. Perhaps it is the best ever made.

Watched on Amazon.



Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

I’ve been curious about this picture for two reasons: 1. Like WHERE EAGLES DARE, it’s an Alistair MacLean adaptation. 2. It was reportedly one of Howard Hughes’ favorite films, one he compulsively screened over and over again.

So I queued it up on Tubi the other night and settled in for the long haul. The length of the film didn’t bother me since the cinematography, set design, and good performances from Rock Hudson and Patrick McGoohan kept me engaged. Like WHERE EAGLES DARE, ICE STATION ZEBRA seems to be leading up to an explosive finale. The problem is that this film never gets there. After so much build up, including some truly overlong submarine sequences that Preston Sturges mistakes for being suspenseful, ZEBRA truly fizzles at the end. The twist feels quite obvious and does nothing for the narrative other than to re-assert Cold War suspicions. The standoff between the two sides couldn’t be more of a let down. It’s a poorly written, poorly staged action-less finale that disappoints more than any ending I can think of in recent memory.

Especially in the shadow of that other MacLean adaptation, ICE STATION ZEBRA doesn’t stand very tall in the history of men-on-a-mission movies.

Watched on Tubi.



Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

This Charles Bronson movie is an unusual picture in that it gets by almost completely on location and action. The script isn’t very strong, weaving a complicated but dull plot and the half the dialog fails to be sharp or funny. The performances, accept the two leads, are forgettable.

So why is YOU CAN’T WIN ‘EM ALL a highly entertaining picture? I’d even call it a good movie. For one, the locations are mind-blowing. Filmed in Turkey, the production showcases breathtaking landscapes. And they aren’t just eye candy, the locations serve this adventure story, providing a perfect battleground for the action which is the other thing that keeps this flawed picture standing upright. From a bar room brawl to a fight on a train to a final battle on boat, director Peter Collinson and his action team really know what they’re doing.

Of course, it also works because Bronson and Tony Curtis are pretty good. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like they’re just there for a Hollywood star vacation. They’re putting in the work. The pairing is an odd one and doesn’t always jive but there are moments of chemistry and I have to admit, the ending is quite funny.

Watched on Tubi.