Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Dirty Dozen - 31 Days of Oscar

Turner Classic Movies' great 31 Days of Oscar (pdf) is in full swing, and my Tivo will be strained for space for a while as movies I've somehow never seen, or haven't seen in forever, pile up.

So as I race to free space, I just caught The Dirty Dozen, which I hadn't seen since I was a kid. It's weird how the formula for action movies have changed over the years. Back in the day, stuff like this and The Great Escape were much slower paced, with lots of exposition and plenty of time to introduce all the characters, while a standard 21st century action flick starts off with a big explosion and a 10 minute adrenaline pumping sequence and only gets bigger, faster, and flashier from there. The Dirty Dozen certainly plays (or possibly creates, this was before my time so I don't remember if any of it was original) all the cliches, between the leader assembling his team, to the conflict inside the team, to the common enemy that unites them... but it all works. Mostly, I think, because of the great actors. Lee Marvin and John Cassavetes, especially, but the smaller parts (especially the great Donald Sutherland) are well cast as well.

Another difference with today is that most current action movies are entirely forgettable. Even most of the ones that work are fun in the theater, but a week later start to fade from your memory. But pretty much everyone remembers Jim Brown in the climactic scene, and even knowing what was going to happen I was getting chills seeing Jefferson on the run.

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