Sorcerer ★★★

Although a critical and financial disaster upon release, William Friedkin's Sorcerer has seen half-baked redemption over the years. I think most can look back now and agree that it was a decent piece of filmmaking that didn't quite deserve to be ripped apart by critics and virtually ignored by the mainstream audience.

Friedkin likes to blame the release being too close to Star Wars for the films failure as well as marketing flubs and the fact that distributers didn't allow the original film, Wages of Fear, to be properly exposed to the American public.

None of this actually has anything to do with the quality of the film though. Sure, maybe it's droll and depressingly violent tone was too much for people to digest after becoming adjusted to the recent wave of crowd pleasers. But the tone worked well enough for the original film didn't it? I'd say yes since it's one of the things that elevates Wages of Fear from a taut thriller into an existential masterpiece.

Sorcerer other than its terrible title and terrible ending has most of the same things working for it. It's pretty much an identical plot structure; one that allows sufficient time to develop it's key players before they embark on a suicide mission through the jungle to deliver highly unstable explosive material. During this time you also get a feel for the cynicism of the world built on screen. Like the original there are lots of scenes of pain, suffering, death, and dirty, depressed looking men even before the ill-fated journey begins. This doesn't mean the film is without beauty as there are pockets of humanity dispersed across its lush vibrant color palette.

It's hard to criticize or nitpick Friedkin for this type of project. It didn't really take any risks with the material and is a safe remake even though he would probably die before calling it that. He wanted it to be a different take on the same story but when he's already taken so much from the original film, things like randomly changing the brilliant ending seem kind of dumb.

The bottom line is that while Sorcerer is a great piece of filmmaking and emulates all of the white knuckle tension fairly well, the previous film did pretty much everything better. The attempts at separating itself range from being either marginally better (the stylized title cards are great) to being detrimental to the final product.

Finally ill add that I was tempted to give Sorcerer another star just for Tangerine Dream alone.

Larry liked these reviews