Dirty Dozen [1967]

Genre: Action, Adventure, War
A group of conscripted convicts, most already destined for death row, are drafted to go on a near-suicide mission with the understanding that if the Nazis don't kill them, the U.S. Army won't, either. In the hands of hardboiled director Robert Aldrich and a tough-as-leather cast headed by Lee Marvin (as a troublesome U.S. Army major), that's all the plot that's needed to make one rip-roaring World War II action flick. Marvin's mission is two-fold: first turn his dozen prisoners into a fighting unit and then turn them loose on a French chateau occupied by partying German officers. His crime-minded charges include John Cassavetes as a chronic malcontent, Telly Savalas as a ready-to-blow psycho, Donald Sutherland as a lame-brained lummox, and Charles Bronson and then-just-retired NFL superstar Jim Brown as a couple of clutch performers. The first half of the film allows the colorful cast of character actors to have their fun as they get their tails whipped into shape and develop shaky bonds with their commander. The second part is all action, as the culprit commandos wreck havoc and then run for their lives. Despite the fact that few of the "heroes" survive the bloodbath, the message here isn't that war is hell. Rather, it seems to be: war can be a hell of a good time... if you've got nothing to lose. --Steven Stolder

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