In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”


Steve Jobs

The fact that he doesn’t try to redeem these flawed, fascinating figures—or even try to make you like them in the slightest way—feels like an…


Knock Knock

As a piece of social satire, Knock Knock winds up being not just toothless but anticlimactic.

Other Reviews
Review Archives

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…


Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives


Villa Rides


Even Robert Mitchum seems defeated by the great weight of "Villa Rides."

His voice, usually rich with a kind of drawling irony, is flat and tired. His face is weary. He wanders through his part in a white shirt with a button-down collar, just the thing for the Mexican Revolution.

Yul Brynner has grown or rented hair for the role of Pancho Villa and plays it with a certain energy. But the political implications of the Mexican Revolution are never quite brought to the surface, and what we are given instead is a pretty cut-and-dried story of Mitchum as the gunrunner and Brynner as the dashing revolutionary.

This is usually the case when Hollywood considers revolutions (and it will be interesting to see how Omar Sharif handles the title role in the upcoming film "Che!," (1969)). The political questions involved are shuffled into the background in embarrassment, and the whole war becomes a Wild West shooting match between two identical sides.

This contrast became particularly apparent to me after seeing "The Battle of Algiers," which handles the Algerian War with fierce honesty. By contrast, Hollywood's "The Lost Command" completely ignored the issues and cast Anthony Quinn as a Frenchman who wins the war despite historical fact.

"Villa Rides" is another exercise of this sort. You would think an interesting picture could be made about Pancho Villa and the Mexican Revolution, a subject most Americans know next to nothing about. But we learn nothing except that Pancho was a romantic fellow who had a mustache and liked to have people lined up three in a row and killed with one bullet. (That scene, incidentally, got a big laugh.)

Frankly, this kind of movie is beginning to get to me. You can enjoy one, maybe, or two. Or you can enjoy a particularly well done shoot-em-up. But the Loop has been filled with one action-adventure after another for the last month, and if "Villa Rides" is not the worst, it is certainly not the best. If you like to see desperadoes galloping over the ridge to attack a troop train, while Robert Mitchum lights bombs with his cigar and drops them on the Yankees, "Villa Rides" is for you. But are you sure that's what you want to see? Again?

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Of Rats and Men: “Black Mass” vs. “The Departed”

A comparison of Frank Costello in The Departed and Whitey Bulger in Black Mass reveals weaknesses in the latter.

NYFF 2015: "No Home Movie," "Microbe & Gasoline"

A NYFF report on new films from Chantal Akerman and Michel Gondry.

The Unloved, Part 22: "My Soul to Take"

Our monthly series digs into the career of Wes Craven and comes out with his 3D 2010 film, "My Soul to Take".

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus