Friday, 22 August 2008

Cinque uomini contro tutti / Cobra Mission / Operation Nam

Obviously taking its inspiration from Rambo, this Fabrizio de Angelis / Larry Ludman entry sees a group of Vietman veterans decide to return to the country after hearing reports that some of their comrades are still being held in prisoner-of-war camps by the Viet Cong, fully a decade after the war's official end; that there's a four- rather than a one-man army is probably explicable by the fact that none of the quartet of Christopher Connelly, John Steiner, Oliver Tobias and Manfred Lehmann could exactly be described as possessing the same physique or star recognition as Stallone, though together they certainly present an attractive proposition for the Eurotrash enthusiast.

Gordon Mitchell also appears as one of the men's former commanding officers, and tries to dissuade them from their self-appointed mission.

After incidents involving an cynical conman who takes opportunity of Americans desperate to be reuinted with loved ones and a militantly anti-communist French colonialist priest – incidents which also allow for some welcome cameo appearances from Ennio Girolami, Luciano Pigozzi and Donald Pleasance to further bolster the film's cult appeal – the four men cross the border into Vietnam and proceed to dispose of what seems like half the Vietnamese army without themselves really breaking much of a sweat.

Exploding huts, trucks and choppers

Although the action remains equally gung-ho in the second half as the Cobra Mission team heads for the border with the rescued POW's in tow, the film also develops a more serious side as it emerges that the US authorities have not only repeatedly denied the prisoners' existence but have also been complicit in the Vietnamese keeping them captive.

If the resulting impression is one of an at times awkward mixture of juvenile action and a rather more adult and cynical approach, vaguely reminiscent of the moral universe of the spaghetti western, it also helps to further distinguish the film from its American model and give it a more distinctively Italian cast.

In particular Rambo's famous question “do we get to win this time” cannot necessarily be answered in the affirmative here – assuming, that is, that it's even possible to definitively identify this “we,” with the early US-set scenes also nicely establishing that the four veterans have not exactly been welcomed back into civilian life with heros welcomes.

One wonder what John Wayne would have thought of his son Ethan's role in the film. It's not The Green Berets, that's for sure...

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