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  Kill Zero Tolerance CampaignBuy this film here.
Year: 1971
Director: Romain Gary
Stars: Stephen Boyd, Jean Seberg, James Mason, Curt Jurgens, Daniel Emilfork, Mauro Parenti, José Maria Caffarel, Carlos Montoya, Memphis Slim, Henri Garcin, Victor Israel, Aldo Sambrell, Luciano Pigozzi, Cris Huerta, Tito García, Richard Santis, Tony Cyrus
Genre: Drama, Action, Thriller, Trash, Weirdo
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Alan Hamilton (James Mason) is part of an Interpol move to stop the ever-growing trade in heroin in its tracks, but lately their efforts have proved a failure, with twelve-year-olds getting hooked on the infernal drug and countless lives left ruined by its effects, all stemming from the origins of the multi-million-dollar business in the Middle East. Though Hamilton still has faith in the agency, he finds his fellow agents turning in their badges in disgust as yet another big-time dealer gets released on bail to walk away from the charges levelled against them on a technicality. His boss, Greuningen (Curt Jurgens), orders him to take a trip to Pakistan to do something, anything, but easier said than done...

Now, director Romain Gary was best known as a writer in his lifetime, as he was a prolific novelist, but as was the way with the arts back in the era he was working, there was plenty of crossover when one specialist would try their hand at a different aspect of the creative form, and so it was cinema beckoned since he was married to a movie star, Jean Seberg, though they were divorced when he agreed to craft another movie for her to star in. That it was the last film (of two) he ever directed should give you some idea of how successful it was, with Mason admitting he did it purely for the money and being embarrassed when something he expected to sink without trace wound up a late night television staple, probably thanks to his presence.

Mason was a recognisable name, after all, as were his main co-stars, joining them to headline Stephen Boyd who played, in an unlikely development, the title character. Yes, he really did play somebody called Kill, or rather Brad Killian, though he apparently likes to be called Kill, just one aspect of the lunacy that passed for a two-fisted, square-jawed action thriller Gary and his producers the Salkinds were serving up for your delectation. That Hamilton's good lady wife was introduced to us sporting a huge afro wig and listening to a record of African wildlife sound effects at full volume was another instance of the director's choices being unfathomable when they were not utterly preposterous, but they did keep you watching.

Not that Kill was absurd all the way through, at times it was merely shoddy, looking every inch the Eurotrash thriller shot in Spain but passing for Pakistan, which at least made a difference from all those Westerns shot in Spain but passing for North America. Somehow, Mason's twice her age character was married to Seberg's, who seemingly drives to rural Pakistan on a holiday for reasons best known to herself (she was meant to be going to Connecticut), where Hamilton would arrive in turn the following day. She gets lost on the way, and ends up in the middle of one of Boyd's murderous sprees on a quiet road. To explain: Killian (as with the disillusioned Interpol agents) has decided the best way to combat the drugs trade is to slaughter every man jack of the criminals, well, there's no harm in ambition.

That said, it did appear as if Gary's understanding of the heroin problem in the West was somewhat lacking if he believed such a simplistic, not to mention illegal, solution was the only path to take, and it could be that all this drugs stuff was mere window dressing to get him to the action sequences. Then again, there was a misplaced sincerity here that exhibited itself in curious ways, absolutely no effective intentional humour for one, not that there were no unintentional laughs to be gleaned throughout the running time. Take the bizarre preoccupation with trampolining: you think the regular shots of gunmen bouncing up and down in the background are incidental, if persistent, and then the climax of the movie features a mass bouncing in an apparent vision of religious ecstasy that has no explanation. As if hearing Mason trying an American accent wasn't bad enough ("Who did ya screw last night?!"), we are expected to believe Killian, who is patently insane, would be alluring enough to seduce Seberg's Emily (and her body double), leaving the impression of a collection of pulp men’s paperback clichés assembled in one place without much concept of how to make them succeed. Memphis Slim shows up to play the piano to manacled naked women, incidentally. Nuts, if nothing else. Music by Jacques Chaumont and Berto Pisano.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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