The Losers (Jack Starrett / U.S., 1970):

Filthy warriors for a filthy war, the old grindhouse forthrightness. (Aldrich the same year has Too Late the Hero, though Vietnam demands Jack Starrett’s candid grunge.) The CIA is out of badasses so Hell’s Angels in the jungle constitute the joke, an Army truck behind enemy lines unloads the strange cargo of leather and earrings and bandanas: "You hired scooter trash for this job, that’s what you got!" William Smith as the gang leader is Paul Bunyan astride a chopper, his sidekicks (Adam Roarke, Paul Koslo) are sensitive dropouts wooing abused local lasses, the bellicose slobs (Houston Savage, Gene Cornelius) stick around for whores and opium. Held prisoner in a Red Chinese camp is a haughty presidential adviser (Starrett), the rescue mission is a long study of low-angled explosions and Peckinpah slow-mo. Rowdy macho bluff plus forceful political despair, "sittin’ on the john and singin’ the Stars and Stripes," a disenchanted Western set in wrecked Cambodia. (Escape from New York and First Blood profit mightily from it.) The armored motorcycle in flames, the abandoned biracial toddler, the closet integrity of the expendable bastard. Corpses strewn across fields pockmark the closing image, the Washington suit has no use for it, "a real bummer, man." With Bernie Hamilton, Ana Corita, John Garwood, Lillian Margarejo, and Vic Diaz.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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