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Red Sun/Soleil rouge

(Terence Young, France/Italy/Spain, 1971): Looks count for almost everything in Red Sun, Terence Young’s international post-spaghetti western that corralled stars of The Magnificent Seven (Charles Bronson), The Seven Samurai (Toshiro Mifune), Le samourai (Alain Delon) and Young’s own Dr. No (Ursula Andress) into one big open Spanish range only to hope everybody looked good enough — and generated enough international box office pull — to compensate for the movie’s almost terminal state of sunstruck drowsiness.

But look good everybody did. As the train robber who’s thrust into a reluctant buddy alliance with the samurai (Mifune) seeking the ceremonial sword stolen from him by the robber’s suavely sleazy partner (Alain Delon), Bronson’s skin is as weathered bronze as his buckskin ensemble, and Mifune is resplendent in the warrior robes he’d effectively patented as a kind of international trademark. Dressed in designer dude black, Delon cuts a razor sharp impression as the movie’s sucking moral vacuum, and as the pay-for-play woman Bronson drags along to lure favoured client Delon out of hiding, Andress is, as usual, gamely attired for regular exposure. D.O.P. Henri Alekan (Beauty and the Beast, The Wages of Sin, Wings of Desire) is fitfully inspired by the landscape, and a climax in a cornfield is nearly arresting enough to stir matters into something like excitement.

So the looking is good, but Red Sun isn’t Once Upon A Time in the West, or even Shalako, to cite one or two of its more ambitious multinational post-Spaghetti frontier cohorts. Whatever compromises, cocktail handshakes or conference call agreements were required to negotiate its existence seemed to have seeped into its overall ambience of cheerful but uninspired rote rule-playing, and even the otherwise fetching fun apparently being had by the whole cast seems less a function of dedication to the material than the nearness of lavishly-appointed trailers.

Although made possible by the Spaghetti insurgence, Red Sun imports none of its nastiness or retributive drive — and even Bronson and Mifune seem in no particular rush to catch up with their quarry. They’re having too much fun trading lame cross-cultural rimshots. In the hands of a Sergio Corbucci or Damiano Damiani, this might have had some of the lethal filetting power of that samurai sword, but under Young’s clock-punching, traffic-cop direction it feels like a Burt Kennedy movie badly in need of a Robert Mitchum cameo. (Two things this movie summons like a hospital bed nurse-station buzzer: entirely unmotivated and egregiously racist ‘Comanche’ attacks, and entirely unmotivated and egregiously sexist boobage.) And god knows what Walter Hill might have made of the opportunity to buddy up Bronson and Mifune in a western. But these are the thoughts that tend to occur because there’s time to ruminate on them. Red Sun is a little too obliging when it comes to the wrong kind of distraction. (Evergreen Entertainment)