Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Last Grenade (1970)

I love Stanley Baker. He was one of the best actors of his time and died way to early, before he even stepped down from being a leading actor to "just" a character actor. For you who haven't seen it, check out Robert Aldrich's brilliant Sodom and Gomorrah where Stanley plays the intelligent and charming Astaroth, one of the leaders of Sodom! He was a more rugged Connery-esque style of actor, and fitted perfectly in movies like Innocent Bystanders (Hello? DVD?). In 1970 he took the lead in The Last Grenade, Gordon Flemyng's gritty action-thriller about revenge. Gordon directed the two Dalek-movies with Peter Cushing, but was obviously no stranger for darker projects.

During a mission somewhere Major Grigsby (Stanley Baker) and his team is betrayed by one of their colleagues, Kip Thompson (Alex Cord). He kills most of them and it ends with a couple juicy explosions. A while after Grigsby is still a guest at convalescence home, very bitter and agry over what Thompson did to him and their friends. But the UK military wants Thompson dead, because now he works for China and stages terror attacks and causing disruptance in Asia. Grigsby and his team goes to Hong Kong where they meet up with the stiff, and skeptical General Charles Whiteley (Richard Attenborough), who's wife Katherine (Honor Blackman) Grigsby falls in love with.

They trace Thompson deep in the jungle, but he fights back with the Chinese soldiers he has by his side. Our team is forced back, and a sick and depressed Grigsby is almost giving up... until he finds one final reason to take revenge!

I'm sure all of you who loves men on a mission-movies set in Asia will love this movie. It's still a bit more serious, and the actors - John Thaw, Baker, Attenborough, Julian Glover, Blackman, Andrew Keir and the cool Alex Cord - are fantastic. Real tough guys, and it feels. Blackman is a bit underused, except during the last half of the movie where the story also is weaker and almost becomes an anti-climax, but she's an excellent actress and have charisma together with her leading men. Part of the movie is shot in Hong Kong, some in Spain and of course in the UK - so it has that wonderful eurocult-feeling that we all love and admire.

The main problem with the movie is the relationship that grows between Grigsby and Katherine. Great actors, but everything just slows down and never really gets back on track again. I like the conflict, and how Katherine actually seem to like her extremely boring General of a husband, but also feels very attracted to the more manly and sexual powerful Grigsby. It's just a pity they didn't use it better. If you like movies like The Wild Geese you will like this one too. The action is violent and very well made. Nice explosions and stunts, some blood and squibs, and nice and down and dirty cinematography. Alex Cord is excellent as the bad guy, but somehow you understand him also. He, like the others, are just killers hired by the UK - so why not switch to another country that pays better?

Stanley Baker's character is almost racist, a bigot, a buffalo in a china shop! A conservative Brit who likes to fight in bars and flirt with women. In reality Baker was exactly the opposite. He was a devoted socialist for example, and quite anti-nationalistic. He died in pneumonia, cause by lung cancer, just 48 years old in 1976. He was the man that almost became James Bond (one of the first one Albert R. Broccoli offered the role), and later was in talks to be a villain in the same franchise. But he was a superstar in his own right, and delivered a couple of the best and most daring performances in movies during his time. I miss him a lot.

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