In Sorcerer, four men are coerced into transporting volatile sticks of dynamite across rugged terrain for a fair sum of money if they can make it.
In a politically tumultuous Nicaraguan town dependent on a big oil company, four separate criminals/outcasts, Jackie (Roy Scheider), Victor (Bruno Cremer), Nilo (Francisco Rabal), and Kassem (Amidou), are offered a substantial amount of money and citizenship to transport sticks of unstable dynamite. Having no real choice, the men take two separate trucks, named Sorcerer and Lazaro, to make the harrowing journey through the jungle with the dynamite sticks.
A remake of Wages of Fear, Sorcerer is fairly different from the original, in some good ways and other not so good. The tension and thrilling nature of the entire second half of the original heartily outpaces Sorcerer, but Sorcerer comes back with scenes of enormous tension and a fantastic sound design. Instead of having the tension snap taut early on and never relenting, Sorcerer‘s tension rises and falls a bit.
Personally, I had little interest in the setting or characters this time around. The film seems to be in no rush to set things up and even though I knew the gist of what would happen, having just watched Wages of Fear, I was not invested in learning the new differences. I could blame that on watching the remake too soon after the original, however. On a whole, William Friedkin’s Sorcerer feels like a vastly different film, largely due to the electronic soundtrack by Tangerine Dream.
Perhaps the most interesting things about Sorcerer are about the movie’s history. Opening right around Star Wars, the film was received well by critics but absolutely ignored by movie-goers in favor of the sci-fi juggernaut. The budget of the film was over $20 million and the film was fraught with setbacks and delays, so it is widely regarded as a failure. Perhaps the nebulous title threw people off too, but the film differs enough from Wages of Fear to merit its own title. Steve McQueen was going to star in the film but dropped out, leading to Scheider’s casting. McQueen’s star power might have saved the film from relative obscurity at the time of Sorcerer’s release, hopefully a studio like Criterion will give the film new life on home video.
Sorcerer is a remake, but it’s a unique film in many ways, despite my weighing disappointment. When compared directly to Wages of Fear (which, unfortunately I was not able to get around the outright comparisons) it is mostly inferior, but it is not an entirely fair comparison. Sorcerer is a good movie that should have been great. I will need to revisit it again once the freshness of Wages of Fear has dulled and I can judge Sorcerer on its own merits.
I give it 4 spectacular bridge scenes out of 5.
(Possible spoiler warning)