The Wrecking Crew (1969): Breakdown by Kain424
Intelligence and Counter Espionage (ICE) agent Matt Helm is dispatched to find and retrieve a billion dollars in stolen gold.
Because of the popularity of James Bond, knock-off spy films began appearing all over the place in the 1960s. The Wrecking Crew is one of them. This is the fourth and final film in the Matt Helm franchise, one of the higher budgeted knock-off series. And when you look at what it’s got going for it, you won’t be blamed for having high expectations.
There is a helicopter chase, spy gadgets, car chases, scantily-clad women everywhere you look, a booby-trapped mansion, fight choreography by Bruce Lee AND Chuck Norris. Hell, Chuck Norris is in the film! There are shoot-outs, heist plots, double-agents, and a final fight aboard a speeding train. This film has it all.
And it completely fumbles the ball. The film spends more time emphasizing our hero’s pursuit of women than his pursuit of the gold, giving the entire duration a feeling of wasted time. And despite its use of car chases and helicopters, the bluescreen looks terrible, and the car chase is ruined with the movie’s horrible musical score. In fact, the elevator music-style soundtrack only adds to the feeling that we’re waiting for the real adventure to begin. The fights, despite the talent behind them, are terribly done. They’re plodding, clearly fake mistakes of celluloid junk. Everyone is moving at half-speed, as if they’re doing a dress rehearsal.
The film’s emphasis on women (usually a good thing in spy movies), gets as bothersome as it is distracting. One goofy scene after another follow the last, with every woman dressed in a more ridiculous manner. At first, I was laughing about the different shots of women’s asses, but it got old after about the fifth or sixth time. In an effort to keep from turning the damn thing off, I tried to tell myself the movie is just a product of its time. But then I remembered how many quality Bond flicks were released in the preceding years and almost came completely unglued. The Wrecking Crew is simply an unfocused mess of great ideas and things the producers thought people wanted from the genre.
Someone also forgot to tell the writers how cameras work. There are many scenes where characters are looking at screens where there is pretty much no way a camera could be without the people being watched noticing. It gets embarrassing the more they use it. Also noticeable are the pads when people jump to the ground. Pretty much the only thing not ruined is the gunplay, but the impact of that is even lessened by the lack of squibs or equivalent effects.
A lot of the film’s problems come from its casting. From a shrill, nerdy, and offensive Sharon Tate (ok, she wasn’t too bad) to a too-old-for-the-part Dean Martin, we have unlikable characters who we can neither relate to or get involved with unless we are the biggest of fans. Martin, who has had excellent turns in films like Rio Bravo, is about a decade or two removed from where he should be. Perhaps a slightly younger, ex-prizefighter, Dean Martin would have spent less time singing and schmoozing and more time putting foot to ass.
Only recently, with films like Transformers, have I seen such wasted potential. If this one pops up on your radar, try and avoid it. The only valid reasons one would watch The Wrecking Crew is if they are an absolute completist or perhaps are that curious about what a young Chuck Norris looked like. Check out that image above. Now you don’t need to sit through this torture of a film.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Dean Martin is Matt Helm
A special agent for ICE, Helm is supposed to be the best. But like 007, Helm seemingly has only a loose interest in the mission at hand, preferring to lust after gorgeous women to saving the European and American economic markets from collapsing. Still, he can make a helicopter from parts stored in his car and fly it damn well.
And yet for all his supposed skill, he remains a remarkably ineffectual hero. He never has to do any detective or espionage work, pretty much happening on the villains the moment he arrives in the correct country. I’d call the guy more a lucky son of bitch than a bad-ass.
[THE BODY COUNT: 16]
Without being too violent, I think the movie still provides an adequate amount of bodies. Martin kills 11, making him the MVP for this one. We get death from gunshots, explosions, and a few from falling from a traincar moving at a high rate of speed.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
I’ll be honest. I did like the main baddie’s death. Helm throws him out the trap door in the bottom of the speeding train, and the guy gives a pretty awesome death scream. So that was cool.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Since Martin plays the role as a man who wears his sexuality on his sleeve, there isn’t much question as to the protagonist’s sexual preference. The villain seems equally interested in women. I’d go into his home decorating, but I think that gaying up your house comes with the title of “Count”.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Freya: “I’m an agent. And I also happen to be a good one. And I’m also a woman!”
*runs off crying*
No question about it, the women of The Wrecking Crew are absolute objects. The ones without names are clearly meant to be scenery, even acting as furniture in some instances. And the one with names are treated no better. Look no further than the most offensive character of Freya, played by Sharon Tate.
A contact for ICE, Freya is supposed to be some sort of agent in her own right. Realizing this would make her seem somewhat of an equal to our male protagonist, the film makers have decided to turn Freya into a shrieking, bumbling child of a woman. In a series of running gags (with emphasis on gag), she accidentally foils many of Helm’s plans, all the while remaining forever jealous of any other woman he even gazes upon. Way to set women back a few decades, guys. Good job.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
The best moment of the film occurs near the end. Dean Martin and Sharon Tate fly a helicopter into the middle of the villain’s compound, where Martin shoots and blasts his way inside. In a film littered with poorly done action, it’s easily the best sequence. There’s shoot-outs, explosions, and Dean Martin even manages to dive over a wall. And, for a very brief moment, the movie almost becomes good.
As for the one-liner, it’s from the lead villain’s main squeeze. Matt Helm comes upon her dressing in her bedroom. She asks him to zip her dress, prompting the following exchange:
Matt: “Which way do you want it, up or down?”
Linka: “Well there’s always a choice, Mr. Helm, isn’t there?”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
All the great ideas and talent in the world won’t amount to shit if you don’t know what to do with them. Oh, and Bad Guys, stop monologing and just kill them when you have the damn chance.
[THE CHUCK OF NORRIS: 1 outta 5]
[ ] Facial Hair
[ ] Jumps/Or Kicks Through A Window Or Wall
[X] Performs Spin Kick or Spin Punch To Enemies Face
[ ] Shows Off His Hairy Chest
[ ] Sports Some Cowboy Getup
[THE CHECKLIST: 12 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor” *
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Factory/Warehouse
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[ ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[ ] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice
* Dean Martin was a prizefighter, and I’ll go ahead and count that.