The mercenary is a somewhat marginal yet recurring figure in film history. Most of the time, he operates as a loner, but this individualistic freewheeler can also be part of a group. They appear as ronin in Japanese martial arts movies, as gunslingers in westerns, or as adventurers in action movies set in developing countries with rich mineral resources. Examples are plenty: “The Seven Samurai” (1954), “The Magnificent Seven” (1960), “The Wild Geese” (1978), “Blood Diamond” (2006), or “The Expendables” (2010).
The choice for this B to Z fell on “Codename: Wild Geese”, an Italian macaroni combat movie from Antonio Margheriti from 1984 that, except a similar plotline, has nothing in common with the classic “The Wild Geese”. This low-budget action vehicle for a collective of waning B-movie veterans is filled with foul-mouthed language, gratuitous violence, insane stunts, and dozens of explosions. It's pure 1980s escapism: ridiculous, over-the-top, and fun.
In the hyper-stylized “Il Mercanaro”(“The Mercenary”) from 1968, Franco Nero excels as the titular mercenary. Set in 1915, during the Mexican Revolution, this is a textbook example of a Zapata Western: a straightforward, left-wing pamphlet against American imperialism. Italian genre director Sergio Corbucci – known from genre classics such as “Django”, “The Big Silence” and “Compañeros” – peppers this lesser-known but equally original horse opera with comical elements, excessive violence, and sadism.