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VICTORY

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 3, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: The unlikely duo of Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone headlines this World War II yarn, directed by … wait for it … John Huston! It’s an enjoyable romp not to be taken too seriously and it’s newly on Blu-ray, courtesy of Warner Archive. My review was published in the Deseret News on Aug. 5, 1981.

 “Victory” is a snappy, straightforward action picture. Though directed by John Huston, it isn’t particularly distinctive of his style but it is a pleasant blend of “The Longest Yard” and “The Great Escape.”

Huston, director of a wide range of excellent drama from “The Maltese Falcon” to “Wise Blood,” is, at 74, the second-oldest active American director (George Cukor, 81, recently completed “Rich and Famous” with Candice Bergen and Jacqueline Bisset).

     

Sylvester Stallone, center left, and Michael Caine in 'Victory' (1980).

But age hasn’t slowed Huston one bit (he’s currently directing the film version of “Annie”), and “Victory” hardly has a dull moment from start to finish.

The story has Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine and Pele, the soccer star from Brazil, playing prisoners of war in a camp in southern Germany during World War II. Max Von Sydow (who else?) is the camp’s Nazi intelligence officer.

The plot, which is thoroughly preposterous, has Caine as a former soccer star urged by Von Sydow to form a POW soccer team for a morale-building game against the Germans. Von Sydow’s superiors, however, decide to use the game as a Nazi propaganda scheme. So the team decides to use the game to escape.

     

The machinations of the plot really don’t matter, though. Stallone, as the American who is a chronic escapee, is good in the role, but Caine and Von Sydow, in more low-key performances, are much better. Pele’s soccer kicks are a show all their own. And the plot is merely a framework for their roles and the action (the last half of the film is the soccer game).

This is an audience-manipulation movie, designed to gain the audience’s sympathy, then turn it into a cheering section for the POW soccer team.

“Victory” — rated PG for some violence, a few profanities and a briefly glimpsed male backside — is simply an example of film as a commercial entertainment form.

And to that end, it is very successful.