Directed by William Friedkin
Written by Georges Arnaud, Walon Green
Produced by William Friedkin, Bud S. Smith
Starring Roy Scheider, Francisco Rabal, Amidou, Bruno Cremer
From the flagrant wreckage of a sabotaged oil well in an unspecified South American jungle spans two hundred miles of muddy, rocky, rugged, flexuous road fraught with slaughterous rebels, ramshackle platforms and bridges, and seemingly insurmountable obturations to a sordid slum where an unstable cache of nitroglycerine selected to extinguish that site's unrelenting blaze is loaded onto two battered, refurbished cargo trucks driven by a quartet of lammed malefactors: a Latino hitman (Rabal), French banker (Cremer), Palestinian terrorist (Amidou) and American mob driver (Scheider). Friedkin's sweaty, savage adaptation of Arnaud's The Wages of Fear is at least as enthralling as Clouzot's chef-d'oeuvre, embracing profuse excitation and substance in equal measure by grippingly graphic depictions of desperate men galvanized by the challenges, frustrations and fatal rigors of their supremely exigent enterprise and all its attending cruel vagaries to perseverance, greatness, furor and madness. Exploiting his chief assets -- an eximiously expressive lead cast and locations of Elizabeth, Veracruz, Jerusalem, Paris, La Altagracia, New Mexico's Bisti Badlands and the wilds of the Dominican Republic -- to amplify the realism of this fantastic conveyance, Hurricane Billy judiciously curbed most of his cinematic flourishes and resorted to an unobtrusively observational style, his every shot maximizing harrowing tension and suspense of a potency that persists in repeat viewings. Withal, those thrills of parlous remotion and transport constituting the picture's second half are anteceded by expository turpitudes: a contumeliously unorthodox heist, the fulmination of an Israeli bank inciting the IDF's blistering reprisal, and a fiery provincial riot provoked by the unceremonious delivery of rig laborers' weltered and charred corses to their village. A soaring synthesized score of pulsing arpeggiation by Tangerine Dream underscores apprehension and anticipation in sparing application, never diverting viewers from the pitfalls its protagonists hazard. Regrettably, this beau ideal of action cinema was eclipsed by the grand umbra of George Lucas' coterminous and pivotal phenomenon to evanesce, but contemporary acclaim by cineastes and Friedkin's faithful swell its revival annually...