Claude Sautet – L’arme a gauche AKA Guns for the Dictator (1965)

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Summary
Whilst staying in the Caribbean, sailor Jacques Cournot, is hired by businessman Hendrix to check out a luxury yacht the latter is planning to buy. Shortly after Cournot gives Hendrix his report, the yacht goes missing, at the same time as a violent storm hits the area. Initially suspected by the police of having stolen the yacht, Cournot is employed by the yacht’s owner, Mrs Osborne, to find it. With the help of a friend who owns a hydroplane, Cournot and Osborne eventually trace the missing yacht, which has run aground offshore. When they board the stranded boat, Cournot and Osborne are surprised to find Hendrix and a band of gunrunners, led by the murderous Morrison. The latter threatens to kill the newcomers unless they help to get the yacht and its cargo of ammunition to the coast…

Review
Although his first action thriller, Classe tous risques, was ill-received by both critics and cinema goers, director Claude Sautet persevered a made a second film in the same genre, again with Lino Ventura in the lead role. That film, L’Arme à gauche, proved an even bigger flop than its predecessor and was the last film of its kind which Sautet made. In the following decades, the director found much greater success with his sentimental dramas, including the masterful Les Choses de la vie (1969), César et Rosalie (1972) and Un Coeur en hiver (1992).

As action thrillers go, L’Arme à gauche is rather a good film, benefiting from some excellent location photography and a strong, well-chosen cast. After a slow start, in which the main characters are introduced to us in typically Sautet-esque fashion, the film suddenly switches gear at around its mid-point, taking us into the film’s suspenseful final 40 minutes. Lino Ventura is – as ever – magnificent as the tough (but by no means infallible) good guy, his unconventional looks making him a welcome contrast to the familiar pretty boy action hero. Leo Gordon plays the principal villain of the piece, the gun-toting Morrison – a stereotypical bad guy which the actor manages to bring a sinister edge to.

For those who are familiar with Sautet’s later films, L’Arme à gauche will come as something of a surprise. There is a hint of romance between the male and female leads but for the most part this is a conventional, cold-blooded thriller. Here, the aim of the game is not to cope with one’s emotional crises but simply to stay alive for as long as possible…

© James Travers 2004

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Language:French, English and Spanish
Subtitles:spanish and english .srt

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