The Sicilian (1987) Michael Cimino

Production Budget: Can’t find solid numbers

Gross: $5 million

Really?  Is this my lot in life now?  To review an endless string of Michael Cimino movies?  Really?

The Sicilian is about real life character of Salvatore Giuliano (Christopher Lambert).  During the 40’s and 50’s he was a kind of Robin Hood type bandit/hero of the people.  The Mafia and the rich landowners basically held all the power and influence in the country.  Salvatore would rob from the rich and use the money to buy food for the poor.  He had a small band that would hide out in the mountains and even used some of his ill gotten booty to bribe most of the officials to look the other way.  An interesting side note is that this was written by Mario Puzo and this is set during Michael Corleone’s exile to Sicily in the Godfather series (although he doesn’t make an appearance in the movie).  It should also be noted I saw the uncut version so there should be no excuses as far as not seeing the director’s vision or any such crap.

The Sicilian is a bit of a mixed bag.  This was a movie I had on my stack for quite some time.  It was a movie I knew I should see for the thread but was quietly dreading.  But for all the dread, I was able to see it all in one sitting and found it…um, watchable.

First, let’s talk about the story.  Now I’m no expert on Giuliano (my knowledge is limited to that of the Wikipedia page) although word on the web is that accuracy is crap.  From what I read on the Wiki and what I saw on the movie, I can already agree.  This movie should really be called “Christopher Lambert is Jesus Christ”.  He does absolutely no wrong, he gets betrayed by Judas I mean John Turturro, and dies for our sins.  You really have to see this movie to believe it.  Every character (even Giuliano himself) talk of him as some mythical creature who fulfills prophecy and will die only when the world doesn’t need him anymore.  I half expected people to get nailed up on crosses…oh that’s right; we do get crucifixions in this movie.  It is a common failing for movies about outlaws in that they do not make them human beings and instead fall back on the ludicrous myth and legend created for them.  The Assassination of Jesse James continues to be an incredible movie for me because it showed why he was a larger than life character but also many of his flaws.

Giuliano was not a perfect person by any stretch of the imagination.  He was not interested in land reform, was a murderer, and made frequent dealings with the Mafia.  The movie sugar coats it by saying Giuliano was tricked Dons and betrayed by Judas-er John Turturro.  Nothing is ever really Giuliano’s fault in this movie and the people just weren’t ready for his radical ideals.  It works kind of well enough as a standard Robin Hood template, but does not do justice to the probably very fascinating real life person.  Another quibble about the story is the side plot involving Camilla.  The romance plot between Camilla and Giuliano is entirely pointless to the plot.  They meet, they are attracted to one another, they boink, and that is the end of it.  She does not factor into his decision making and does nothing to move the story along.

The acting is fine in this movie.  John Turturro acts his heart out and adds much depth to his character.  Joss Ackland and Terence Stamp also put in some nice performances too.  But you don’t want to hear about that.  No.  You want to know about Lambert’s performance.  Well, if you had difficulty accepting the Frenchman as a Scottish Highlander, than you will have a harder time as a John Dillenger-esque Sicilian.  I love Lambert as a cheesy B-movie actor and he really tries his best here, but this role is just too big for him.  It would be like Bruce Campbell as Michael Corleone.  Badass?  Maybe.  Good casting for the actual character?  Not really.  Here Lambert is a big block of wood when you need a suave rogue charming the pants off of people.  Lambert’s blocky and stumbling performance just did not work in this movie.  And the less said about his terrible accent in this movie the better.

I also have a problem with the real lack of any supporting characters.  The only people we really get to know are Giuliano and Pisciotta.  There are many other characters we see come in and out of the narrative who do things but we never really get to know their characters.  It is a movie that tries to be both a personal story of Giuliano and Pisciotta’s friendship and an epic about this historical figure but fails to do either particularly well.

Now I have railed against Cimino so I think I am actually being forgiving on this movie.  The cinematography is well done, the acting from the supporting characters is good and some (underline some) of the story elements worked out well.  This is a movie that could have been really interesting.  Overall this is a poor movie you should really skip.  So for those keeping track at home, my rankings of Cimino are as follows:

Deer Hunter – Great

Heaven’s Gate – Good

Year of the Dragon – Meh

The Sicilian – Bad

The Sunchaser – The movie equivalent of anal rape.

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