The Mercenary (film)

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The Mercenary
Directed by Sergio Corbucci
Produced by Alberto Grimaldi
Written by Luciano Vincenzoni
Sergio Spina
Adriano Bolzoni
Sergio Corbucci
Story by Franco Solinas
Giorgio Arlorio
Starring Franco Nero
Tony Musante
Jack Palance
Giovanna Ralli
Music by Ennio Morricone
Bruno Nicolai
Cinematography Alejandro Ulloa
Edited by Eugenio Alabiso
Produzioni Europee Associati (PEA)
Produzioni Associate Delphos S.p.A.
Profilms 21
Distributed by PEA (Italy)
United Artists (US)
Release dates
29 August 1968
Running time
110 minutes
Country Italy
Language Italian

The Mercenary (Italian: Il mercenario), also known as A Professional Gun, is a 1968 spaghetti western film directed by Sergio Corbucci. The film stars Franco Nero, Jack Palance, Tony Musante and Giovanna Ralli, and features a musical score by Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai. The film takes place during the Mexican Revolution and is a well-known example of the "Zapata Western" subgenre.

The Mercenary was released the same year as Corbucci's more popular western, The Great Silence (Il grande silenzio). The film is often compared to Corbucci's 1970 film, Compañeros (Vamos a matar, compañeros), which features Nero and Palance in similar roles, and Tomas Milian in a role similar to Musante's in The Mercenary. Both films also had Morricone as the composer, Alejandro Ulloa as the cinematographer and Eugenio Alabiso as the editor. The Mercenary's theme music L'arena was later used by Quentin Tarantino in the 2004 film Kill Bill: Volume 2.[1]


Paco Roman (Musante), a Mexican peasant, rebels against his rich boss and humiliates him. He is later captured, but saved from a certain death by his friends. Meanwhile, Sergei Kowalski (Nero), a Polish mercenary, arrives in Mexico and makes a deal with two Garcia brothers to take their silver safely across the border. Curly (Palance) sees the three men talking and tracks down the brothers to find out what they hired Kowalski for, after which Curly kills the two.

When Kowalski arrives at a mine to meet one of the Garcia brothers, he finds the man along with many others dead and meets Paco and his revolutionaries instead. Soon after, Colonel Alfonso Garcia's (Eduardo Fajardo) Mexican army troops attack. Kowalski agrees to help Paco fight them, but only for money as he is a professional soldier. With the help of Kowalski and his machine gun, the revolutionaries defeat the army. Kowalski then leaves the group, but gets ambushed by Curly. Soon Paco's group arrives and kills Curly's men. Although Curly swears to revenge, they let him go after stripping him of his clothes. Paco then hires Kowalski to teach him how to lead a revolution.

The revolutionaries travel from town to town robbing money, guns and horses from the army. They also release a prisoner named Columba (Ralli) and she joins the group. After Paco stays in one town to protect the people despite Kowalski telling him that they can not match the army sent to capture them, Kowalski leaves the group again. Paco and his men later admit their defeat and go after Kowalski. Kowalski's price has doubled now, but the two make another deal. After the revolutionaries take over a town by defeating a whole regiment, Paco betrays Kowalski and takes him prisoner, confiscates all the money he has paid him, and marries Columba. When General Garcia's army, along with Curly, attack them, Paco realizes he can not manage the situation on his own and decides to set Kowalski free, but ends up locked up himself while Kowalski escapes. Columba frees Paco and the two also manage to escape before Curly finds them.

After six months, Kowalski attends a circus performance and notices that Paco managed to get away after all, as he is one of the clowns. After the performance is over, Curly enters the arena and his men capture Paco. Kowalski then shoots Curly's men and gives him and Paco both a rifle and a bullet, so that the two can have a fair duel. After Paco kills Curly, Kowalski takes him as a prisoner and heads to the headquarters of the 51st Regiment to collect the reward offered for his head. Columba sees this, manages to get before them to the headquarters and then pretends that she wants to betray Paco by telling where the two are.

When the army troops find the pair, Kowalski also finds himself arrested as there is now even a bigger reward for his head. The two are then sentenced to death by firing squad. However, Columba now executes her plan and with the help of two machine guns, Paco, Kowalski and Columba manage to escape. Kowalski suggests Paco that they team up to make a lot of money, but Paco claims that his dream is in Mexico referring to the revolution. The two part ways, and we see Garcia and four soldiers about to ambush Paco. Kowalski cuts them all down with his rifle from a nearby hillside, and then yells to Paco to "keep dreaming, but with your eyes open."



Jack Palance would go on to play another cowboy named Curly 23 years later in the film City Slickers, winning him his first and only Academy Award.


  1. ^ "The Mercenary". 10,000 Bullets. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 

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