Action, Drama | 94 mins | Released: 1981
Director: Stewart Raffill
Starring: James Brolin, Anthony Quinn, Lindsay Wagner, James Coburn, Ernest Borgnine, Bruce Davison, Cleavon Little
Our Rating: 6
In High Risk, Stone [Brolin] drives to collect his three friends Tony, Dan and Rockney for a fishing trip. In a period of economic gloom, with at least one of the men unemployed, in reality they are going to an undisclosed Central or Latin American country to rob a drug baron.
The group first meets up with Clint, who supplies them with weapons and some target practice. It becomes clear that with the exception of Stone, the men have no military or weapons training and are not taking the heist seriously.
After the target practice, the team is flown to a jungle where the target is Serrano, a psychotic drug lord who lives in a large villa. The group observes Serrano with his staff and various (presumably corrupt) officials from their vantage point. They discuss whether or not they would have the courage to use the weapons to kill someone and what they will do with their share of the cash once they get back home.
After entering the villa, they successfully manage to rob Serrano of around $5 million (approximately $18m in today’s money) but not before they had to bring along both Serrano and his woman to discover the safe’s combination. They escape from the villa on foot, eventually buying some horses from a local peasant, and hide in some nearby woods.
Thinking that they have got away with it, the men camp for the night to celebrate, unaware that they are being observed by a rebel tracker from some distance.
The next morning they awaken to the sight of Serrano’s men and the military pursuing the team using 4-wheel drives and horses. They hurriedly escape again, but Tony and Rockney are caught and brought to Serrano.
Stone and Dan are still free but have to continue on foot and barely escape the military pursuers, having been shot off a very high rope bridge.
Serrano orders the beating of Rockney so that Danny will agree to reveal the location of the money. To stop Rockney being killed (knowing that Stone had picked up his share of the cash), Danny agrees to show them the location of the money, thinking they have a better chance of escape out in the open.
They are brought to a prison where they meet Olivia, who is being held in the next cell on trumped-up charges. Danny manages to persuade a passing child with the use of his Spanish and bribery to get the child to use a tow truck to pull the bars off the wall in a prison break. Their success in escaping comes at the cost of their clothes, as the child demanded more than the watch that was originally offered. When they escape, they are pursued virtually naked through the town, eventually losing their pursuers in a bordello.
Having acquired some ladies’ clothes, the pair make their way to a bus station and see Olivia, who has had the same idea. Together, they make their way to the rendezvous point.
In the meantime, Dan and Stone are tracked and captured by a local rebel leader, General Mariano [Anthony Quinn] who has his own plans for the money. They manage to escape and then turn the tables on the rebels by tracking them until night fall. They retrieve the cash, killing a number of the rebels in doing so.
They continue to be pursued by the rebels to the rendezvous point, where they wait for the pilots to return and pick them up. The rebels follow and Dan is wounded by Marianno’s tracker. In the ensuing fire-fight, Tony is shot trying to save Stone.
The group makes its way to the air strip without Tony, thinking he is dead. Serrano’s well-armed mercenaries have tracked them to the airstrip and a three-way gun battle ensues. The team’s plane arrives and the pilots give air cover from their DC-3, scattering Serrano’s men, who by this time had subdued the rebels. They land and the whole team boards the plane (including Danny who was only wounded) and manages to escape. The men celebrate their success on the plane when the engine starts to stall …
Soundtrack – The Rolling Stones – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (Jagger/Richards)
This movie’s director Stewart Raffill once said of High Risk: “There’s a lot of fun and light moments in ‘High Risk’. I see the film being in the ‘Butch Cassidy’ mold. There’s humor, but the dangers and the bullets are real. Our heroes are not really competent enough to do what they do. They’re working class guys who gamble their all on a chance to make it rich, and as such, I feel that they will be that much more easily identifiable to out audiences. They are simply doing what we would all like to do – have an adventure that would make our dreams become reality.”
High Risk was not the first time that James Coburn and Anthony Quinn had appeared in the same movie. They both starred in A High Wind in Jamaica (1965) about sixteen years earlier. Though they both acted together in that movie, they appear in the same sequence at the end of this movie but don’t actually act together in the same shot.
Most of High Risk was set in Columbia, but filmed in Mexico.
Director Stewart Raffill once said of working with actor James Coburn on this movie that Coburn was “one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. He was terribly beat up with arthritis at the time and had to be lifted onto a horse for the movie. But he was interested in all sorts of esoteric philosophies and things.”
Actors Bruce Davison and James Brolin actually crossed the very narrow and wobbly rope footbridge (with safety harnesses) that is suspended across a two hundred foot deep gorge that is seen in one of High Risk’s action sequences. However, stunt doubles took over for when the two fall off the bridge when it collapses.
High Risk is based on articles in “Soldier of Fortune” magazine.
Director Stewart Raffill spoke of how High Risk came about: “A producer came to me and said I like your movie [The Adventures of the Wilderness Family (1975)]. He said, ‘I have the money to make a movie, but we have to get started in three weeks.'”
Actor Cleavon Little is seen in ‘drag’ in this movie.
Cameo of Ernest Borgnine: As arms-dealer Clint.
Notable Quotes from High Risk:
Dan: “Look, we’ve got four million dollars. We could put Donald Duck in the White House.”