Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
"Too Late the Hero" is too much old helmet
Cleveland Press August 7, 1970
The war movie, specifically the World War II type war movie, has in 25 years evolved as many conventions as the western.
One of the more popular is the impossible mission story, the one with the handful of men penetrating enemy lines to complete a piece of action by a certain time.
Producer-director Robert Aldrich worked the formula for all it was worth and then some in "The Dirty Dozen." In "Too Late the Hero" he is trying for a repeat.
IN "HERO" THE SCENE has shifted to the Pacific in the early days of the war. At one end of an island sit the British, at the other the Japanese and in between is a whole lot of jungle. The mission of this special patrol is to penetrate the Japanese base, capture the radio, send a fake message, then knock the Japanese radio out of commission.
The only Japanese language expert around is an American Navy man, Cliff Robertson, a cocky type who had planned on sitting out the war.
THE PATROL is made up of types rather than people. It is commanded by a British gentleman (Denholm Elliott) of the stiff-upper-lip, duty-is-all school who makes such a botch of things he gets his own men killed. The medic (Michael Caine) is a smart aleck cynic, Robertson is the practical man who isn't going one step beyond his orders.
The rest are the usual assortment -- the company coward, the old timer, the young timer, the nut. Aside from the individual aggravations there is the larger one of a British unit having to get an American in and out of enemy territory.
"Too Late the Hero" is updated to the extent that it tosses in some war-is-hell comments as well a few thoughts about the demoralizing effect it has on men. It's still old fashioned stuff none the less.
ALDRICH HAS FILLED his picture with plenty of action and gore. He also has saddled it with a silly plot, the reasons for and the planning of the mission being so awfully ridiculous.
He also has provided a gimmick -- an open plain in front of the British encampment over which returning patrols must race while trying to elude the shots of Japanese soldiers sitting comfortably at the jungle's edge.
IT PROVIDES for an exciting climax even if it does leave you wondering why the British didn't do something about that particular problem earlier.
The acting is generally better than the characters deserve. Caine is excellent though he still leaves me wondering why he takes on so many and such indifferent movies. Robertson is OK once he gets over establishing that his character is cocky. Elliott is one of the best in the business and proves it again.