They really knew how to hobble a franchise in the 80’s; this sequel to 1978’s The Wild Geese features absolutely none of the same characters as the original film. That wasn’t the plan; an ailing Richard Burton was booked to reprise his role as Alenn Faulkner, but was hastily replaced by Edward Fox as the same character’s brother. But Faulkner was never intended to be the main character here; mercenary soldier Haddad (Scott Glenn) was the protagonist, and at least Glenn can take his shirt off and look good while training in an empty football stadium.
Daniel Carney was the original scribe whose writings formed the basis for the African-desert action of The Wild Geese, which was a hit pretty much everywhere apart from America. His notion for a sequel is a very different scenario, as Haddad attempts to spring war criminal Rudolph Hess from Spandau prison. That particular heist only occupies the last half hour of this movie; there’s a good 70 minutes of Haddad playing off various factions against each other against a backdrop of drab Berlin locations.
So there are some obvious plusses here; Barbara Carrera, a brassy Roy Budd score to lift the spirits, and some nice character work from the likes of Stratford Johns and Kenneth Haigh. As a Euan Lloyd production, there has to be some pro-British jingoism, and Wild Geese II gets bogged down in some very 1985 slantings about the IRA; Haddad’s rivals insist on an IRA member being on his heist team, with predictable results. These scenes feel rather intrusive, but the geopolitics are shonky throughout; Laurence Olivier’s Hess only gets to speak in the final scene, and while his speech is well-written and performed, it’s something of an anti-climax that Hess doesn’t want to spill any of the many secrets we’re told he’s hiding, but just wants to return quietly to his cell.
Peter Hunt’s film didn’t do the business, or have the pop culture impact, of the original film, but it’s an enjoyable guilty pleasure for action buffs, even if the finale, in which Hess is disguised as a football supporter, complete with bobble hat, is something of an indignity for Olivier. But with Glenn acting super-tough, lots of German location work, and a few fiery bursts of street action, Wild Geese II is rather better than its benighted reputation (one single bad review on RT to date) might suggest.