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Polanski won the Palme d'Or at Cannes with The Pianist in 2002. The last time he was in competition there was with Pirates. Few would disagree that he won with the right film. In genre terms, Pirates is undoubtedly a pirate movie, not a mystery film, yet it's a mystery why Polanski swapped urban paranoia for the skull and crossbones. Polanski and Gérard Brach had collaborated on scripts for Repulsion and The Tenant, but their sure touch deserted them on the high seas. Shipwrecked Captain Red (Matthau) and his sidekick the Frog (Campion) are picked up by a Spanish vessel and clapped in irons, but Cap'n Red foments unrest in the crew by smuggling a rat into the men's soup. Cue swashbuckling and choreographed scrapping. It's fun intermittently, but a bit of a stretch at two hours, and Matthau's Cockney accent is about as convincing as the rubber sharks. Perhaps the key to understanding what it's about lies in considering Polanski's displacement: of Polish extraction, exiled in Paris, faced with arrest should he return to the US. The only flag he could comfortably wrap himself in was the Jolly Roger.

Release details

Duration: 124 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Roman Polanski
Screenwriter: Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski
Cast: Richard Pearson
Bill Fraser
David Kelly
Walter Matthau
Roy Kinnear
Damien Thomas
Cris Campion
Olu Jacobs
Charlotte Lewis
Ferdy Mayne

Average User Rating

1.3 / 5

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