Produced by Burt Lancaster's own company, Vera Cruz teams Lancaster with the venerable Gary Cooper. The story, set during the Mexican revolution of 1866, casts Coop and Lancaster as Ben Trane and Joe Erin, two rival soldiers of fortune who team to fight for the highest bidder.
The two men come to loggerheads when Trane's sweetheart Nina (Sarita Montiel) begs them to fight on the side of the rebels, while the wealthy Marquis de Labodere (Cesar Romero) implores them to offer their services to Emperor Maximillian.
Though they still haven't taken sides, Trane and Erin agree to escort the aristocratic Countess Marie Duvarre (Danielle Darrieux) through hostile territory to Vera Cruz. It soon develops that the Countess is transporting a gold shipment to the Emperor's armies.
Hardly the most patriotic of souls, she offers to split the gold with Trane and Erin, but they steal it for themselves instead. It takes a while (and several bloody armed confrontations) before the two protagonists do The Right Thing.
While it's fun to watch Burt Lancaster try to upstage the taciturn Gary Cooper, the film's best line goes to supporting player Henry Brandon: impassively watching the loutish Lancaster wolf down his dinner and slop wine all over his blouse, Brandon says calmly Be careful, senor. Some of it is getting in your mouth.