A comedy without laughs that’s also a heist movie without suspense, Win, Place or Steal contains virtually nothing of merit, except perhaps for a soundtrack filled with jovial country tunes performed by actor/singe Tim McIntire, who does not appear on camera. Pity those who do. The charmless trio of Alex Karras, Dean Stockwell, and Russ Tamblyn play losers who steal a betting machine from a racetrack as part of a scheme to manufacture winning tickets after races have already been run. Unfortunately, all three leading characters are repellant. Karras plays a lumbering dolt, Stockwell incarnates a lazy philanderer, and Tamblyn portrays an angry drunk. (Actors Scatman Crothers and Harry Dean Stanton show up in tiny roles, briefly elevating the piss-poor material.) Stockwell and Tamblyn employ think Noo Yawk accents, so when they share scenes—and they share lots of scenes—their self-centered whining is highly abrasive. It doesn’t help that the script, cowritten by the film’s director, Richard Bailey, is crude and witless. At one point, either Stockwell or Tamblyn makes the following remark about Karras’ character: “That Frank is so horny he’d screw the crack of dawn!” Elsewhere in this painful slog of a movie, onetime M*A*S*H actor McLean Stevenson shows up for a cameo as a queeny insurance-company executive. To cut the filmmakers some slack, it’s possible that the currently available versions of Win, Place or Steal—likely derived from an ’80s VHS release—don’t accurately reproduce the way the picture looked during its original release. Therefore, emphasizing the fact that it’s nearly impossible to parse the visuals during the very long nocturnal heist sequence might be unfair. Nonetheless, the audio in this sequence tells the same damning tale as all of the cinematic information tells elsewhere in Win, Place or Steal. The jokes just aren’t there. On the plus side, fans of the leading actors will undoubtedly find the experience of watching Win, Place or Steal more tolerable than others, and McIntire’s numerous songs have a certain rustic appeal.
Win, Place or Steal: LAME