Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Outfit (1973)


A meat-and-potatoes action thriller that doesn’t spend too much time on distractions like character and nuance, this violent picture was written and directed by John Flynn from a novel by bestselling crime guy Donald E. Westlake (via his Point Blank alias Richard Stark). Robert Duvall stars as Macklin, a small-time hood who goes on a rampage shortly after getting out of prison, and somehow the fact that early-’70s Duvall looks like an accountant works in the movie’s favor; it’s as if some everyman you pass on the street is a closet killing machine. The plot is unnecessarily muddy, something to do with Macklin seeking revenge after his brother is killed by hoods who ripped off the Mob. But the execution is quite tasty, especially when Duvall teams up with amiable gunsel Cody (Joe Don Baker) to pillage various grimy Mob-operated establishments as a means of getting the attention of “the Outfit.” An unusually restrained Karen Black is along for the ride as Macklin’s love interest, and laconic Hollywood vet Robert Ryan gives one of his characteristically seething late-career performances as the ruthless Mob boss who wants Macklin taken out at all costs. Richard Jaeckel, Bill McKinney, and Sheree North add vivacity during Macklin’s stormy run-in with a trio of horny rednecks—the movie perpetuates the icky stereotype of predatory white-trash women who are perpetually in heat—and future Blade Runner costar Joanna Cassidy turns up in her first significant role, playing Ryan’s irritable arm candy. Flynn, who showed greater flair with his next revenge flick, Rolling Thunder (1977), keeps things moving briskly and maintains a consistently brutal tone, but the only thing that saves the picture from being forgettable is the presence of so many interesting actors. From the high-octane chase scenes to the methodical siege at the end, it’s all been done before. (Available at WarnerArchive.com)

The Outfit: FUNKY

1 comment:

Clay Poupart said...

"Gunsel" doesn't really apply to Joe Don Baker's character. It's a Yiddish word meaning "gosling" and obsolete slang for the younger partner of an older homoexual. Dashiell Hammett threw it into "The Maltese Falcon" and John Huston retained it in the film to get around the studio censors. Then as now most people thought it meant a gun-toting heavy.