Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The MacKintosh Man (1973)

          Despite being shallow, turgid, and unoriginal, The MacKintosh Man more or less slides by on star power, both in front of and behind the camera. Sleekly made by veteran director John Huston, who enlisted frequent collaborator Oswald Morris as his cinematographer, the picture tells an inconsequential story about conspiracies, crime schemes, personal betrayals, and other such things. Taken as a pure narrative, the piece falls somewhere on the spectrum between forgettable and irritating simply because so much of what happens onscreen is confusing. Taken as a cinematic experience, however, The MacKintosh Man is considerably more palatable. Walter Hill’s screenplay is so terse that the graceful images generated by Huston and Morris cut together at a brisk pace, giving The MacKintosh Man an almost musical flow. Composer Maurice Jarre’s jaunty main theme accentuates the cotton-candy texture of the movie, even though the subject matter is quite dark, and Paul Newman plays the leading role with his customary effortless charm. All in all, The MacKintosh Man feels, looks, and sounds like a solid movie, and sometimes the illusion of substance is enough to warrant a casual viewing.
          Attempting to describe the labyrinthine plot of the film is pointless, so the broad strokes will have to suffice. Rearden (Newman) is a British spy enlisted to penetrate a ring of thieves who smuggle diamonds through the mail. While posing as a criminal, Rearden is captured, convicted, and imprisoned, whereupon he discovers a second scheme. In exchange for a cut of the loot he “stole,” Rearden is offered a chance to bust out of prison. Accepting the terms, Rearden participates in an elaborate escape that involves cranes and smoke grenades and a phony ambulance, then meets a group of conspirators who extort money from criminals—all of which ties back to the original ring of diamond thieves. There’s also lots of murky business involving one Mrs. Smith (Dominique Sanda), a beautiful European working for British Intelligence, as well as the predictable levels of intrigue relating to high-ranking government officials, namely Member of Parliament Sir George Wheeler (James Mason) and spy boss MacKintosh (Harry Andrews).
          Following all of the story’s moving parts is dull and unrewarding labor, so it’s better to just go with the flow, savoring Hill’s pithy dialogue, Huston’s confident presentation, and Newman’s cheerfully cynical characterization. Furthermore, the supporting cast is so strong that the movie works well on a scene-to-scene basis even if the sum effect is underwhelming. That said, the story achieves something close to clarity and dramatic power once it gets past the halfway point, eventually resolving into an enjoyably suspenseful final scene.

The MacKintosh Man: FUNKY

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