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USA 1973
Directed by
Don Siegel
106 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Charley Varrick

Much like his previous effort, Dirty Harry, Don Siegel’s film starts out as a gritty heist movie and holds one's attention for a good while before running off the rails with inexplicably loose plotting. The improbably-cast Walter Matthau in a role originally intended by Seigel for Clint Eastwood with whom he had made a clutch of films peaking with the hugely successful Dirty Harry plays the title character – an apparent average schlub but actually a clever crook with an inexplicably ruthless streak who loses his wife in the opening heist but who appears none the worse for it and has no compunction in bumping off anyone who stands in his way. Not because he wants the money but he simply couldn’t give a damn.

After the opening bank robbery goes wrong and Varrick’s getaway driver wife gets killed the ante is upped when Varrick and the only surviving gang member discover that the bank was laundering Mafia money and that now they not only have the cops chasing them but more worryingly, the Mob in the form of an enforcer (Joe Don Baker), a natty dresser named Molly with an even more violent streak than Varrick

All this give the film such a deliciously immoral tone that it is surprising that the Coens or Tarantino have not picked it up for a re-boot. Particularly as the plot becomes incomprehensible once John Vernon enters the story as a Mafia frontman, Maynard Boyle, charged with the job of retrieving the Vegas loot. Was the robbery a set-up from the get-go and was Varrick in on it? Why does he go around leaving a trail of clues for Molly? Who’s double-crossing who and what are the cops doing while Varrick goes about his business with impunity. Allegedly Seigel and screenwriter Dean Riesner would simply cut and paste the bits they liked from various versions of the script and this would certainly explain what happens to what starts off so promisingly but ends up as in-joke territory.

FYI: Felicia Farr who plays the PA of Mafia apparatchik, Boyle, was Jack Lemmon's wife and her casting a Seigel in-joke as Lemmon and Matthau were a well-known screen pairing thanks to The Fortune Cookie, The Odd Couple and Kotch.

Available from: Shock Entertainment




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