Tuesday, January 25, 2011

26 Films: The Outfit

The Outfit


Directed by John Flynn

Tag Line: Nobody Plays Rougher than The Outfit…

The plot from wiki:

Released from prison In Illinois after serving 2 years and 3 months for carrying a concealed weapon, professional thief and bank robber Earl Macklin (Robert Duvall) is told by his girlfriend Bett (Karen Black) of his brother's execution by the Outfit. It seems a bank Earl and his brother robbed was a "front" for the Outfit, who, having killed Earl's brother, now want to kill him. Earl teams up with old partner Cody (Joe Don Baker) and starts to hit the Outfit to accrue $250,000 compensation he feels he's due for his brother's murder. Promised the pay-off, but then double crossed by the Outfit's Godfather figure (Robert Ryan), Macklin and Cody decide to topple the whole organization.

It is Duvall who really carries the film, playing Macklin as a professional who is tough and brutal when working, but having a hard time being human during his down time. Duvall is balanced out by Joe Dom Baker playing his partner Cody as a more laid back and playful tough guy who isn’t sure he wants to be part of what Macklin is doing at first. Karen Black as his girlfriend is the portrait of a lost young woman of early 70s. She is weak, and susceptible to manipulation. There is a great scene where she calls home, that I think really captures just how disposed she is. She is juxtaposed with Joanna Cassidy as the trophy wife of crime boss Robert Ryan, and in her few scenes she is shown as a young woman who is tough, in control, and who has made life work for her. She might be the real fem fatal in The Outfit.

There are also a slew of cameo’s by actors and actresses best known for their Noir work in the 1950s. These include: Jane Greer, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook, Jr, Timothy Carey, and Richard Jaeckel. The direction by John Flynn is above average, he keeps the story rolling along, and at the same time manages to capture a couple of great moments that others might have on the cutting room floor.

My only complaint is that in the book there are several heists that are used in the film, but the context provided in the book is missing. There is also a great scene where Macklin and Cody are buying a car…. Which in the book pays off differently, but is set up and not followed though in the film.

I also like that it’s a film that reflects the 70s push for artist to have more control. Macklin and Cody have operated outside of the Outfit and like any big business they don’t want anyone else horning in on their territory (or in this case, hitting one of their banks). Much like in the classic film ‘M’ it’s the crooks that are after the indie operators. I am not sure that Stark had any of this in mind when he wrote the book in the early 60s, but by the time the film was made we were already starting to see the emergence of the Outlaw Country movement, the rumblings of the punk movement and the arrival of the director/ auteur in Hollywood. All of these movements had at their core the idea that the artist should be in control of their art.

It should be noted that The Outfit is the third book in the Parker series; the first The Hunter has been filmed as Payback with Mel Gibson, as well as Point Blank with Lee Marvin. In many ways The Outfit feels like a sequel to Point Blank, it doesn’t quite reach the love of Point Blank in terms of film making, but like any good sequel it’s got enough of the elements of the previous film to make it worth checking out. I highly recommend the film and expect it will one that I will watch again.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I can't believe I missed this DUval film.

Todd Mason said...

Eric, this is recent DVD-R release?

Patti, I believe the film was barely released to theaters, and has been largely unseen since...it was a big deal that it was on TCM not too long ago.

Iren said...

Todd... it's a recent Warner Archives release.

Evan Lewis said...

Jeez, didn't connect this with Parker series. Now I gotta see it.

George said...

I'm ordering this DVD now. Thanks for letting us know about it.