Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Charley Varrick

1973, US, directed by Don Siegel

If Charley Varrick appeared today, I'd expect it on the small screen: Varrick is the kind of anti-hero/flawed hero that surely figures in the ancestries of characters like Walter White. As much as I enjoy the pleasures of the expansive series format, Don Siegel's film is a salutary reminder that one can pack a great deal into two hours without compromising on character detail or nuance. Indeed, the film does an especially fine job of shading in Varrick's many sides, part of its careful navigation of the fundamental problem of sympathy with/for the character given that he is, after all, an armed robber. Obviously, the choice of Walter Matthau helps greatly -- there's a kind of hang-dog affability trailing him at almost all times, providing an excuse for his actions almost as they occur, and the actor also finds beats of humour that leaven what could otherwise be a rather dour exercise in criminals turning on one another. 

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States