Charley Varrick Reviews
Right from the brilliantly staged opening heist, director Don Siegel takes you on quite a ride. The film is smartly paced. Siegel builds the tension while showing the minute details of this way of life. He knows when to hold back and when to quickly unleash.
Varrick is such an interesting character. He doesn't seem to love the thrill of the crime. In fact, he only seems to have stumbled into it because his previous career path of stunt piloting disintegrated. He is smart, rational, but in way over his head.
Speaking of Watergate, there must have been something cathartic about watching a reasonably good American take a piece of the pie from a crime syndicate that in my opinion, eerily resembles the American government. Efficiently run, but unfortunately by unscrupulous men. Even if we know his fate is likely sealed from the start, one can imagine that the American people must have been especially thrilled to see their money fall into the right hands for a change.
In Don Siegel's America there seems to be no honest living. The world is run on luck, both good and bad. Siegel must have had some good luck working in his favor because Varrick is a smart thriller that offers an interesting look into the early 1970s American mindset.
One of the things about Siegel's films is that he loves to support the anti-hero. Dirty Harry, The Shootist, Escape From Alcatraz each contain a character that isn't the hero in the white hat, yet we sure as hell cheer for them. Charley is no different. He's a robber, a manipulator, and he's willing to sacrifice people to achieve his goals. We still cheer for the guy until the bitter end.
Matthau is perfect as Charley, a sharp guy dumped into a situation beyond anything he could have imagined. He downplays the character in a cool and calm manner, even though there's a hint of being scared to death of what's out to get him. The remaining cast is also great, particularly Robinson as a dumb kid that's stereotyped in being the guns blazing proponent, never fully trusting Charley or anyone else for that matter. Joe Don Baker relishes his role as the cowboy hit man that slaps women around, then beds them as he rolls like a tornado toward his goal. And John Vernon is John Vernon, the greatest authority figure in 1970's cinema.
Even though some of the plot devices get silly (and dull what would have been a perfect film) Charley Varrick is a thriller that doesn't feel like a thriller; a action piece that doesn't feel like an action piece. It's there to be consumed with no definable genre other than cops and robbers and goons and hoods. This is one of those great 1970's films that have been buried to posterity.
All in all, a solid b-movie for lovers of classic pulp and the 1970s, but as a film, it is kind of one-dimensional but a great outing for the amazing and loveable Walter Matthau.
Although, Joe Don Baker and his character are worth the watch regardless of the rest of the film, just to see this dude, who sort of acts like a creation of the Coens.
That sounds routine, but talent here molds the routine into something rich and exciting. This is a great movie that commands your attention to the smallest details and rewards that attention. This is Charley Varrick.