Marathon Man - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Marathon Man Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ November 14, 2015
What begins as a taut, intriguing thriller soon becomes too complicated and desperate to defy our suspension of disbelief (as with a ridiculous shootout at a country house), and it is only worth it for Olivier's wicked villain and a fantastic scene in the New York diamond district.
Super Reviewer
May 28, 2012
An original though flawed story of a student (Dustin Hoffman) who gets involved in a sinister plot involving diamonds and a sadistic Nazi (Laurence Olivier), who wants desperately to claim what he feels is his. This is a thriller inside and out, no questioning that, but the way the story is put together leaves a lot to be desired. There are tons of holes and the way the film ends is far from satisfying. Laurence Olivier turns in a terrifying performance as the dentist drilling psycho, while Hoffman, Roy Scheider, and William Devane all give admirable performances. Director John Schlesinger has a dark, nihilistic viewpoint of New York City, and there are certain scenes in which this disturbing landscape adds a lot to the story. Sadly, his story needed more closure and less melodramatic acts to come across as completely convincing and worthwhile.
Super Reviewer
½ January 7, 2012
This is Marathon Man, a suspense thriller directed by John Schlesinger and written by William Goldman, based on his novel of the same name. The story concerns "Babe" Levy, a history PhD candidate and avid runner who becomes unwillingly involved in a dangerous web of espionage and intrigue concerning a fugitive Nazi dentist named Dr. Christian Szell, and a cache of ill-gotten diamonds.

This film, while it does have some action scenes and some very intense moments, is primarily concerned with focusing on atmosphere, tension, and suspense, and, in that regard, the film delivers in spades. The music really heightens the wonderful atmosphere created by some excellent cinematography. This is a gritty film frought with paranoia.

As Babe, Dustin Hoffman is quite likeable, and you really root for him as he plays a guy way in over his head over circumstances beyond his control and comprehension. Hoffman did some really dark films in this 70s, and it would be awesome to see him return to that world before he either retires or dies. As Babe's brother Doc, Roy Scheider is as reliable as always, and gives a good turn as a man who, unbeknownst to his brother, is a government agent heavily involved in the hunt for Szell. And, speaking of Szell, I'm amazed that they got Laurence Olivier to sign up for this one. He delivers a phenomenal performance, and his ruthlessly calm demeanor and delivery make an already chilling and sadistic man even more so.

Given that this is a 70s film, it is expectedly gritty and edgy, and I love it even more as a result. The details are a tad murky, but it is a spy thriller, so that's part of the territory. All in all though, this is a wonderfully written, skillfully directed, and superbly acted thriller that really delivers some exciting stuff, and really makes you reconsider going to a dentist any time soon.
Super Reviewer
½ January 22, 2007
I love the unusual air of mystery that surrounds Marathon Man, but considering how much trouble I'm having thinking of anything else productive to say about it, I'm assuming that's more or less where the appeal ends. Its age both champions and betrays it, as it was clearly a much stronger product in 1976 but it seems so completely diminished at this point that its merits can be difficult to see offhand. Well-acted, intriguing and handsome, it's nonetheless a bit of a slog, and feels oddly unimportant now.
Super Reviewer
½ March 25, 2007
A very drawn out film, but quited a tortourous one for it?s time, despite not showing any real gore. For me my anticipation for watching this film exceded my enjoyment for it.
Super Reviewer
January 31, 2009
Bad plot, worse performances (including Hoffnan's) & worst execution.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
October 16, 2009
This is really a film of two halves. The first half is largely inconsequential, un-compelling tosh. It consists of little vignettes and scenes which simply set up what happens later, and a lot of the threads that are introduced aren't fully resolved. Right up until the dental scene, Dustin Hoffman is just playing the same tired stereotype that he did in The Graduate; an unconfident student who is borderline autistic and hopeless with women. The scene where he is trying to convince the graduate student to go out with him is very two-dimensional, so that we are bemused when they sleep together shortly afterwards and we don't care when they get mugged.

If you're going to make a thriller with political pretensions and characters switching sides - in the case of William Devane, several times - then you can't leave the audience out of the loop for the whole first hour and then expect them to catch up and tie up the loose ends for themselves. It would have been much better if the film had started with Laurence Olivier getting off the plane, intercut with Hoffman running. The script could then have gradually explained their characters and purpose without resorting to the kind of much-too-rapid exposition when Dustin is being driven away in the car.

In the second half, things get much better. After the dental scene Olivier starts to inhabit Szell a lot more, and you go from having a chuckle at his bald cap and glasses to being slightly frightened by him. As Szell walks through the Jewish community trying to get his diamonds valued, you can feel the hate coming off him, and his desperation at being recognised by the elderly woman. The final showdown between him and Dustin, however, is a little over-the-top, especially Szell's death scene having fallen down the spiral staircase (which was clearly done by a stunt double, considering how ill Olivier was at the time). It clearly demonstrates that the two conventions of acting they embodied don't sit well together, with Olivier coming off a ham and Dustin a stereotype.

It's not a terrible film by any means; it?s very nicely shot with some good composition, the musical cues work very well and Roy Scheider puts in a great performance as Babe's brother Doc, showing that there's more to him than just Jaws. However this could have worked a lot better had it been only 90 minutes long.
Super Reviewer
January 29, 2009
I really don't see what the big deal is about this film. For the first hour at least, all the characters are going along thier merry ways and all thier actions don't interact at all. Some exchanges are peppered with violence, but it's never clear what's going on for so long that when it finally is revealed - in a big chunk of exposition delivered in a three minute car ride - it seems like a shock. The only things I really liked about this film are Laurence Olivier as the unremittingly evil Nazi dentist and the way he's inundated with Jewish culture as he walks through Manhattan. I think the scenes where he has to tread so lightly, surrounded by the people he's wronged are so razors-edge and fascinating to watch. Until they get there though, this movie really drags.
Super Reviewer
January 7, 2009
"Is it safe?"
Super Reviewer
November 11, 2008
This movie was very good. Hoffman is a good actor and this movie definetly shows you his abilities as an actor. I do like The Graduate better though.
Super Reviewer
August 23, 2008
Marathon Man starts out as a political thriller, but turns into a high intensity heist film starring Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider, and William Devane. Hoffman plays grad student Babe Levy who, after being haunted by the suicide of his fathers suicide years before, falls into a former Nazi doctors (Olivier) quest to claim the diamonds that were used as payment for release from a concentration camp years before.
Even though the story isn't as tight as it could have been and Scheider is way underused, Marathon Man is a Hitchcockian thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat as we follow Hoffman's pacifist character through situations he's not prepared to deal with.
One of the ironic things about the film is that it has a pseudo Hitchcock plot and it stars the lead in his first American film (Olivier in Rebecca) and one of the leads in his final film (Devanne in Family Plot).
Super Reviewer
Janeway: In 1945, Szell let it be known around Auschwitz he could provide escape for anybody who could pay the price. He started out with gold naturally, but very quickly worked his way up to diamonds.
Babe: Why did you say "naturally" when you said he started with gold?
Janeway: Szell knocked it out of the Jews' teeth before he burned them. Szell was a dentist.

Dustin Hoffman stars in film that works very well as a thriller, especially if one doen't analyze everything while its happening and simply lets them self be involved with the film. I say this because by the end of the film, we see characters go through hell, but there are some loose ends to question. Still the film is very effective as a thriller.

Hoffman stars as Babe Levy, a graduate student at Columbia university. He also practices daily for the marathon. Another aspect of his life involves the image of his father's suicide, which he had witnessed early in his life.

Another plot of this story involves Babe's older brother Doc, played by Roy Scheider. Doc is an American spy who has become involved with the affairs of a sinister man named Szell, Laurence Olivier, who is known as the most notorious Nazi war criminal still around during the time of this movie.

Soon Doc's life crosses with Babe's, leading to an impossible situation for Babe, including a classic torture scene, all of which is made worse because we know there is really no way out for Babe. This film is a testament to Hoffman's talent as a method actor, because by the later half of this movie we see all the exhaustion and pain he has gone through.

This whole movie is made with 70s A-list talent, including actors Hoffman, Olivier, Scheider, and Devane. Director John Schlesinger (All the President's Men). Producer Robert Evans. And renowned screenwriter William Goldman.

There talents combined with many others have made a very fine film in terms of having an effective thriller with several memorable moments and a very villainous antagonist.

There are elements that don't work as well as they should, but the various reveals and unfolding of the plot make this film work well enough to make it very enjoyable as a tense thriller.

Christian Szell: Is it safe?... Is it safe?
Babe: You're talking to me?
Christian Szell: Is it safe?
Babe: Is what safe?
Christian Szell: Is it safe?
Babe: I don't know what you mean. I can't tell you something's safe or not, unless I know specifically what you're talking about.
Christian Szell: Is it safe?
Babe: Tell me what the "it" refers to.
Christian Szell: Is it safe?
Babe: Yes, it's safe, it's very safe, it's so safe you wouldn't believe it.
Christian Szell: Is it safe?
Babe: No. It's not safe, it's... very dangerous, be careful.
Super Reviewer
March 1, 2008
This is an example of a director making a good script better. Dustin Hoffman is the shit and Olivier is Olivier for God's sake.
Super Reviewer
December 2, 2007
Dustin Hoffman running around half naked shooting people? Al-right. I am glad to have finally seen the infamous dental torture scene that so many movies reference.
Super Reviewer
½ September 20, 2007
Tense, extremely well acted suspense tale, with a nerve shattering inquistion scene
Super Reviewer
April 9, 2007
Another William Goldman classic
Super Reviewer
April 22, 2007
A deeply disturbing thriller that leaves you with a life long fear of going to the dentist.
Super Reviewer
December 7, 2006
One of the seminal films of the 70s, and a brilliantly crafted thriller complete with a superior cast, script and director. The opening scene is a classic.
Super Reviewer
½ May 23, 2006
Olivier single-handedly set public relations efforts back 100 years for dentists worldwide. If you've not lived through the infamous "Is it safe?" sequence in this movie, then you have missed a legendary performance. Of course if you are already a little bit squeamish about dentists, I would not recommend this movie : ) Hoffman gives us one of his most memorable characters, and Scheider is so good in this that, once again, I have to say that his career should have been much greater. Every time I go to NYC, I want to check out the pumping station location to view the site of the equally legendary "You can keep as many of them as you can swallow" sequence. I would give this five stars except for the muddiness of the father's backstory playing underneath the primary story. 07/26/06 update: "Eat! Essen!" Oh yeah, baby. Olivier's swan song gives the whole "hoisted on your own pitard" line a grand new meaning : ) Sssabee, ALL dentists MUST see this one : )
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