The Chase Reviews
It?s funny that even with that narrow goal in mind, some movies can still fall so flat. In the case of Sam Spiegel?s ?The Chase,? the fault mainly lies with one person--Sam Spiegel himself. Built-up on the overwhelming success of previous works like ?On the Waterfront,? ?Bridge on the River Kwai,? and ?Lawrence of Arabia? (all of which handed Spiegel Best Picture Oscars), he set out to make this film thinking he could do no wrong. He wanted to make a huge blockbuster that would appeal to everyone and capitalize on the rapidly changing social climate of the 60?s. Those are noble enough goals for someone with his prestige, but what happened next is a case of ambition gone awry. He hired a cash crop of talent from esteemed playwright Lillian Hellman penning the script, to a cast that boasted Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Robert Duvall, and a young Robert Redford. But instead of letting these creative minds do their job, he micromanaged every aspect of production, making so many daily additions and changes, that he soon ostracized his writer, director, and cast.
The results of this meddling are on clear display in the film. In attempting to make it all things to all people, a simple story of a sheriff (Brando) hunting down an escaped convict (Redford) gets bloated, distorted, and eventually sinks under its own weight. It feels like a soap opera retelling of ?High Noon.? Every character has their own side story and life-changing arc, often unrelated to the main plot at all. It shifts in tone as often as it changes storylines, going from melodramatic family tragedy, to scathing indictment of youth culture, to harrowing action beat-em-up. It becomes a two and a half hour slog, only engaging as long as Brando steps on set to whip the townsfolk with cutting one-liners. He and Redford are the lone players in this mess who command attention, and Brando seems like he doesn?t want to be there to begin with (a note confirmed by my further reading). For a movie called ?The Chase,? it can?t seem to cut to it.
All-in-all, this is a good example of ego and misplaced ambition sinking what could have been a great film. It just needs the fat trimmed. Unfortunately, it?s a steak that?s more fat than meat. 3.3/10
This film also serves as a bridge to my theme day for tomorrow: Robert Redford.
He plays a Sheriff of a small town who is forced to take sides when a local villain escapes from prison.
The local folk are running scared as they know that the ex con in question might be looking to settle some old scores and over the course of one night most of the town become roaring drunk and are looking for some form of vengeance.
Director Arthur Penn has a cracking cast as Angie Dickinson plays Brando's wife and Jane Fonda and Robert Redford plays the con and his wife who has fallen for the high rolling James Fox who is trying to escape from his powerful father.
The film has all the element's of a great melodrama and Brando takes a beating for the cause in one of the films standout scene's.
Some of the film does feel a touch overblown its seems that everyone is having affairs with everybody else, but on the whole the film isn't the total dog that some critics would have you belive.
I've certainly done my share of joking about how generic this film's title is, and as for the film itself, while it is by no means terribly generic, for every effort to break boundaries with a film like this, storytelling succumbs to conventions as a rather predictable fugitive thriller that has a few dramatic twists. Among the conventions is melodramatics, or at least character actions and situations which don't entirely convince, clashing with the realist aspects and stressing the characters and their angles in the narrative as types. The degree of artificiality in this drama varies (The story of the banker Val Rogers character who deals with marial and family conflicts is particularly manufactured), but I don't know if the film ever gets so overblown that it couldn't have been sold if there wasn't more nuance to the exposition, which is rather lacking, with immediate background development being fairly vacant, while gradual character development, with its shortage in layers and believability, falls just about flat. The film simply doesn't have that much time to flesh out its characters, because there are so very, very, very many of them in this ensemble piece which focuses too intensely on inconsequential roles, and crowbars in more than a few major roles and plotlines, resulting in a focal incoherency so extreme that it's often unbelievable. Biting off way more than it can chew, and ultimately doing little with most of its branches, this film finds its momentum crippled by a startlingly disjointed narrative as much as anything, and even that is an offshoot of excessiveness within overdrawn storytelling that is dragged out by the disorganized bloating, in addition to a whole lot of nothing, backed by a somewhat limp pace which drives the film from blandness into dullness. A sense of importance gets this film off to a good start, and once you get used to a problematic formula of conventions, histrionics, expository shortcomings, and maddening inconsistency, momentum is quickly lost, continuing to fall until the final product finds itself secured as underwhelming. This could have been a pretty rewarding drama and thriller, and yet, while it all but falls flat in that respect, it endears those with plenty of patience, and with a fondness of distinct Texas environments.
There's something of a broad scope in this minimalist, if excessive sort of character-driven drama, and it is largely utilized in celebration of various Texas landscapes of the 1960s that include country green lands, and society which ranges from the humble middle-class to the lavish upper-class. The film is a love letter to '60s Texas that is so lovely and so inviting that the visuals of the final product end up being pretty important in holding your attention, further maintained by a plot concept that is exhaustingly overblown with convoluted, melodramatic and disjointed branches which aren't even especially unique, yet are consistently intriguing, to one extent or another. Focusing on a falsely accused fugitive on the run, a sheriff trying to maintain peace and justice in an ignorant town, great flaws in the upper-class, various romantic conflicts, and so, so much more, this story is so overblown it's almost comical, but it does have potential, and although Lillian Hellman's script fails to live up to dramatic potential, by falling into tropes, meanderings and shortcomings in characterization, there is plenty of decent dialogue and few memorable set pieces to further hold up some intrigue. What the writing lacks in convincing humanity and extensive characterization the cast compensates for, with most performers managing to sell plenty, through charisma and just the right hint of nuance to bring some depth to the human aspects of this ensemble piece. Even though there's way too much material for the storytellers to work with, there's not much material for the performers to work with, yet the cast, highlighted by E.G. Marshall, Miriam Hopkins, Marlon Brando, the underused Robert Redford, etc., brings a dramatic depth that is lacking in a clever, but both overblown and undercooked script, and a little less lacking in Arthur Penn's direction. Actually, it may be the ambition, for thoughtfulness which often devolves into blandness, and for dramatic sting which often cloys, in Penn's endeavors that do a number on the momentum of this film, but when Penn finds inspiration, particular engagement value is found in the storytelling, whose utilization of John Barry's striking score and of edgy visuals and happenings hits hard, when realized. Too much of this film is anything but realized, because whether it's overdone or underdone, it ultimately falls a little flat, although there are enough remnants of a stronger film to make the final product fair, if flimsy.
When the heat is off, the final product fizzles out a bit, being too conventional, histrionic and underdeveloped to maintain your investment through all of the overwhelming inconsistencies, deriving from an excessive narrative that is unraveled with too much steadiness and dryness to entertain, let alone transcend an underwhelmingness that is counteracted enough by engrossing locations, intriguing subject matter, some clever writing, some solid performances, and some directorial inspiration to secure Arthur Penn's "The Chase" as a layered drama which is falls so very short of its potential, but is still adequate.
2.5/5 - Fair