Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Outfit (1973)

"You hit my brother and you came after me, that's no good. The Outfit's gonna pay me money for my trouble. I figure $250,000 to make things right."

THE OUTFIT doesn't waste time. As a 70's revenge thriller of the highest order, it sets about its premise quickly and ruthless. Nothing stylish. Nothing fancy. Motives are given and acted upon. Violence is dispensed. Vengeance is served. Characters are dispatched swiftly and brutally. Though nothing truly satisfying comes of it. For a bunch of hard cases like Macklin and Cody, a good laugh at their getaway and some extra cash in their wallet is the only highlight. Those they've hit will soon hit back.

THE OUTFIT takes place in a hard lit, low-rent world full of hustlers, drifters, con-men, and criminals. All jockeying to see what the score is. All afraid of a man like Macklin for whom revenge is the only answer, so long as he profits by it. This is not a sentimental man. He mourns his murdered brother, broods over the contract on his head, wonders if he is finished as a criminal, but never once deviates from his purpose despite having plenty of opportunities to do so. He wants payback. And he wants to get paid for it.

THE OUTFIT is based on the novel of the same name by Donald E. Westlake (writing as Richard Stark). It is the third novel in the infamous Parker series, which also gave us a novel called "The Hunter" which has been made into multiple movies, including POINT BLANK. It was also recently adapted as a graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke (with a version of "The Outfit" on the way).

Westlake wrote his Parker novels under a pseudonym because, compared to his other novels, they are hard-boiled to the extreme. He was also very protective of his character. In none of the film adaptations is the Parker character actually called Parker. The tone of the character is usually off too, though THE OUTFIT comes closest to bringing the amorality and cool- headedness of Parker to life through Duvall's portrayal of Macklin. The scene below, where Macklin heists a poker game, is one of my favorites...

The film also features Joe Don Baker as Cody and Karen Black as Bett. Both of whom are totally bad-ass. Baker stirs some humor in with his grit as an ex-criminal gone legit and Black gives one of her better performances as the protective gun moll whose strained relationship with her family forces her to continue along with Macklin despite many misgivings. Rounding out the cast is a veritable who's who of former film noir stars, including Jane Greer, Marie Windsor, Emily Meyer, Timothy Carey, and Elisha Cook Jr. Robert Ryan also turns up in his final film performance as Mailer, the weary mob kingpin whom Macklin keeps hassling.

THE OUTFIT has never been issued on DVD. There are bootleg copies floating around. VHS copies demand a pretty price, though the quality of the VHS print is below-average at best. I have seen streams as well, though sometimes they are of edited television broadcasts that have been recut into absurdity. Only TCM rebroadcasts the film uncut so catch it there if you can.

I was lucky enough to see THE OUTFIT at Anthology Film Archives in New York City. It was part of a great series of currently unreleased 70's thrillers, including another John Flynn film, the exploitation masterpiece ROLLING THUNDER. Both films deserve to be on DVD.

THE OUTFIT (Flynn, USA, 1973)


Anonymous said...

A stream of the film (uncut):

Anonymous said...

The Outfit finally on DVD: