Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 111 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Walter Matthau (CHARADE, THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE), Joe Don Baker (WALKING TALL, MITCHELL), John Vernon (SAVAGE STREETS, DIRTY HARRY), Andy Robinson (DIRTY HARRY, HELLRAISER), Sheree North (THE OUTFIT, THE SHOOTIST), Norman Fell (THE GRADUATE, THE KILLERS), Felicia Farr (KOTCH, 3:10 TO YUMA), Craig R. Baxley (also did the stunts and directed ACTION JACKSON and many episodes of THE A-TEAM). Music by Lalo Schifrin (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, DIRTY HARRY, THE MANITOU). Written by Dean Riesner (DIRTY HARRY, PLAY MISTY FOR ME, FATAL BEAUTY) and Howard Rodman (COOGAN'S BLUFF, MADIGAN), and adapted from the novel THE LOOTERS by John Reese.
Tag-line: "When he runs out of dumb luck he always has genius to fall back on!"
Best one-liner: "Sooner or later, you're gonna tell me everything you know. So why not save yourself a great deal of pain, tell me now."
Don Siegel is the man. And CHARLEY VARRICK just might be his amoral, cutthroat masterpiece. THE KILLERS' hitmen protagonists, DIRTY HARRY's mildly fascist sensibilities, and COOGAN'S BLUFF's hateful 'tude toward the Love Generation were just pit stops on the way.
The late 60's and early 70's were chock full of gritty flicks like this; take-no-prisoners crime films populated by brutal, pistol-whippin', lady-slappin' sons-o-bitches: THE OUTFIT (with VARRICK co-stars Sheree North and Joe Don Baker), POINT BLANK, Bava's KIDNAPPED, PRIME CUT, THE MECHANIC, MEAN STREETS, GET CARTER, THE YAKUZA...I could go on.
Walter Matthau, as 'Charley Varrick,' is a gum-chewing, calculating, mercenary thief. His gang kills cops like some people check their watch, and they're willing to risk it all for a measley couple of grand from a local bank in Buttfuck, New Mexico. The only problem is it just happened to be a mob front, and they've ended up with three-quarters of a million dollars.
(But was it truly coincidence? See if you can determine the answer from Charley's unceasingly indifferent gaze.) But he's not a maniac. Far from it. He's perhaps the most rational being on the planet- completely committed to creating a plan that will ensure his survival during the certainly impending shitstorm. Said storm involves a totally dickish, crooked bank exec (John Vernon, who's played some of the best a-holes of all time):
a blundering gang member (played by Andy Robinson, the simperlingly psychotic 'Scorpio Killer' from DIRTY HARRY):
and the equally amoral but far more vicious "Molly" (Joe Don Baker), who is without a doubt the inspiration for Cormac McCarthy's killing machine, "Anton Chigurh":
(A lot here seems like the direct inspiration for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.) In fact, this film so openly flouts Hollywood rules and convention, that, as you watch it, you can literally feel its reverberations on American cinema through the years since. Tarantino, the Coen brothers, Christopher Nolan (THE DARK KNIGHT's clown-masked bank theft of mob money opening pays homage), and many others -some openly, and some not- have dug deep into the many layers of VARRICK and extracted little bits here and there for their own purposes. But it’s such an epic, cynical tour-de-force, that no amount of depths-trolling can deaden its punch-in-the-guts impact (or the fact that the finale astonishingly involves a '67 Chrysler Imperial versus a biplane).