Charley Varrick (1973)   Leave a comment

Small-time cropduster, Charley Varrick (Walter Matthau), his wife, Nadine (Jacqueline Scott), and his partner, Harmon (Andy Robinson) figure they’ve been working for scraps long enough, so they decide to rob a small, local bank. Things don’t go as planned. When the robbery turns violent, Varrick has to devise a plan to extricate himself from a deadly situation.

Varrick and fellow thief Harmon (Andy Robinson) return to his trailer home after their getaway to discover the simple bank they’ve robbed is not so simple. What happens next pits Varrick’s smart amateur against a cadre of professionals led by baddies Joe Don Baker and John Vernon. Of course the police want Varrick too, but the law, led by sheriff, William Schallert and detective, Norman Fell don’t concern him. John Vernon’s oily organized crime honcho and Joe Don Baker’s nasty hit man do.

Don Siegel (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dirty Harry) directs Charley Varrick without flourish. His spare style suits the material and we watch as Varrick maneuvers deftly and makes it up as he goes along. He’s not a martial arts expert or a master of disguise, but he makes some cunning moves. You can see the wheels turning in a couple of scenes when Varrick has to think on his feet. He’s the self-taught version of Robert Redford’s character in Three Days of the Condor. Both men are thrown into dangerous positions and both maneuver using brains instead of brawn. Stalwart character actors abound in Charley Varrick. Sheree North and Woody Parfrey round out the cast of usual suspects and the entire film has that cool and gritty 70s feel. Varrick’s motto, ‘the last of the independents’ rings true. Charley Varrick, Lonely Are the Brave, and Absence of Malice belong in the ‘little guy goes it alone’ film hall of fame. All feature men caught, for entirely different reasons, in tight spots and let us watch as they try to escape. The results differ, but you can’t help but root for them to come out on top. The quirky characters, complex plot, and solid acting in Charley Varrick make me wish they still made 70s films.



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