Charley Varrick (1973)   Leave a comment

charley varrick
The robbery of a small town bank in New Mexico turns violent forcing crop duster Charley Varrick (Walter Matthau) to come up with a plan to extricate himself from a deadly situation.  Varrick and fellow thief Harmon (Andy Robinson) return to Varrick’s 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.  Varrick is 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 70s 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 along with Lonely Are the Brave and Absence of Malice belongs 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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