Archive for the ‘Joe Don Baker’ Tag

Mud (2013)   Leave a comment

mud poster

 Mud touches on true love, fatherhood, adolescence, friendship, and redemption.

Matthew McConaughey leads a stellar cast in this complex and compelling tale of a man who risks everything for love. Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon, Sarah Paulson, Joe Don Baker, and Jacob Lofland give wonderful performances but McConaughey, Ray McKinnon, and Tye Sheridan, in a break out role, really stand out. Lovely cinematography by Adam Stone shows both the beauty and desolation of the river and the stark reality of a small southern town. The film clocks in at 2 hours and 10 minutes, but feels shorter. The plot is unpredictable, the dialogue natural, and the acting nuanced. The one problem I have with Mud is Reese Witherspoon. I’m guessing she wanted to up her indie cred and the filmmaker wanted to use her name to garner funding for his project. Either way, she sticks out like a sore thumb. Despite Witherspoon’s presence, Mud works and serves as further proof that McConaughey can do more than play bongos. Mud was my favorite film of 2013.

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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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