Charley Varrick Movie Reviews

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You can never worry too much...

...when you got the fuzz and the mafia after you.

Charley Varrick is a quality caper movie courtesy of director Don Siegel and backed up by a wonderful understated performance from Walter Matthau as Charley Varrick. Varrick along with his partners rob a small New Mexico bank, but instead of the usual decent haul they find that they have nabbed over $760.000, sadly for the boys it is mafia money that the bank was laundering. Varrick is a smart cookie and thinks it should be given back, but his young greedy partner insists that it's a chance of a lifetime and convinces Varrick that they should keep the cash. This not only brings the law after them but also sadistic hit-man for the mob, Molly, and he is cruelty personified. Can the boys flee the country in one piece?

This is a delightful film that relies heavy on character development and strength of plot. Siegel gets fine performances from the supporting cast to back up the cunningly sedate lead turn from Matthau. As Siegel left Dirty Harry behind, where 1973 saw the sequel Magnum Force released (Ted Post directing), the director gives us a complete opposite to the machismo of Harry Callahan. Matthau’s Varrick is low-key and hang-dogged, but below that sleepy exterior beats the heart of a cunning devil and he’s the one with all the aces up his sleeves.

Andy Robinson as Varrick's partner Harman Sullivan is all twitchy and on the edge, whilst Joe Don Baker as hit-man Molly is simply magnetic in his icy portrayal. Lalo Schifrin again scores for Siegel with great results, and the photography from Michael Butler is very rich indeed as the locales seep with that bleached dried look. This is great storytelling with suspense and no little action (the opening robbery and the finale involving a car and a plane joust are quality Siegel constructions), but most of all it's a film to remind you that cinema can be great without crash bang wallop every ten minutes. An excellent heist and escape movie. 8/10