Saturday, May 29, 2010

Duvall's Parker

I finally caught up to The Outfit by John Flynn.

It's a weirdly ignored movie. It has a near perfect cast, Robert Duvall, Joe Don Baker, Robert Ryan, Elisha Cook, Jr., Bill McKinney and Timothy Carey. The closest I'd come to a complaint would be with Karen Black, who seems not to be sure what to do with her character here.

In the original novel, The Outfit by Richard Stark, Parker is making good on a threat made in The Hunter.

Here, that is understandably simplified, making it play out as more of a repeat of that story, or perhaps Point Blank (or even Payback), which is (are) based on that first book in the series, rather than a follow-up.

And in devising a way to start the story without the back story of "The Hunter" and The Man With the Getaway Face, the second book in the series, Flynn creates a much hotter revenge story, involving revenge for a murdered brother, than cold-blooded Parker was ever given.

That said, Duvall is, as Donald Westlake says, "a wonderful terse, taciturn Parker". Whether watching as a Parker fan or a casual viewer, Duvall is the center of the movie and an utterly compelling figure.

The world of The Outfit is peculiar. Much as many newer movies have desaturated the colors of "neo-noir" movies to make them feel, with varying levels of success, more like the film noir on the '40s and '50s. Here it's done more like the way it would later be done on Batman: The Animated Series, where costumes, props and automobiles mostly suggest a bygone era, without actually placing it directly there. I'm not sure it works as well as I'd hope, but it does help create a kind of mood.

The Outfit is a solid, engaging movie, with tense action and a terrific cast of characters. I enjoyed it thoroughly and think it should absolutely get the DVD release it deserves, undoubtedly should have quite a while back, along with Flynn's Rolling Thunder, both of which are strange omissions from the available DVD catalog. I'd like to add it to my collection. I see it as a movie, I'd like to revisit, warts and all, in the future.

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