February 18, 2011 12 Comments
When you think of ’70s sex symbols you think of Walter Matthau. That’s why there’s Charley Varrick!
Charley Varrick really has it all together. A smooth operator, quick on his feet, he always keeps it together. You can tell by that casual flick of a stick of gum into his mouth, leaving just a tinge of sugary paste on his bulbous lips. And then, don’t even get me started about the way he always chomps casually on that gum when he’s working some scheme. Nice touch. It says: “I’m just a regular schmo, don’t mind me, nothing underhanded going on here.” But there is! That’s his secret.
Charley Varrick is a ’70s action heist movie from the master, Don Siegel. It starts off with AWESOME action as Charley & the gang pull a good old fashioned bank job deep in the heartland of New Mexico. One thing they do is, the girl shoots two cops. In the head. And then, it turns out the girl is Charley’s WIFE which was really sad because she died too. There was a scene where you could totally tell he was sad about it. But then they had to blow up the car she was in. (Not to leave any traces for the cops). By the time 20 minutes later, you kind of forgot about her.
The good thing about ’70s movies like this though is how, they never drag you down with anything depressing. Like, in today’s modern ‘realist’ degraded Hollywood, if a girl killed two cops and then she turns out to be the wife of the main character, and she dies too, all just so they could get some money, that they’re gonna give back anyways, there would probably be a lot of scenes about him being all torn up. And, feeling guilty. By the time you’re through with that, the audience is all bummed out. And who can even enjoy a movie that way?
But not Charley Varrick! The music especially, keeps the mood nice and light. It’s hard to describe but it’s I’d call it kind of like Rockford Files music. Like, ‘doo-duh-dee-doo, doo-duh-dee, doo, doo’. Light and groovy. So if he’s walking around, or driving some car or they just killed someone, there would be the music. Doo-duh-dee doo. So it’s like, every time you might be thinking, ‘Gosh, the things that just happened on screen, if I consider them objectively, they’re actually kind of sick and murderous and depraved’. Then the music comes back in. ‘Oh, right. This is all in good fun. We’re watching the wacky and entertaining adventures of Charley Varrick. Good ol’ Charley!’
I wonder if it was a TV show too, because it totally could have been. ‘Charley Varrick. A Quinn Martin Production. Don’t go anywhere now, Charley’ll be back in a moment.’ What kind of crazy schemes will he think up next?, you wonder during the commercial break. But it probably wouldn’t have starred Walter Matthau because he’s more of a silver screen type of guy. For the TV version I’m thinking they could have used Larry Hagman or someone like that.
Charley has a sidekick which is good, because all cool movie guys have sidekicks. You got Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Harold and Maude. And all the rest. It turns out I didn’t like this sidekick though because he was the crazy killer from Dirty Harry. But anyways, he was going to doublecross Charley Varrick so he let the killer kill him. Well, I’m not explaining it very well but it makes sense in context.
There’s a bad guy after him. I got confused which bad guy was which because you got Dean Wormer from Animal House and you got another guy (recognizable) playing the hired killer. (Again – don’t worry – the tone always stays nice ‘n light). But annyways, they’ll get their come uppance. That Charley, he’ll figure something out!
Near the end Charley (Walter Matthau) tails the woman who works for the bad guy and then finagles his way into her apartment. After he calls the bad guy she asks what he wants to do and, well I don’t have to tell you the rest. (She sleeps with him)! May seem unrealistic in today’s times and mores but in fairness – a reminder – again, this is Walter Matthau we’re talking about.
The one and only.
Three stars out of four-and-a-half.
UPDATE: For your listening pleasure,