October: Parker Month; The Influence:
The Outfit(1973) Review:
The next Parker film I will investigate is the 1973 John Flynn film adaptation of the third Parker book, The Outfit. This story concerns two men (instead of the usual lone wolf), fighting against a massive criminal organization. The pesky Outfit, that plagued Walker and Parker in Point Blank and The Hunter returns to challenge (this film’s Parker) Macklin (Robert Duvall), and his right hand man Cody (Joe Don Baker), also known as Handy McKay in the novels. Macklin’s brother is killed by The Outfit and Macklin and Cody are next, so they hit the road looting all of The Outfit’s operations as they head to the highest of the higher-ups who run The Outfit, for some payback. The writer of the Parker novel, Richard Stark, aka Donald Westlake, considers this the most faithful film adaptation of his works, and it is definitely one to remember.
The film is a realistic, gritty, 1970’s sleazefest, and one of the best of its kind. It has the unrelenting brutality of the novel, and all the attention to detail and process that Stark loves so much. The story follows the novel quite well, but still deviates. A major change, besides the names, is the role of Bett Harrow (Karen Black), who in the novel was Parker’s random lover, while in Miami. She only has a small part in the second book, but it is so memorable. Bett is much more memorable for her small part in the novel/comic, than her portrayal in the film. She’s Macklin’s love interest that comes along for the ride, but doesn’t do much else. Bett from the book, on the other hand, was mysterious, inviting, wild and sadistic. All we know about her came from one scene, but, what a scene it is.
Robert Duvall does a great job as Macklin. He gets kind of mushy with Bett sometimes, but he isn’t afraid to let his Parker out, especially during the heist sequences. Joe Don Baker also does a fine job as Cody and really emphasizes the friendship between the two characters. The supporting cast also does a wonderful job, and makes the world the story inhabits feel real, with relatable people as hostages, not random whining stereotypes.
The film has amazing heist sequences that ooze with tension and burst with intensity. They are filmed in long takes that follow Macklin and Cody through the operations, and show the step-by-step process in their heists. By the end of the film, any casual viewer should know how Cody and Macklin operate, including all their personal quirks during each heist. The whole film is shot raw, like the camera operator came along for Macklin and Cody’s onslaught. The camera work and scarce use of music during the more tense sequences gives the film its realistic and gritty feel, just as much as the stellar performances.
This film is not very similar to my movie, but it is a classic. My film sticks closer to Point Blank, though one day I would like to make a straight up raw crime film in the style of The Outfit. If you want to see some cold, hardened characters and heist sequences, which I’m all about, then check this film out.
Favorite Scene: Macklin and Cody stop by at this house in the middle of nowhere to get a new car. Cody has a run-in with the car dealer’s brother’s nymphomaniac wife, and things go sour. The entire scene is out of place, but insanely memorable, and brings in three fascinating characters for only a few minutes, as if Macklin and Cody took a detour to another movie.
Written by Tyler Ducheneaux