Saturday, May 12, 2018

Charley Varrick

I finally got around to watching Charley Varrick off my DVR. It's available on DVD, so I'm OK doing a full-length post on it.

Charley (Walter Matthau) and his wife Nadine (Jacqueline Scott) show up in the idyllic small town of Tres Cruces, NM, one day, he looking to cash a cashier's check at the local bank. It's a ruse, of course; Charley is really planning to rob the bank with the help of a couple of plants he's already got in the bank with Nadine being the getaway driver. However, as with any good heist movie, the robbery doesn't go according to plan. In this case, it fails because a policeman sees the out-of-state plates on Varrick's car and is convinced that he's seen this plate on a stolen car. Sure enough, when he runs a check he finds the plates are stolen, and Nadine gets fatally wounded in a shootout.

Meanwhile, only Charley and one of his accomplices, Harman (Andy Robinson), make it out of the bank with their haul. They get away, abandoning Nadine and the car when they ignite it, before heading back to the trailer park where Charley lives to count the loot. It's here that the heist takes another turn for the worse. Charley counts the money, and realizes that they've got about $750,000 on their hands. You'd think they'd be happy to be rich, and dim-witted and impulsive Harman is glad to have that much money. Charley, however, knows better.

Charley understands that there's no way that a small-town bank should have that much money in its vaults. If they do, it can only mean one thing: somebody is using the bank to launder money, where they can get it out of the country from here and eventually bring it back in with nobody being any wiser about the true source of the money. Charley is also bright enough to realize it's the Mob that would have this much money, and that they're going to be much more insistent on getting their money back than the police are. The police only care if it's their wings getting clipped; having to investigate actual crime, not so much.

Maynard Boyle (John Vernon) is the head of the bank of which the branch in Tres Cruces is a subsidiary, and knows fully well that the money was being laundered -- he's in on it and not some honest bank executive whose bank is being used by rogue agents. He also knows the mobsters above him aren't going to be happy, so he hires Molly (Joe Don Baker) to investigate and if need be kill the people involved in the robbery. Charley understands all this, but stupid Harmon only sees dollar signs....

Charley Varrick is an entertaining movie that doesn't have nearly as much action as a plot synopsis implies. The bank robbery and getaway are done in the first 20 minutes or so, and there's an exciting climax in the last 20 minutes or so, but in between, the movie is quite methodical. That doesn't mean the movie is bad; in fact I found it quite good. There's always something important going on as Charley tries to stay one step ahead of everybody, and it all logically builds up to the climactic showdown with Molly. Matthau gives an excellent performance, with Robinson doing well in a smaller role. Joe Don Baker doesn't really do all that much, but then I think that's by design, as his character works better as a bit of a cipher.

Not only is Charley Varrick on DVD; it's less expensive than a lot of the Warner Archive or other MOD disks.

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