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The Outfit


Rod Lott January 14th, 2011

Three guys hit a bank in Wichita belonging to a crime syndicate. The syndicate hits back by killing one of them in cold blood.

That poor fellow's brother, Macklin (Robert Duvall), hits back harder shortly after being released from prison — and shorter after an assassination attempt on his life — by busting up the syndicate's poker game and taking all the dough.
 
Then, of course, the syndicate plots to hit back hardest, in "The Outfit." Based on Richard Stark's Parker novel of the same name, the 1974 crime drama is down and dirty as the genre got in that era and still get away with a PG rating. Newly remastered, the film is available only as an MOD disc from Warner Archive.
 
Running defense, Macklin enlists the help of the other surviving bank robber, diner owner Cody (Joe Don Baker), to crush the mob muscle once and for all. Their target is Mailer (Robert Ryan), the boss who ordered the murder of Macklin's brother.
 
Don't let that aforementioned PG rating fool you into thinking the film pulls punches. With grit in its teeth, it delivers on the promise of bullets, broads and blood inherent in the bibliography of Stark (aka Donald E. Westlake), ably adapted by writer/director John Flynn ("Out for Justice"). He was kind of the poor man's Don Siegel, but without a right-hand man in Clint Eastwood.
 
We don't think of Duvall as an action hero these days, but he wields a believable amount of pushed-to-the-edge menace as Macklin. Baker has heft as his sidekick, rather than just heft, and further support is provided by Karen Black as Macklin's weak-willed girlfriend and a young Joanna Cassidy as Mailer's most recent trophy wife.
 
Aside from a final scene that plays a little too corny given all the rough edges that precede it, "The Outfit" is recommended to fans of crime films, and fans of Westlake/Stark's novels in particular. Oh, and anyone who's ever longed to see Duvall and Baker plunge their fists into a woman’s face. —Rod Lott

 
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