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The Squeeze


A surprising, harrowing thriller

Rod Lott March 31st, 2011

I’ve now seen two films titled “The Squeeze.” One of them, a 1987 Michael Keaton vehicle, is perfectly awful.

thesqueeze

The other, a decade-earlier crime drama now available as a manufactured-on-demand DVD through Warner Archive, is perfectly surprising — in part because it features Stacy Keach donning a British accent and occasionally his birthday suit.

Keach plays Jim Naboth, ex-Scotland Yard and current alcoholic. His first words in the movie? “Piss off!”
That utterance sets the tone for a gritty, seedy and sometimes sleazy story in which his former wife (Carol White) and her young daughter are kidnapped by the mob and held ransom for a million pounds. (I haven’t done the math, but it sounds expensive.) Somewhere in his spirits-soaked heart is just enough caring left for her that he agrees to help her new beau (Edward Fox) attempt to get her back. This may prove difficult for Jim, because you can’t shoot straight when you can’t even walk straight.

Years after the coke arrest that sidelined a once-hot career, Keach is somewhat of a revelation in the lead role of reluctant hero. He’s always had it in him, of course; we’re just not used to seeing him carry a film anymore. One wonders how his filmography today might look different if not for a prison stint; in a “sauna” where he’s offered the “VIP treatment,” he wins points for quipping in mock alarm, “Six quid? Cheaper to do it myself.”

But if we’re talking bravery in Michael Apted’s film, that belongs to White. She fronts the most harrowing moments of “The Squeeze,” when her male captors force her to, shall we say, put on a show. I’ll never listen to The Stylistics again without getting a sick feeling in my stomach, recalling her utter, dead-eyed humiliation. And David Hentschel’s disturbing synthesized score throughout only compounds the unease. —Rod Lott

 
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