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: Neo-Noir Quest 3 - The Outfit (1973)  ( 201 )

« : November 04, 2017, 01:29:06 AM »

The Independent.

The Outfit is directed by John Flynn and Flynn adapts the screenplay from the novel written by Richard Stark (AKA: Donald E. Westlake). It stars Robert Duvall, Joe Don Baker, Karen Black and Robert Ryan. Music is by Jerry Fielding and cinematography by Bruce Surtees.

It arguably took a further decade to pass before the 1970s would be revealed as a superb decade for neo-noir. For where the 60s purveyors cribbed close to the stylistics of the 40s and 50s, the 70s operators often saw a shift in emphasis on noir plotting over stylistics, using their own ideas on style to befit tone of plot. One such case is The Outfit, a cunningly moody piece that's at times brutal and at others a wry revenger pumped full of dialogue barbs.

Nobody's luck holds forever.

Plot finds Duvall as Earl Macklin, who upon being released from prison finds his brother has been murdered by "The Outfit" and he himself is on the hit-list as well. It transpires that Earl and his brother knocked off a bank that "The Outfit" had serious ties to, and the rub-out is on. Only thing is, Earl isn't about to put on a concrete overcoat any time soon and turns the tables on his pursuers.

Macklin's mission of revenge and financial rewards is filtered through a world populated by unsavoury characters in unsavoury period suits, the locations frequented often drab and colourless so as to sidle up with the narrative drive. At Earl's side is Cody (Baker), a cool bad ass who fears no one and can spot a femme fatale from a mile off. Also along for the journey is Bett (Black), she's Earl's squeeze, an unmeaning fatale who is quickly thrust into the bloody tale to play an active part.

In the villain corner overseeing quiet menace is Mailer (Ryan). In one of his last films released in the year of his death, Ryan leaves noir lovers a character whose every word is to hang on, while his spousal relationship with Rita (Cassidy) is amusingly tender yet cold. The rest of the heavies are by-the-numbers, but they are really only serving purpose as fodder for Earl and Cody's machismo fuelled spree, with the dialogue exchanges a thing of caustic beauty.

Baker and Duvall are excellent, and they are backed up by a brilliant support cast, it's a roll call of film noir heroes, villains and dupes. In fact the noir credentials are incredibly high here, from source writer Stark (Point Blank/The Grifters) and director Flynn (Rolling Thunder), to the cast list, it's noir nirvana. Sure we hanker for more from the likes of Elisha Cook and Marie Windsor etc, but Flynn makes his point and ensures lovers of the noir form can feel his love as well.

Problems? Well yes of course there's the issue of not having some true nighttime noir photography, and in truth Black is quite simply miscast but gets away with it since the makers offer her up for a narrative sting. Elsewhere, the treatment of women will annoy some, but tonally speaking you have to say it sits well in the world the story exists in. Then there's the ending! I haven't seen the TV version of the pic, but have to say the one offered up there is surely (in the noir universe) far greater than the one we have in the official release, and certainly more befitting what has preceded it.

Niggles apart, The Outfit is a cracker and well worth seeking out. 8.5/10


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