Charley Varrick (Don Siegel, 1973)

P151

I always thought that Walter Matthau only played miserable, surly characters and was best known as a sidekick to Jack Lemmon. How wrong I was. My friend Simon suggested I watch The Taking of Pelham 123 (Joseph Sargent, 1974), which completely took me by surprise, especially when compared to the inferior 2009 remake. I then saw The Laughing Policeman (Stuart Rosenberg, 1973) where Matthau plays a police officer investigating the murder of another officer. His performances in both of these films very much opened my eyes. Next on my viewing list was Charley Varrick, another Matthau film recommended to me. I finally saw it last week on ITVHD. Matthau plays the titular character. Varrick is a small time crook who decides to rob a small town bank. Unbeknownst to Varrick, the bank is Mafia owned and used to launder money. A mob enforcer is sent to track down Varrick and retrieve the stolen money. Apparently Matthau won a Bafta award for his performance as Varrick. When I started watching the film I wasn’t convinced that he would be convincing in such a role. I was wrong yet again. Despite Varrick’s actions resulting in the deaths of number of characters you still end up rooting for him to outwit the mob. A truly excellent film by the masterful Don Siegel. So which Matthau film should I watch next? The UK DVD currently beats all other international releases of the film, as it is presented in anamorphic widescreen. You can find it at Zavvi for a little over £3.00. An absolute bargain.

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