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Jack Ryan is a young Vietnam veteran with a criminal record, who gets fired from his job as a migrant laborer on a California produce farm run by the mean-spirited camp manager Bob Rodgers. Ryan then meets and teams up with the seductive Nancy Barker the secretary and mistress to the unscrupulous owner Ray Ritchie. When Ryan takes another job as a cleaner at a local motel owned by Sam Mirakian a local justice-of-the-peace, Nancy again approaches Ryan to help her rob Ritchie's safe in his house which allegedly has $50,000 of payroll money. Ryan reluctantly agrees to help with the heist, but becomes highly distrustful of Nancy, suspecting she may double-cross him to keep all the money for herself, and vice versa with her over him. Written by
Of Interest But Not Truly Successful In Adapting Elmore Leonard's Work
I watched this movie with curiosity rather than interest inasmuch as I'd seen some comments that it had "bombed" when initially released. The ratings in IMDB, where as many people rated it a four as rated it a ten, clearly showed that it elicits a wide range of individual reactions. Personally I thought that it was worth watching but has a number of weaknesses. Jack Ryan (Ryan O'Neal) is a drifter working as a farm field worker. Fired for getting into a fight he escapes trial due to the intervention of the local judge, Sam Mirakian (Van Heflin). Jack is told to leave town by the farm supervisor Bob Rodgers (Robert Webber). However he stays after meeting the farm owner, "pickle king" Ray Ritchie (James Daly) and his secretary/mistress Nancy Barker (Leigh Taylor-Young). Jack takes a job as handyman at a hotel owned by the judge where he also meets a divorced woman, Joanne (Lee Grant), and her daughter. Unfortunately Jack begins to romance Nancy who turns out to be a thrill seeker (nice 1960's exploitation movie term!). Thrills include vandalism, breaking and entering and more (no sense giving away the plot). The movie is not entirely successful. In large part this is because it was taken from a book by Elmore Leonard. His works have a significant element of black comedy but, when played straight as here, it comes off as absurd melodrama. This movie has none of the sense of fun (i.e. Get Shorty) that this nuanced material needs. Fortunately Elmore Leonard's plots are relatively complex and full of incident so the movie keeps going and doesn't sag. The actors, aside from the pleasure of seeing them all so young, are mixed. Ryan O'Neal is best at light comedy which is to say that his performance here is limited. Leigh Taylor-Young displays a far greater range although, from time to time, a little histrionic for my personal taste (but then again I'm not a big Bette Davis fan either). While I've always looked forward to seeing Robert Webber I have to admit that he has only one expression throughout this movie. James Daly is underutilized but does have one extremely nasty scene, in the delicious sense of the word, pimping Nancy ("How would I know, I'm in produce"). The revelation is Van Heflin who is far more avuncular than I've ever seen him. I swear he was "channeling" Brian Keith! Unfortunately he lived only another two years and we lost what could have been a very interesting career as an older "character" man. RIP. The technical credits are fine and the gorgeous California scenery, I suspect the Monterey peninsula, would convince me to move. Overall the movie is worth watching but shows why Elmore Leonard's novels have a reputation for being poorly adapted to the screen.
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