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Thomas Haden Church
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Things start to go wrong for a group of criminals after they kidnap a young heiress and hold her for ransom at a beach house in France. Fighting among the co-conspirators boils over shortly after the ransom is picked up, leading to a violent end for most. Written by
Kevin Steinhauer <K.Steinhauer@BoM.GOV.AU>
A solid cast does well under capable direction by Hubert Cornfield, in this tale (scripted by Cornfield and Robert Phippeny, based on Lionel White's novel "The Snatch") of a kidnapping that ultimately goes awry, due to the nature of the players involved. A "chauffeur" (Marlon Brando) isn't so sure he wants to participate, especially when unreliable drug addict Vi (Rita Moreno) and dangerous creep "the leer" (Richard Boone) cause problems for him; his old chum Wally (Jess Hahn) convinces him to stick around. While this film does move slowly at times, Cornfield does a fine job in showing a part of Paris and the French countryside we don't always see; the exotic setting certainly doesn't hurt at all in the telling of this story. Lovely cinematography by Willy Kurant ensures a good look for the picture, while Stanley Myers supplies a very interesting, jazzy sort of music score. It's a nicely plotted tale, with entertaining twists and turns along the way, with some scenes of explicit violence and some of implied violence. The acting by the principals (you'll notice this isn't a particularly large cast) really is the glue that holds the whole thing together, with Brando getting a chance to emote in one scene but mostly playing it agreeably subtle. Moreno is very convincing (and sexy) in the role of the troubled Vi, and Hahn is quite likable in the role of a guy who you can see hasn't had much success in life and for whom you can root easily enough. Cute Pamela Franklin is extremely sympathetic in the role of the abused kidnap victim. However, Boone dominates the proceedings playing the kind of guy who will get under your skin before too long. Gerard Buhr is engaging as the friendly gendarme and Al Lettieri can be seen in the small role of the pilot. The atmosphere of the beach setting also plays no small part in the overall mood of the film. The ending may come off as unsatisfying to some viewers, but one thing to remember is that this kind of ending wasn't so much of a cliché 40 plus years ago when this was made. It does create a very sinister feeling, especially with that smile on Brando's face. (The actor, however, strongly disagreed on how things should end and it took some doing in order to come up with a final frame Cornfield could live with.) Not a bad bet for thriller fans, it's fairly chilling entertainment. Seven out of 10.
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