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When a US intelligence agent (Anthony Quinn) is unable to bring a ruthless drug baron (James Mason) to justice, he resorts to hiring a contract killer. But the man he is put in contact with (Michael Caine) turns out to be an old friend. Written by
Lee Kelly <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Anthony Quinn and Michael Caine try to take down drug dealer, James Mason
"The Marseille Contract" is a mixture of attractions and flaws, just as it mixes a thriller with a certain light-hearted approach.
The skeleton story is novel and it is elaborated in novel ways. The scenery and cinematography are very nice indeed, with care taken to find good locations. The film editing allows time to absorb the scenery. There is nothing deep about the story, no real themes to make one think. This is just escapist entertainment, put across by an A-team of actors.
Although cops after drug dealers is a plot staple in film, this one has an original twist or two. The whole plot is unrealistic, but somehow we forgive that. Quinn is an American DEA agent in southern France whose field agents are being killed by the goons of a suave and sophisticated drug dealer in Marseille, James Mason. The restless Quinn, now tied to a desk, hires a contract killer to assassinate Mason, paying him with a slush money fund. French cop, Maurice Ronet, helps him locate the killer, Michael Caine. He's the main actor for much of the movie. By romancing Mason's daughter, he insinuates himself into Mason's palatial villa. A game of cat and mouse follows as Caine looks for the right moment to dispose of Mason, and Mason tries to assess who his daughter's friend is. Quinn comes back into the action later when it appears that Caine has been killed. So does Ronet. Marcel Bozzuffi provides his usual stalwart support as Mason's right-hand man.
Caine's character is something like Michael Palmer ("The Ipcress File", "Funeral in Berlin", "The Billion Dollar Brain") even though they are very different. They are the same in their smarts, independence, professional skills and eye for the women. But here Caine has money, more of a sense of humor, is meticulous not slovenly, and is loyal to his friend Quinn. He seems less of a loner, and he doesn't work in an organization.
Mason in any movie is a total professional, a top tier actor on either side of the Atlantic. How he manages to attract us no matter what kind of a character he plays is beyond my comprehension. I think it's the voice and delivery of lines, the intelligence combined with the emotions he is able to convey using his eyes and face alone. There is one wordless scene here where he sees and recognizes Quinn that's a good example of this.
Quinn is irrepressible, an emotional actor through and through. He is a phenomenon, a very "big" actor, a man, often playing an ordinary man, a rough and unsophisticated man as in "La Strada" and "Zorba the Greek". In "The Greek Tycoon", he is sensitive, earthy, magnetic and shrewd. In this movie he's serious and frustrated, not laughing. He's having an affair with beautiful Alexandra Stewart, but even there he's frustrated and losing her.
The plot has been juiced up with some action that's not integral but still adds. The direction is by another complete pro, Robert Parrish. He likes to take his time and build up the psychological elements.
Overall, the movie is an enjoyable ride. Mind you, it's not done anything like the kind of movies that came into being starting around 1990 and now predominate.
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