Following the suicide of an elderly Jewish man, a journalist in possession of the man's diary investigates the alleged sighting of a former SS captain, who allegedly commanded a concentration camp during WWII.
The patriarch of a family-owned corporation hires a young race car driver to help him design a fuel efficient car in secrecy. They face resistance from the president of the company (the patriarch's grandson), who wishes to eliminate the motor car division because of bad blood between himself and his grandfather. During flashbacks, a parallel set of problems is revealed in the family's past, problems that persist into the present, and the race car driver gets deeper into the web of deception and corporate intrigue. Written by
Ed Sutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Here's to fast cars - and the men who drive them."
I once read an interview in which Harold Robbins, the dirty old man of (so called) literature, revealed that his books were written to a strict formula of one sex scene every six pages and one business scene every twelve (or something like that). Well, this adaptation of one of his later (and lesser) novels seems to stick fairly rigidly to that formula, with hot-shot racing driver Tommy Lee Jones and crusty old car manufacturer Laurence Olivier taking turns to work their way through the female members of the cast which is probably why Robert Duvall looks so out of sorts throughout the film as Larry's bitter grandson. Yes, this is that infamous film which has Sir Larry clearly only in it for the money with his trousers around his ankles as he tests out the suspension on a random hotel maid's chassis.
To be fair to the old thesp, he's by far the best thing about this trashy, but curiously compelling and enjoyable, soap. He seems to have watched every Frank Morgan film he could lay his hands on before revealing his convincing American accent to the camera, and it's a strange experience to see such a respected actor slumming it this way. A young Tommy Lee Jones was still trying to establish himself in movies when he landed this part, so you can't really blame him for accepting the lead role. Other names in the cast (Katharine Ross, Lesley Anne-Down, etc) were always second-rankers who were probably grateful for the exposure, but Robert Duvall is the real casting oddity in a role that is bland and one-dimensional.
The story pits him against Olivier and Jones as they attempt to design an economic production-line car that will transform the industry. Bob's more interested in selling dish washers and men's clothing to Filipinos, so he launches an undercover espionage plot that has a fairly predictable conclusion. There are few dramatic moments, and you could probably wander off for ten minutes to make a cup of tea and smoke a fag without losing the thread of the plot. Anyway, the story is secondary to the depiction of life amongst the ridiculously rich, and the ready availability of incredibly gorgeous women who disrobe for the flimsiest of reasons. It panders to that desire that lives within all of us to some degree to have the finest things in life, but also makes it clear (probably without meaning to) that such lives are essentially empty and meaningless, thus leaving us feeling just a little bit better about our modest lot in life.
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