In order to track down bail jumpers, Ralph 'Papa' Thorson goes on a series of routine and not-so-routine searches. Sometimes he takes down his quarry easily. At other times, he's forced to extreme measures which result in the injury or death of a lawbreaker. And then again, there are other moments when his own life is on the line. It's all enough to make Thorson question what he has done with his life.Written by
The US release features a score by French composer Michel Legrand, one sequence is scored by 'Charles Bernstein'. The European dubbed versions (in French, Spanish, Italian, and German) feature only the music of 'Charles Bernstein'. Omitted in these versions are also the passages of source music from McQueen's/Papa's radio (Opera). The region 1 DVD made by Paramount for the US market features only the American version. The region 2 DVD also made by Paramount, this time for the European market, features both scores: Legrand's score on the English language track, Bernstein's score on the tracks in Spanish, French, Italian, and German. See more »
Watchable as a time passer mainly because of McQueen
Steve McQueen's last film features him as an aging modern day bounty hunter who drives a crumbling jalopy barely strung together. He is only just managing to make a living. The story is based on a real life bounty hunter, Ralph Thorson, who worked as technical adviser on the production, I believe.
This film has pretty much always been critically dismissed and, to be sure, it barely has a story line, just a series of incidents, some of them humorous, involved in Thorson's arrest of bail jumpers. There is a major chase sequence towards the end that is excitingly staged, involving a subway car passenger being taken captive, among other things. There's even a little bit of humour to be found here, as well, this prolonged chase sequence the highlight of the film.
I have to say that I found the film to be quite watchable as a time waster, despite its mediocre reputation. I liked the (presumably) on location shooting of some of the seedy areas in which the character had to work.
McQueen has a seasoned presence and is quite effective in his role, though he doesn't have much of a characterization to work with. There are also a few twists to be found here. One inside joke for McQueen fans is that in this film his character is a bad driver who can't seem to parallel park without mounting the curb several times and doing damage to the cars around him.
The supporting cast includes Eli Wallach, Kathryn Harrold as McQueen's pregnant girlfriend, and Ben Johnson as a good old boy town sheriff who pulls a gun on McQueen to emphasize the fact he wants him out of his town. McQueen gives him no argument. Frustrating that the film uses so little of Johnson. He has two reasonably effective small scenes and then he's gone for good. What the film has plenty of, though, is Tracey Walter as a vengeful psycho sworn to kill McQueen. Walter's character likes to indulge in cat-and-mouse games. There's nothing subtle in this actor's over-the-top performance.
I saw no sign of the cancer that would lead to McQueen's death in his appearance here. The actor found out about the asbestos-related mesothelioma shortly after filming on The Hunter was completed. (He died of a heart attack following a brutal operation to have tumors removed in Mexico).
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