James Wolcott-Dennis Cozzalio on The Outfit
James Wolcott covers the recent DVD release of The Outfit and quotes Dennis Cozzalo along the way.
The Sky Above, the Crud Below
by James Wolcott February 28, 2011, 5:22 PM
Dennis Cozzalio stops and smells the gasoline fumes rolling off the DVD release of The Outfit, based on one of Donald Westlake's Parker novels (written under the pseudonym Richard Stark).
"John Flynn’s The Outfit, a brutally efficient bit of business based glancingly on Richard Stark’s procedurally inquisitive and poetic crime novel, is a movie that feels like it’s never heard of a rounded corner; it’s blunt like a 1970 Dodge Monaco pinning a couple of killers against a Dumpster and a brick wall.
"And not just any Dodge, but one driven by Karen Black in a Faye Dunaway Bonnie & Clyde beret!
"Substituting headlong, arrogant force for the mapped-out strategies detailed in the book, Flynn pile-drives forward just like his protagonist, setting up one cast-iron set piece after another in clean, broad strokes, as cinematically equivalent to Stark’s lean, unfussy prose as one could imagine being without galloping forward into insufferable self-consciousness.
“… easy to wonder if those probable budgetary restrictions had anything to do with Flynn’s scrapping of the idea to film The Outfit as a full-on noir period piece set in the postwar ‘40s…I think what we’ve got works just fine, probably better than any attempt to predate even the novel and recreate a shadowy atmosphere which would likely only call attention to its artificiality. As is, The Outfit, set in 1973, is only 10 years removed from the cars, the styles, the guns, the diners and the entire milieu of Stark’s novel, which was published in 1963. Not much in the way of adaptation in terms of production design was really needed to stay true to the cynicism-soaked atmosphere originating from Stark’s typewriter."
“…there's an authentic cruddiness to the interiors and exteriors (diners, motels, gas stations, back offices, poker rooms), all of the lower-echelon men sitting behind desks or loitering at the fringes are meaty and look as if they down a lot of antacids, the cars look like they've been driven hard, not wheeled off some studio backlot…”
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