CRIMEWATCH: The Outfit
Fresh off the success of the award winning masterpiece The Godfather (1972), Robert Duvall took a role in this film playing Earl Macklin, a convict who is being released back into society after a stretch in prison. Macklin doesn’t know yet that as he’s breathing in the fresh air of freedom, his brother Eddie has been shot down at his farmhouse by two hitmen.
Macklin is picked up by his girlfriend Bett (Karen Black) and she brings him to a small hotel in the country where they’ll relax and get to know each other again. Their peaceful getaway is ruined when an armed man breaks into their room. Luckily Macklin is waiting and gets the drop on the guy, smashing him with a bottle after which he interrogates him to get information on who is behind the hit. Macklin has the man call up his contact and tell him that the job is done and then lets him go. He finds out that Menner (Timothy Carey) who ordered the hit will be attending a mob run poker game in the city. As Macklin and Bett drive along after leaving the hotel, Bett shows him some burn marks on her arm that Menner put there. This only increases his reasons to stick it to the mobsters.
When Macklin learns of his brother Eddie’s death he attends the funeral. He also visits his brother’s farm, where the murder took place. His grieving widow makes it known how much she resents Macklin, wishing he was the one who was killed. Macklin who is now filled with vengeful intent, heads directly to Menner’s poker game, and holds it up, stealing the poker players’ cash to show hes not fooling around. During the robbery, Menner informs Macklin on the reason why he and his brother were targeted by the outfit. The bank they robbed together years earlier in Wichita was owned by the mob and they wanted payback. Macklin listens then shoots the growling, brutish Menner in the hand as retribution for what he did to Bett and takes off.
Meanwhile, the two hitmen who killed Eddie visit Macklin’s other partner in the Wichita job, Cody (Joe Don Baker) who owns a diner in the country. Cody can tell by the vibes these guys (who are dressed like hunters) are giving off something is wrong and the tension begins to build. When Cody informs the two men the town’s local sheriff is having breakfast right behind them, the intended hit never occurs and they quietly leave. Now Cody knows he’s going to have to watch his back for some reason. When Earl shows up at Cody’s place, he fills him in on what’s happening and his plan to get revenge on the mob: He’s going to systematically rob all of their businesses. Cody, ever the good friend, can see Macklin will need some strong backup so he agrees to help him and the two set off to do their work.
The main boss behind the outfit is Mailer (Robert Ryan) who, on the surface, seems as if he’ll go along with Macklin after the two meet to discuss a truce. Macklin tells Mailer he will stop robbing him if only if he is paid a large sum of cash. Mailer agrees to this and arranges a payoff meeting which soon turns out to be a setup to kill Macklin and Cody. After escaping, the two men decide to forego more robberies and head straight to Mailer’s compound to finish the game of underworld treachery once and for all.
Robert Duvall is someone who is known for usually playing nice guys in movies. In this role he showed he can also be a no nonsense, asskicking hard-boiled type while still retaining that warmth of personality. Joe Don Baker’s Cody is equally good as the friend who is tried and true. Karen Black is perfect as Bett, Earl’s estranged girlfriend who loves him alot but is equally frustrated by his wreckless lifestyle of being a criminal. Their scenes together are some of the best in the entire movie.
The Outfit was based on the book by Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark) who also wrote the story Point Blank (1967) was adapted from. If you watch both The Outfit and Point Blank back to back you’ll clearly see the similarities between the stories as well as Robert Duvall’s Macklin and Lee Marvin’s Walker.
The Outfit is what I like to call a “crackerjack crime film”. These kinds of movies are represented by the minimalism where the fatty parts of the story are cut out. All that’s needed is fast pacing, tough action and to the point dialogue.
Director John Flynn would go on to make one of the 70s most popular cult films Rolling Thunder (1977). Another movie we highly recommend to film fans.
WARNER ARCHIVES DVD
This film is presented in (1:85:1) Widescreen. Picture quality is clear with minimal artifacts. Color and dark contrasts are rich and deep. A very nice transfer! Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. Original Theatrical Trailer included.