Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Anderson Tapes (1971)

Fun, somewhat light-weight heist film directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Sean Connery and an impossibly young Christopher Walken. Connery is a crooked lawyer, fresh out of a decade in jail, who concocts a robbery of an apartment complex to coax some incriminating tapes out of Alan King and his mob. His squeeze is Dyan Cannon, who, as in her best work comes off as both a powerhouse, mega-wattage movie star (which I don't think she ever was) and a real, temperamental, volatile woman. The build-up to the heist comprises the first 45 minutes or so, as Connery finagles with the mob, makes amends with Cannon, and puts his team (including Walken and Martin Balsam) together. This section is, customary to Lumet, ripe with strong character work, lively dialogue, and perfect casting. While Walken is more of a physical presense here than a verbal one (this early performance is reminiscent of Walken the dancer than Bruce Dickinson), Connery, Balsam, Cannon, and Dick Anthony Williams (as another member of the gang) all turn in rich, evocative characterizations that truly had me invested in their fates. The heist itself is a huge setpiece, and takes a little too long to get the boiling point that the audience knows is inevitable, but is still very exciting and lively. That being said, it wraps up the whole plot, and makes all that came before it relate to this perfunctory, spectacular climax, disregarding any chance at something deeper or more socially or morally relevant. But alas, Lumet is a master at getting in and getting out without overstaying his welcome, and I suppose I can be grateful for the film being more breezy and entertaining than self-righteous and pretentious.

Recommended for fans of Lumet, Connery, or heist films, especially those from the 70s or the French New Wave; there are hints of Le Circle Rouge throughout, particularly the intricate, well-planned theft itself.

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