Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Russian Roulette

(Lou Lombardo, 1975)
Robert Altman editor/apprentice Lombardo tries to soft-sell the Alan J. Pakula-style paranoia thriller by locating all the double-crossing intrigue among the evil Russkies, then bringing in the RCMP to set things right. That said, the film scores a lot of witty points off the Western cops' flexible ethics - they steal newspapers, they score free cars, they search apartments without warrants. Maybe the way George Segal's suspended Mountie flouts the rules to get his man is a Dirty Harry move at its generic root, but in this context it reads more like a passing challenge to law-and-order rhetoric than an urgent plea for fascism. The even tone can get a bit dull, and the romantic subplot with Cristina Raines is an ill-defined dud, but Segal and Denholm Elliott come up with fun bits of business, Lombardo goes out of his way to exploit the sights and sounds of mid-seventies Vancouver, and the tension-building devices of the third act build pretty effectively. Of course, none of it would work if you turned your brain on. But why on earth would you do that?

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