Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Sell-Out (1976)

I've been watching Richard Widmark and Oliver Reed movies lately, so imagine my sheer delight when I discovered a movie with both of them in it! Mwah-hah-hah! I had no idea they'd made a movie together.

The Sell-Out is not good, but it's not bad either. I found it entertaining enough that I'd definitely watch it again, particularly if I can get a better copy. The DVD I watched had absolutely terrible picture quality. It's a fairly formulaic spy film, but it's elevated by Widmark and Reed's performances, and the location shooting in Israel. Widmark stars as Sam, a retired CIA agent, living in Israel with his girlfriend. He's dragged back into the action when his old protege Gabriel (Reed) comes crashing back into his life. Seems Gabriel defected to the Russians awhile back and now wants out. Seems certain members of the CIA and KGB have a secret agreement to help each other eliminate certain agents who are either embarrassing or compromising to each agency and Gabriel is next on the list. He turns to Sam for help. Some failed assassination attempts on Gabriel kill innocent bystanders and bring the Israelis in, and things get complicated fast. Add in Sam's current girlfriend, Deborah (Gayle Hunnicutt), who used to be Gabriel's girlfriend before he defected... and things get even more complicated.

The film's strength is definitely the two leads. As they were the reason I watched this, they did not disappoint. Widmark and Reed work really well together, playing, sparring, and snarling at each, but always with a current of respect underneath. Particularly Reed for Widmark. And when Sam physically threatens Gabriel, you get the feeling he's perfectly capable of carrying out his threat, even though he's twenty years older. Ultimately, Sam and Gabriel slip back into a smooth partnership when they find themselves on the run together. I particularly liked the last half of the film, once the two go on the lam. Sam leads, Gabriel follows, backing him up, deferring to his old boss instantly, and I just loved watching the two actors support each other when they head towards the inevitable confrontation with the man who set them up. There's something very satisfying in movies where the two characters are at odds until circumstances put them on the same side. Like in LA Confidential, when Ed Exley and Bud White finally join forces.

The last third of the film is basically one big car chase as the two men race for the border to Jordan, pursued by both the bad guys and the Israelis. Pretty exciting chase through interesting scenery. Best moment of the entire film is when they find themselves in the middle of a mine field in the desert. After driving along at about half a mile an hour for a few nail-biting moments, Widmark finally growls, "Oh the hell with it," and stomps on the accelerator, flooring it. Made me grin in a good way. It was a great moment. Also sort of summed up the fact that neither he nor Gabriel had anything else to lose at that point.

So, a rather routine, betrayed-spies-on-the-run-in-foreign-country flick, worth watching for Richard Widmark and Oliver Reed, if they're your cup of tea.

(And I must admit, it's also just plain, silly fangirl fun to hear both Widmark and Reed say "Deborah," which is also my name.)

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