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Friday, July 5, 2013

THE NICKEL RIDE (1974)

After his debut as the tormented priest in THE EXORCIST/’73, Jason Miller must have looked like star material in the making; an idea quickly scotched by this downbeat follow-up. In an early, pretentious script from Eric Roth, Miller plays a sort of middle-management facilitator for the mob, adjudicating rival claims and securing warehouse facilities for those truckloads of stolen merch. But old ties are loosening, his mojo is running low, and a last-shot deal for a turn-around is falling apart. It’s that purest of post-Vietnam/Watergate parables: DEATH OF A SALESMAN in Mob-Land. Jack Lemmon just got Oscar’d doing it in Steve Shagan’s dreary SAVE THE TIGER/’73. This one’s somewhat better since director Robert Mulligan gets a lot out of his grimy L.A. locations, choreographs a couple of good suspense sequences and coaxes quirky supporting perfs from Bo Hopkins & John Hillerman. But we never see (or even suspect) what once drew people to Jason Miller’s Willy Loman-esque character. He’s not tragic, just a pain.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Much like his handsome son, Jason Patric (whose Grandfather was Jackie Gleason!), Jason Miller seems to reflect less light than gets thrown his way. Father & son are like two Black Holes, not just lacking energy, but sucking it out of anyone they’re on screen with.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Peter Yates’ FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE/’73 gets this sort of thing right, with a host of magnificent perfs headed by the much lamented Richard Jordan and starring Robert Mitchum in a great, late perf. Lemmon got Oscar’d that year, Mitchum not even nominated.

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