Less a movie than a ‘deal memo’ that slipped into production, this limp Charles Bronson pic tries for a ‘MALTESE FALCON’ vibe with John Houseman making like ‘fat-man’ Sydney Greenstreet, Jacqueline Bisset in the Mary Astor spot as a lying femme fatale and even Elisha Cook, Jr. (from the original) in a small role. Maximilian Schell has what should be the Peter Lorre role, but you’d hardly know it. What a shame they didn’t also borrow the storyline. Instead, we get Bronson as a tough crime writer with gambling debts who’s hired by Houseman & Co. as go-between to help recover some stolen papers. Something or other to do with an international crime syndicate. Don’t ask. It’s dreary stuff, with megger J. Lee Thompson, scorer Lalo Schifrin & and even lenser Lucien Ballard all phoning it in. A quick shot of a young, slack-jawed Jeff Goldblum is fun to spot, but Bronson soon takes him out of action and the film goes right back to sleep.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Bronson was at his best the previous year, co-starring with James Coburn in Walter Hill’s fine debut pic, HARD TIMES/’75, finally out in its original WideScreen format.