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USA 1966
Directed by
Arthur Penn
133 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Chase

Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Robert Duvall, Angie Dickinson and Marlon Brando, amongst others, step up to the plate in this jaundiced and somewhat over-blown of the Deep South as embodied in the tawdry goings-on of the inhabitants of a small but evidently well-to-do,Texas town.

Adapted by Lillian Hellman from a play by Horton Foote who wrote the screenplay of To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) and would go on to write Tender Mercies (1982) it tells the story of Charlie 'Bubber' Reeves (Redford) who, with only a few months left on his prison sentence, breaks out with a violent older inmate. That inmate kills a travelling salesman to get his car, leaving Bubber who after a failed attempt to get to Mexico returns to his hometown to try to clear himself but turns up a hornet’s nest of prejudices and frustrations. On the night of his return there's also a convention going on and the whole town is drunk from partying and in a mob mentality. Sheriff Calder (Brando) tries to bring back Bubber to jail without harm. Although we know how this is going to turn out Penn allows the patchy quasi-apocalyptic Michael Bay avant-la-lettre scene to go on too long

Calling on quite a spread of typical Tennessee Williams characters and themes - alcoholism  racism, adultery, sexual inadequacy, cupidity and so on in a zeitgeist-fuelled, allegorical indictment of the capitalist machine, the film ends with a Lee Harvey Oswald type murder of Bubber in front of the jailhouse. Unusually for the setting, youth culture is given some recognition albeit only in the form of 1950s rock'n'rollin' teenagers.

The casting which seems like a pointed case of tent-poling skews the play somewha, Although the object of the film's title Redford's screen time is largely confined to the film's end but he comprehensively fails to convince in the kind of role which had been Paul Newman's bread-and-butter since the '50s . In turn Jane Fonda plays his unfaithful wife. a role much more suited to Angie Dickinson who is cast as the devoted spouse of Brando who mumbles his way through the film in a tailored cowboy outfit. Why James Fox was cast as the over-dependent son of the town Mr Moneybags is anyone's guess (his Southern accent is quite good).

FYI: Hellman maintained that her script was mangled into what she is credited with here and that would help to explain a bantering scene between Brando and a group of drunken red-necks in which their pistols are metaphorically transformed into penises.

Redford would appear with Newman in the smash hit Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1968.

Robert Duvall who appears here as an emasculated bank manager would win an Oscar for his role as a washed-up C&W singer in Bruce Beresford's adaptation of Foote's Tender Mercies.




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