Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The Squeeze (Michael Apted, 1977)


Despite its beefy action credentials, Michael Apted’s The Squeeze frequently reminds you of the director’s roots as a documentarian (it belongs to the same year as his 21 Up), capturing lots of unpretentious social observation around the edges (I particularly enjoyed the café seen near the end, the menu offering up such items as a 45-pence steak salad). Much credit belongs to Stacy Keach’s playing of the lead in such an intriguingly low-key, preoccupied manner, his character Jim Nabboth often seeming on the verge of drifting away altogether (more social observation - at one such point, it takes a masseuse's “special relief” to snap him back into shape, the charge for that being six pounds). Nabboth is a former cop now in bad financial and personal shape (he claims to be thinking of “chimney restoration” as an appealing next career step), his wife Jill (Carol White) remarried to rich businessman Foreman (Edward Fox); Jill and the daughter she has with Foreman are kidnapped in the park (along with their dog, who doesn’t last long thereafter), the price of their release being for Foreman to cooperate in a million-pound robbery from his own company. The once in a lifetime cast includes David Hemmings (trailing no Blow-Up resonances whatsoever), Stephen Boyd having fun going full-on Irish in one of his last roles, and TV comedian Freddie Starr, a decade or so before tabloid allegations of eating a hamster. The movie makes for grubby-feeling viewing, devising a way to strip Nabboth naked and drop him in the street, and to force Jill into performing a strip tease for her kidnappers (a scene in which it seems painfully hard to separate the actress’ mixed feelings from those of the character); Nabboth’s ultimate foiling of the plan involves as cold-hearted a move as anything the villains have pulled. Still, Apted is pretty effective at observing all the nastiness without seeming merely manipulative about it.

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