DVD review: 'The Split'
Stephen King once said of novelist Donald E. Westlake that on sunny days he wrote comic crime novels under his real name about a hapless crook named Dortmunder, and on dark
No less than six movies (not to mention a new series of graphic novels) have been based on the Parker books, beginning in 1967 with director John Boorman’s brilliantly stylized thriller “Point Blank,” based the first book in the series, “The Hunter,” and starring Lee Marvin as the relentless and remorseless anti-hero (with his name changed to Walker). The same book was adapted for the screen again in 1999 with less artistic success as “Payback,” starring Mel Gibson in the re-named character of Porter.
Director John Flynn’s “The Outfit” (1973), starring Robert Duvall as Parker (changed to Macklin) is an obscure gem worth seeking out, as is French director Jean-Luc Godard’s “Made in U.S.A.” (1966), which is a very loose (and unauthorized) adaptation of “The Jugger.” A little-seen 1983 Canadian film treatment of “Slayground,” starring Peter Coyote as Parker (changed to Stone), is incoherent and unwatchable.
Which brings us to 1968′s “The Split” (now manufactured on demand by Warner Archives at wbshop.com) starring Jim Brown as Parker (renamed McLaine). It’s based on “The Seventh,” about the robbery of a professional football stadium’s box office receipts in the midst of a big game. Somehow, screenwriter Robert Sabaroff and director Gordon Flemyng managed to drain the story of all the noir atmospherics and suspenseful unpredictability that were hallmarks of the Parker books. The sunny L.A. locations look bleached out and storyline is as routine and clichéd as a ’60s made-for-TV movie. But it’s interesting to watch the stellar cast that includes Julie Harris, Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Klugman, Warren Oates, James Whitmore and Donald Sutherland, all at their sinister best in spite of the mediocre script and direction.
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