The Drop Box

February 8, 2008

The Outfit (1973)

 The Outfit poster

Earl Macklin (Robert Duvall) is barely out of prison when his girl, Bett (Karen Black), tells him his brother’s been killed. Worse, she’s partially responsible. Worse yet, he’s next. When his would-be killer comes through the door, Macklin jumps him, ties him up and puts the proverbial screws to him. Turns out he and his brother robbed the wrong bank, and the organization whose money went missing wants payback. So begins Earl’s epic excursion against the Outfit, a crime syndicate that controls half of the country. 

Before the real dirty work begins, Earl hooks up with his old partner-in-crime, Cody (Joe Don Baker); then, with Bett along for the ride (he’s forgiven her), they start to rob the Outfit one money-laundering operation at a time, sending word that, come a $250,000 payoff, they’ll stop. At first, they’re a minor annoyance, something for the hired guns to handle; but when they get within spitting distance of the boss, Mailer (Robert Ryan), it’s war. After agreeing to the payoff, Mailer double-crosses Earl and Cody, setting up an ambush at what was supposed to be the drop point. Big mistake: the payoff would have gotten Mailer off cheap; instead, Earl and Cody escape and redouble their efforts, risking everything in their attempt to tumble the Outfit.

This is a really good gangster movie, with a wonderful only-in-the-Seventies cast. In addition to the stars, it’s got some great character actors, including Elisha Cook and Marie Windsor (both from Kubrick’s The Killing). It’s taken from a novel by Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark), who also provided source material for Point BlankThe Grifters and The Stepfather (as well as Godard’s Made In U.S.A., which I haven’t seen). Its aesthetic minimalism (due to funding issues, apparently) only adds to the feeling of authenticity – ratty motel rooms, dive bars, chop shops… you can almost smell the cigarettes and cheap cologne. The underdog, guerilla quality of Earl and Cody, two relatively small-time hoods engaged in a battle of principle against an extremely well-funded, well-armed organization, makes them immensely appealing, and gives The Outfit a buddy film aspect you might not expect. Unfortunately, The Outfit is only available on VHS, an issue that MGM should really rectify in the near future.

Robert Duvall and Karen Black in The Outfit 



  1. Now how is it that no has posted about this yet??? Great film!!! I found your site because I was searching around for review of it. It is great to know there are other fans of this film out there!! Another good film by the same director is “Rolling Thunder”. I wrote a review of that one on my site but still haven’t got around to writing one for “The Outfit” yet…. Anyway, keep up the great reviews!

    Comment by Nate — November 27, 2008 @ 7:19 pm

  2. Remarkable film! I support! It is sorry that little information is about this film.

    Comment by Meggi — March 22, 2009 @ 7:10 am

  3. […] sin más ni más… y fue una pena. John Flynn daba para más, filmó a principios de los 70 “The Outfit” que fue un fracaso y ahora es título de culto y que suponía una revisión de la novela de […]

    Pingback by Honor de artesanía: John Flynn hacía buenos thrillers. EL ex-preso de Corea/Best Seller, « Esbilla cinematográfica popular — November 17, 2009 @ 7:16 pm

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