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MacKintosh Man, The
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by Jay Seaver

"As a spy movie, it's a fine caper."
4 stars

"The MacKintosh Man" is a spy flick that could probably be a crime or caper story if the characters never mentioned being spies, and it might be better received that way. It still wouldn't be one of the first movies a person thought of when star Paul Newman, director John Huston, or screenwriter Walter Hill is mentioned, but it might be remembered a little more fondly than it is.

It starts with a plan: Rearden (Paul Newman) is to go undercover in prison, befriend convict Slade (Ian Bannen), whom Her Majesty's government is sure is a spy as well as a felon, and be around when "The Scarperers" help him escape so that they can crush the organization. Naturally, things don't entirely go as planned - Rearden has a long wait, only his supervisor MacKintosh (Harry Andrews) and his assistant Mrs. Smith (Dominiqu Sanda) know about his existence, and MP Sir George Wheeler (James Mason) aims to make political hay when the escape actually does happen.

Maybe Paul Newman isn't exactly the right guy to play the title character; he's an undeniably American actor playing a Brit masquerading as an Australian, and it exacerbates an issue many stories about undercover agents can have of making it hard to get a handle on the protagonist. Sure, wandering accent aside, Rearden is not that complicated - a rough-and-tumble type who seems to get a kick out of how this particular assignment lets him indulge in his criminal tendencies. Add in an eye for the ladies and it's a role Newman generally plays fairly well. He's good here, make no mistake; the part is not complicated but right in his wheelhouse.

He's part of a nice cast. Dominique Sanda, a French actress in her first English-language role, works a script that always refers to her character as "Mrs. Smith" but has her show definite interest in Rearden nicely; she comes off as smart and sophisticated even if one is tempted to think of her as part of the scenery. James Mason makes Wheeler enjoyably full of himself, a nice complement to Harry Andrews's somewhat polished but still blunt Scot MacKintosh. Ian Bannen manages to make Slade the sort of crook who can come across as likable enough to make his crimes sort of abstract. Jenny Runacre pops up relatively late for a small role, but is a complete scene-stealer as the spies' keeper after they have escaped prison.

She's only around for a bit because this is the sort of adventure movie that changes things up every once in a while, jumping around Europe in a way that doesn't give Rearden or the audience a whole lot of warning. It's actually a fair amount of fun; the audience gets to see Rearden adjust to a new situation, sending the story off on a tangent but not quite dropping him into a different movie. The locations include rural Ireland and Malta, and it's nice virtual tourism. Hill (working from Desmond Bagley's novel The Freedom Trap) and Huston maybe do a bit too smooth a job trading up with villains; the movie could perhaps use a bit of a sting there. It's also only got one or two noteworthy action scenes.

It's a fun caper, even if the stakes do seem a little lightweight for a story of espionage. Just a little tweaking here and there would make it something a little closer to a classic, but it's still an enjoyable movie with a nice cast.

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originally posted: 10/18/12 11:02:17
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User Comments

1/24/17 Ed Riddick My wife and I enjoyed it. Some surrealism, and philosophy in final scene. 4 stars
10/19/12 Charles Tatum One of the more odd choices for all involved 3 stars
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  25-Jul-1973 (PG)

  N/A (15)


Directed by
  John Huston

Written by
  Walter Hill

  Paul Newman
  Dominique Sanda
  James Mason
  Harry Andrews
  Ian Bannen
  Michael Hordern

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