Thursday, February 25, 2016
The Liquidator is a movie I'd never heard of when I chanced upon it on TCM the other day. It said it starred Rod Taylor but I envisioned not him but Robert Taylor and thought I had a proper film noir on my hands. I didn't. This is a weird send up of the spy movies which were so popular in the 60's following the enormous success of James Bond.
Our "hero" is an American rube named Brian "Boysie" Oakes who literally stumbles into a gig with the British secret service as their top assassin, trained to knock off spies within the fabric of British society. These folks have been deemed too embarrassing to arrest and bring to trial and so a few folks in the top echelon of service think just making them die in arranged accidents might be more efficient. Oakes is tasked with making this happen.
But he's a goofball, who is nowhere nearly so cold-blooded as his bosses imagine and he hires an actual hitman to do the jobs for him while he lives the life of a playboy on the government dime in a swanky London apartment. This scheme tumbles along until Oakes gets the hots for his boss's secretary played by the alluring Jill St.John and the two of them violate protocol to get in a holiday in the south of France, and from there all hell breaks loose.
The movie seems trapped between its two genres of action adventure and comedy, but unlike the Flint movies with James Coburn doesn't seem interested in satire, just a bit of parody. The action sequences are pretty rugged for a comedy and the death count is pretty high and rather personal.
Boysie is supposed to be amiable, but he comes across as just a self-absorbed ass who seems constantly an persistently on the prowl for female companionship. The way the flick switches gears from real danger to absurdity can be abrupt and makes each somewhat less effective. Maybe it's Taylor, who is not a fave of mine, who is the problem, I cannot say really save that despite a few clever moments the whole movie seems at times too rough and at other times too broad.
Apparently his movie is a pretty able adaptation of the first of a novel series by John Gardner, and the blend is part of the original material too. How effective it is I cannot say. The opening credit feature a song by Shirley ("Goldfinger") Bassey and that is really effective for sure.