- Movie Rating -

Rough Cut (1980)

| June 20, 1980

Rough Cut is one of those movies that was plagued with so many problems before it opened that it seemed doomed to fail even if it worked.  Rotating directors, fleeing writers, personal clashes, it’s all behind the scenes here, and still I was kind of pulling for it.  It doesn’t work.  The movie is too labored and too slow but it is not from lack of trying.

It features Burt Reynolds trying to do his best to capture the magic of the movies the Cary Grant made with Alfred Hitchcock, and while I can’t say that he and director Don Siegel quite get there, I learned that I am more comfortable with Burt in a tailored tux then behind the wheel of a car.

Based on the book “Touch the Lion’s Paw” by Derek Lambert (un-read by me), Burt plays Jack Roads, a professional jewel thief who runs into beautiful Gilliam Bromley (Leslie-Anne Down) at a party only to discover that she too is a professional thief.  Naturally, he falls in love with her.  But things are more complicated.  She is a kleptomaniac who is being blackmailed by Cyril Willis (David Niven), chief inspector from Scotland Yard who wants to use her to nab his longtime adversary.  He is about to retire and having Jack’s arrest and conviction on his resume would be a great career-ender.

The plot gets nicely complicated in ways that I can’t really reveal, but I can say that it doesn’t entirely work.  I can spot a great deal of Hitch’s influence here, most especially Notorious which had Cary Grant falling in love with Ingrid Bergman and forcing her into the arms of Adolph Menjou in order to trap him.  But this movie isn’t quite that deep, nor as personally involved.  For starters, the relationship between Burt and Leslie-Anne Down feels more like a Hollywood coupling than an actual romance.  They’re good, but you aren’t ever sure how they feel about each other.

The other problem is that director Don Siegel, known for his work with Clint Eastwood, is not the director for this kind of plot.  He’s an action director and this material needs a much steadier hand.  It is obvious that he has no real sense of building tension or maintaining suspense.  There are moments when we in the audience are allowed to relax and that’s deadly to a movie like this.

And yet, and yet, I was still pulling for it.  I wanted it to work.  I wanted these actors and this production team to overcome their varied problems and turn out a movie that would have made Hitchcock proud.  They haven’t.  I’m sure Sir Alfred might have found it pleasant but he might have been imagining how he might have done it better – and then remember that he did.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized