The Jokers (1967)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rob to avoid work.

Brothers Michael (Michael Crawford) and David (Oliver Reed) decide that working life is not for them and come up with an elaborate robbery that will afford them enough money to drop out of society for good. Their plan is a clever one as they stage random bomb threats across parts of London, which creates a panic in the city. Then they threaten to blow up the tower of London, disguise themselves as military experts who can go in to diffuse the bomb and then run off with the crown jewels in the process, which they conveniently hide underneath the floor boards of their home.

The film has a great irreverent flair that was common amongst the new wave British films of the late 60’s. The quick edits, fragmented narrative, and quirky humor is similar to Richard Lester’s The Knack…and How to Get It, which also starred Crawford. The comedy, especially its potshots at the establishment, is right on target and engaging. I was surprised that it was directed by Michael Winner as so many of his later films, especially the ones he did with Charles Bronson, seemed so formulaic that I could never imagine he could show so much spunk and flair.

The crime is imaginative and plays out nicely. There is also a neat and completely unexpected twist near the middle that keeps things intriguing to almost the very end.

Crawford shows charm and his boyish looks help strengthen is character. He somehow manages to upstage Reed, which I never thought would be possible and his charisma carries the film. He does though look too scrawny and almost anorexic in parts and having him gain some weight and ‘putting some meat on his bones’ before filming began would have been advisable.

British character actor Harry Andrews is amusing as the exasperated Inspector Maryatt. However, I found James Donald as the completely clueless Colonel Gurney-Simms to be the funniest.

If the film fails anywhere it is in the fact that it loses its satirical edge and focus. It starts out making fun of the upper-crust English society, but then becomes too preoccupied with the crime itself. David and Michael’s interactions with their stuffy, conservative parents (Peter Graves, Rachel Kempson) are cute and I would have liked to see more of it as well as more jabs at ‘respectable’ society. The film’s conclusion is extremely weak. For such a clever movie I was hoping for something a little better. It is almost like they ran out of ideas and threw in some bland denouncement simply as a way to end it because they didn’t know how else to do it. Nothing is more of a letdown then seeing a writer write themselves into a hole that they can’t get out, which is what you get here and it almost ruins the entire film in the process. However, the majority of it is so slick I was willing to forgive it and almost wished there could be more movies like these coming out today.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: May 15, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Michael Winner

Studio: Universal

Available: None

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