By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Pretty lady steals cars.
Despite squatting in an abandoned house, having no job, no money and virtually no life Vurrla (Stockard Channing) becomes obsessed with getting herself a brand new Dino Ferrari. She knows how to steal cars, so she decides to steal a Porsche, resell it to unsuspecting buyers and then a few days later steal the same car back and resell it again and continue this process until she has secured enough to pay for the Ferrari. The plan works smoothly, but public defender Le Clerq (Sam Waterston) has been following her and determined that she turn herself in before she gets herself into even deeper trouble.
As I watched this movie I found myself quite perplexed as to how Leonard Maltin in his Movie Guide could’ve given this thing a ‘bomb’ rating. This is certainly not a four-star flick, but it’s far from being bad one either. The plot moves along at a nice breezy pace with an engaging combination of drama, action and humor. The characters are believable and interact with each other in interesting ways. The on-location shooting of Seattle, which was done by renowned cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond who died just this past New Year’s, is quite vivid and focuses on some of the city’s lesser known neighborhoods, which should be fun for those from the area as it is sure to bring back a flood of memories.
Channing is dynamic and especially enjoyable when she puts on different wigs and a variety of accents as she tries to sell the cars to different people and I wished these segments were played up more. Waterston’s character is much more controlled and practical making the two play off each other in revealing ways. Franklyn Ajaye lends great support as Vurrla’s streetwise friend and Richard Daughty is amusing as Vurrla’s dimwitted cohort and I was surprised that he seemingly disappeared off the face of the planet and never did a thing after this. This also marks the acting debut of Daryl Anderson who appears briefly getting out of his car and going inside only to have Vurrla sneak up and steal it a few minutes later.
On the negative side the film could’ve used a little more action. There is one car chase that occurs near the end, which turns inexplicably tragic and hurts the film’s otherwise lighthearted tone. The ending is frustratingly vague and outside of watching a Ferrari burn into a cinder offers no finality to the character’s eventual fate. There is also a segment where Channing and Daughty go shopping at a grocery store and for a brief couple of seconds the scene is shown through the lens of a black-and-white security camera making the viewer believe that the two are being monitored and will soon be arrested since they are shop lifting, but nothing ever happens, so why insert that shot if it serves no purpose?
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: June 16, 1976
Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes
Director: Jerry Schatzberg
Available: DVD (Warner Archive)