Monday, October 8, 2012

Movie Monday: Scorpio

This week's Movie Monday selection is the 1973 spy thriller Scorpio!

Scorpio stars
the legendary Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon as spies during the Cold War:
Lancaster plays Cross, and Delon is the titular Scorpio. They were once mentor and student, but Scorpio has since gone on to a "great" career as hired killer (we get to see him pull off an assassination at an airport, and as usual Delon shows no emotion while doing the grisly work).

Scorpio has now been hired by the CIA to take out his mentor, because they believe Cross has become a traitor and is now working for the Soviet Union.
Cross learns he's been targeted by his own country, and he escapes to Europe. This sets up the bulk of the film, which is the classic cat-and-mouse set-up with Scorpio chasing after Cross, and Cross escaping, etc.

In between, Cross visits an old friend, a Russian spy played by Paul Scofield with the awesome name of Zharkov:
Cross and Zharkov have a couple of big talky scenes together, where they debate all sorts of issues. While they are technically enemies, it's clear they deeply respect one another and have a similar code of ethics. They are similarly put off by the new generation of spies, who seem more like ruthless killers who will do anything for a buck, rather than patriots willing to work for their country's benefit.

Lancaster was a pretty physical guy, in real life and the movies, and he frequently did his own stunts. There's a well-paced, lengthy shoot-out at a construction site, where it's clear that Lancaster is really doing a lot of the running and jumping himself. He gets the drop on the guy chasing him (not Scorpio), and deals with him the most effective way possible:
Finally Scorpio catches up to Cross, and the two of them have a stand-off in a parking garage:
I won't say what happens, of course, but this is a 1970s movie, a political thriller produced during Vietnam and the build-up of Watergate, so you can imagine this film's attitude is more than a little cynical: the final scene pulls a metaphorical shroud over all the proceedings. The End.

I enjoyed Scorpio fairly well; at almost two hours its a bit too long and at times fairly confusing. We never learn if Cross indeed has gone rogue, I guess maybe that's the point--that it doesn't even matter anymore. Lancaster is as good as always, though he was looking a bit long in the tooth for some of the scenes where he's in disguise (which at one point is so comically bad that it reminded me of a scene from Fletch) or lustfully bedding down his main squeeze.

Scorpio was directed by Michael Winner, who did the mega-hit Death Wish a year later. The man loved his gun play, and he, er, executes those scenes well (the airport assassination is particularly well done, as it goes from real time to a news report covering the event. And the back-and-forth between Lancaster and Scofeld is fun to watch; as two old pros debate Big Ideas.

So all in all, Scorpio is pretty good, with some great moments, but certainly no undiscovered classic. I guess it's a only matter of time that they remake it with Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington.

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