USA / Twentieth Century Fox / 105 minutes / 1972
Writer: William Goldman, from the novel by Donald E Westlake / Cinematography: Ed Brown / Music: Quincy Jones / Producers: Hal Landers, Bobby Roberts / Director: Peter Yates
Cast: Robert Redford, George Segal, Ron Liebeman, Zero Mostel, Paul Sand, Moses Gunn, William Redfield, Topo Swope, Charlotte Rae
“This American comedy,” said the Daily Mail “evokes the great golden days of Ealing”. It was inventively scripted from Donald E Westlake’s novel by William Goldman, who had won an Academy Award for the script of his previous film with Robert Redford, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid .
This time Redford was cast as a contemporary outlaw, just out of jail after four years and engaged, with his brother-in-law George Segal, on a new and audacious scheme to purloin a priceless diamond from the Brooklyn Museum. Helped by expert getaway Ron Liebman and explosives wizard Paul Sand, the daring duo steal the gem with a little assistance from bombs, a faked car crash and a little dressing up as uniformed guards and doctors. But almost as soon as they get their hands on the loot and prepare to transfer it to an African diplomat (Moses Gunn), Redford and Segal lose it and are forced to spend the rest of the movie trying to retrieve it from the various hands into which it falls.
The mixture of farce, slapstick and fast-moving thrills comes off entertainingly under the direction of Peter Yates, who makes excellent use of well chosen New York locations and stages a memorable wild helicopter ride through the city’s concrete canyons as a thrilling prelude to the film’s climax.
“Redford,” wrote Variety , “continues to reveal a compelling screen presence… Segal’s latter day segue into comedy-drama is again proved to be a correct career move.”