You can't get away with that
Steven Hellerstedt | 12/02/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Hackneyed, lame-brained, boring. Where do you begin with Walter Matthau's GANGSTER STORY?
Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. Might as well end there, too. The story is implausible and confusing. Matthau plays a gangster who blows into an anonymous big town, looks like it might be Los Angeles, pulls a bank heist, has the mob and the cops on his trail, meets a librarian, falls for her...
Ah, what's the use? There's a plot, of sorts, but it's buried under drab photography, choppy editing, flat-line direction (Matthau's first and last time in the director's chair), funny scenes that aren't, dramatic scenes that are.
Matthau may not have been a comedic genius, but he carved a comfortable little niche for himself, starting with his role as the shyster lawyer in Billy Wilder's THE FORTUNE COOKIE. In the next couple of years he starred in two more very good comedies, A GUIDE FOR THE MARRIED MAN and THE ODD COUPLE, and his star was set. Unfortunately, GANGSTER STORY was made years before Matthau found his comedic footing. Matthau plays it dramatic and romantic, and never has a director so underused an actor.
The librarian, by the way, is played by Carol Grace, who had married Matthau in 1959 - GANGSTER STORY was released in 1960. It was the first of two movies she would appear in, the other being Elaine May's 1976 MIKEY AND NICKY. They remained married up till his death in 2000.
blockhed | UK | 10/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a story! This is better than The Outlaw, and resembles it in pacing, acting, and plausibility. Eat your heart out, Mr Hughes. The dialogue is brilliant, all of a sudden; and the motivation totally credible. "What do you do? I'm a bank robber. Oh yes. What else? This and that. I own a citrus grove; I'll give you a job. Gee, thanks." This film features the politest gangsters I've ever been privileged to watch. "Take a seat, Earl. Thank you. Care for a cigar? No thank you. You've just saved my life, Jack. Thank you very much." The heists touch imaginative heights unequalled. Eat your heart out, Rififi. The only thing is that Adolf and Jack are a little untidy. After you take your golf bags out of the car boot, fixed them to their trolleys, packed them full of shooting irons, you really should close the boot, or trunk, before trundling off to the green. And missing the putt at half an inch --- 5 times! --- that takes superior golfing skill. I wonder if the Coens ever saw this masterpiece? I also wonder how it could have been made in 1960. Wonders will never cease."