Review: The Split

Recently released con Jim Brown devises a brilliant plan to rob the L.A. Coliseum after a sold-out game. Each member of Brown’s crew is hand-picked, with Brown giving each a task to perform in order to test their supposed skill, without prior knowledge of who Brown is or what he wants. So he and hired muscle Ernest Borgnine (well-cast) slug it out, he races limo driver Jack Klugman, traps safe-cracker and escape artist Warren Oates (a terrific scene), and has a duel with snooty marksman Donald Sutherland (clearly having fun). Julie Harris plays the bankroller of the caper, hoping to share in the takings, whilst a young Gene Hackman appears at the home stretch as a corrupt cop named Brill (a character name that turns up again with Hackman in “Enemy of the State” for some reason). Diahann Carroll plays Brown’s disapproving girl, with a startling James Whitmore her creepy, lusting landlord.

Pretty solid 1968 B movie from Gordon Flemyng (“Dr. Who and the Daleks” and a few other undistinguished films), based loosely on a novel by Donald Westlake/Richard Stark (“The Hot Rock”, “Point Blank”) gets mileage out of a helluva cast and an enjoyable array of characterisations. It could’ve been better (Flemyng’s a journeyman filmmaker for starters, and his handling of the heist itself is worthy of a few yawns), but it’s fine for what it is. Sutherland is a scene-stealer, Oates gets one great scene, and Whitmore does wonders in a creepy, but badly written role by screenwriter Robert Sabaroff.

Entertaining, but far from great caper boosted by enjoyable casting of familiar faces. It helps if you like heist movies, as I certainly do (“The Asphalt Jungle” in particular). The film was also notable for being the first film to receive an R certificate from America’s MPAA.

Rating: B-


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