You've got to give "Rough Cut" credit for paying
homage to its sources. It begins with Burt Reynolds doing his imitation of Cary
Grant, and, indeed, this is just the sort of suave thriller Cary Grant might
have made, complete with its several references to films by Alfred Hitchcock.
Reynolds is playing in the right league - he can mix subtle eroticism and sly
wit in ways that do sometimes remind us of Grant - but the movie itself doesn't
quite make it.
fun, it's slick and it's carefully put together, but it's more of an exercise
than an accomplishment. Everyone does their schtick, the plot complications
unfold like clockwork, but we find ourselves not really caring. That was the
thing about Hitchcock: He often reached technical perfection, but rarely at the
cost of involving us on a gut level.
director this time is another Hollywood master, Don Siegel, whose biggest
successes recently have starred Clint Eastwood. Siegel's very good at action
pictures, but when he lets up on the reins a little, as he does here in an
attempt at a sophisticated tone, the movie has a tendency to go flat. There are
moments when "Rough Cut" is just marking time, and a thriller should
never give us that feeling.
movie's about a master thief (Burt Reynolds) who meets a beautiful girl at a
party, discovers that she's a thief, and falls in love with her. The girl
(Lesley-Anne Down) turns out to be more complicated than she seems. She's a
kleptomaniac who's being blackmailed by Scotland Yard's chief inspector (David
Niven). He's after bigger game he wants to arrest Reynolds as a suitable climax
to his career - and he wants to use the girl as bait.
here we have a nice, tricky situation that only grows more complicated when
Reynolds begins to suspect what's up, and then, of course, there are all sorts
of other developments I wouldn't dream of revealing. This is the kind of
double-reverse situation Hitchcock used to like: As the man and woman fall in
love, their romantic feelings get entangled with the crimes they're involved
in, and the climax involves both ethical and romantic decisions.
of the problems here, though, is that we don't care enough about the chemistry
between Burt Reynolds and Lesley-Anne Down. They're assigned to a fencing match
of dialogue that's just a little too clever to contain real emotions. We can't
tell at times if they'd rather seem honest or clever.
David Niven turns in one of his patented performances as the world-weary, brave
and cynical establishment figure, although we find at the end we didn't
understand him as well as we thought.
the sound track works overtime at establishing the mood: Nelson Riddle has
orchestrated the action with arrangements of Duke Ellington classics, which
sometimes sound very suave indeed but are sometimes crashingly obvious, as when
a parade of police cars is accompanied by "Caravan."
are other references to classical sources. "Rough Cut" has at least
three specific references to Hitchcock (the second story job, from "To
Catch a Thief," a police car chasing a speeding heroine, from
"Notorious," and windmills as a cover for an airfield, from
"Foreign Correspondent"). Combine those with the Cary Grant imitation
and you have a movie that's being very clear about the category it wants to
compete in. But it doesn't make it out of the semifinals.