Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    Dynamically superb British crime thriller from the early seventies that bleeds a thrilling and marvellously evocative atmosphere with a high degree of ruthless style and punch.

    The all-out action and brutality literally pulsates from the screen in a number of suspense-filled set pieces - from the nail-biting prison break to the almost surreal shoot out with motorcycle cops amidst urban washing lines and flapping white bedsheets to the climactic chase and explosive finale.

    Oliver Reed gives a masterclass performance of seething rage and psychotic obsession as Harry Lomart. Harry is a hardened career criminal on a long prison stretch. When his wife Pat pays him a visit and confesses that she is pregnant by another man and leaving him, Harry's measured, reasoned and quietly philosophical response is to smash through the security glass and try to strangle her to death.

    Breaking out of prison with his partner and friend Birdy (Ian McShane) he has two aims in life - to retrieve the plunder he stashed from his last job and to kill his unfaithful wife.

    It becomes almost a bleak and twisted urban road trip - using waterways and trains and transit vans - for the two cons who leave a trail death and destruction in their wake in and around London.

    SITTING TARGET represents one of a random new wave of British thriller in the early to late seventies that includes GET CARTER, VILLAIN, CALLAN and latterly THE LONG GOOD Friday. Taking cues from American counterparts, it transplants mob/gangland action to the less than glamorous setting of a United Kingdom that is polluted by mass industrialisation, dominated by slums and monolithic concrete high rises and scabbed by wide open spaces of rubble-strewn wastelands. SITTING TARGET absolutely rocks.

    Reed is stunning, giving a no-holds barred and utterly naked portrayal that reminds what a powerhouse talent he was back then. McShane, Jill St. John and Edward Woodward lend solid support. The screenplay is practically Shakespearean in essence complete with drama, violence, action, betrayal and dark inevitable tragedy. You just know it isn't going to end well - and it doesn't. For anyone. And that's great.

    This is another of those films that simply screams out for an uncut DVD/BluRay release/remaster. To date this has inexplicably failed to materialise. It pops up now and again on TCM, the only venue I'm aware of for anyone seeking a viewing. As a key British crime thriller and a resonant document of a time and place, it deserves much better. It's a crime...really.