30 January 2010 | mgtbltp
Garner's most Marverick-y role
OK finally got to watch this previously unavailable James Garner Western. It was directed by Paul Bogart who was basically a TV director and it really shows since the film doesn't quite use all of the advantages available to a cinematic endeavor. The only other film that I've seen that I know of directed by Bogart is another Garner vehicle based on Raymond Chandler's private eye character called "Marlowe" which I've seen and liked, but not in quite a while.
This film is probably the closest Garner ever gets in a film, that I've seen, to him reprising his Maverick persona when he his still young enough to pull it off, (he does so somewhat also, in the two Support Your Local... films with his cool wisecracking deliveries) but here he is actually playing a character Quincy Drew, who is a con man in the best Maverick Brothers tradition. The story circa (1857) deals with two con men Drew and Jason O'Rourke (Lou Gossett) a native of New Jersey, who we later discover met in a jail in Pennsylvania when O'Rourke was thrown into a cell next to Drew who was doing time for telling fortunes, its hilarious seeing Garner in a turban and fortune telling garb. They hit it off, and devise various different cons that they try out as a team until they hit on what they call the "Skin Game". This con consists of Garner riding into various Western border state towns Kansas, Missouri, etc., feigning poverty and as a result has to sell his best slave at an impromptu auction in the saloon, hotel, etc., etc. Susan Clark, plays a shady lady/pickpocket/con woman who targets the guys taking their money who eventually becomes Garners love interest. Ed Asner here, is in his villain period and he does a pretty good job as a slave catcher operating in the border area who eventually catches on to the con game. Gossett does a great job along with Garner & Clark.
The film is entertaining and plays it safe and cutesy, but it could have been a whole lot better with a more creative and daring director, its reminiscent of Eastwood's self produced Malpaso Production films in that respect, Cherokee Productions is Garner's company.
The what if's: If it would have shown Gossett & Garner's other various cons and how they stumbled upon the "Skin Game" con and had a better ending than the contrived one it does have it would been better.
I'll give it a 7-8/10 mostly for its Maverick nostalgia value. Its a shame its not on TV in rotation with other Westerns on the various movie channels but I think the frequent use of the "n" word probably is the cause of its not being so. Its almost as if the mainstream media has decided that that period of American History has been dealt with enough and can be swept into the closet.