Sunday, April 18, 2010
Walter Matthau plays 'Kendig' a CIA field agent demoted after allowing a Russian to go free. His supervisor, portrayed by a foul-mouthed Ned Beatty, decides to humiliate him and orders him to "supervise the file room". Kendig hopes to reap his revenge by publishing his memoirs. Those memoirs expose his supervisor as a buffoon and give away some spy secrets to all the other world powers. Beatty orders Kendig's protegee, a young Sam Waterston (Law and Order), to track down this "rogue" agent and terminate him.
The plot reads like a hundred spy thrillers, but Hopscotch is different. There is almost no violence. It is a battle of smarts not guns. The dialogue is long on wit. There are lots of sly jokes and references to keep you entertained. The plot is winding, but still, somehow, believable. After all, Kendig has trained almost everyone that is chasing him. Can he escape, embarrass his boss and remove himself from the most wanted list all in one go? You will have to watch to find out.
Matthau plays the everyman to perfection. From the transit cop in 'The Taking of Pelham One Two Three' to the irascible Oscar in 'The Odd Couple' to the thief in 'Charlie Varrick' Matthau always seems like a guy that you know from work. He is interesting, charming and bright, but is never above the audience. You almost can't go wrong if you pick up a random film of his. (warning:be sure to avoid 'First Monday in October') The rest of the cast does a fine job. Glenda Jackson as his love interest/accomplice, Ned Beatty and Sam Waterston all do fine jobs.
The script, by Brian Garfield from his own novel, is quick and witty. This is a fun movie that should keep you guessing and entertained.
Filmed in 1980, directed by Ronald Neame, written by Brian Garfield, starring Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson, Ned Beatty and Sam Waterston.