"The Marseille Contract" is a mixture of attractions and flaws, just as
it mixes a thriller with a certain light-hearted approach.
The skeleton story is novel and it is elaborated in novel ways. The
scenery and cinematography are very nice indeed, with care taken to
find good locations. The film editing allows time to absorb the
scenery. There is nothing deep about the story, no real themes to make
one think. This is just escapist entertainment, put across by an A-team
Although cops after drug dealers is a plot staple in film, this one has
an original twist or two. The whole plot is unrealistic, but somehow we
forgive that. Quinn is an American DEA agent in southern France whose
field agents are being killed by the goons of a suave and sophisticated
drug dealer in Marseille, James Mason. The restless Quinn, now tied to
a desk, hires a contract killer to assassinate Mason, paying him with a
slush money fund. French cop, Maurice Ronet, helps him locate the
killer, Michael Caine. He's the main actor for much of the movie. By
romancing Mason's daughter, he insinuates himself into Mason's palatial
villa. A game of cat and mouse follows as Caine looks for the right
moment to dispose of Mason, and Mason tries to assess who his
daughter's friend is. Quinn comes back into the action later when it
appears that Caine has been killed. So does Ronet. Marcel Bozzuffi
provides his usual stalwart support as Mason's right-hand man.
Caine's character is something like Michael Palmer ("The Ipcress File",
"Funeral in Berlin", "The Billion Dollar Brain") even though they are
very different. They are the same in their smarts, independence,
professional skills and eye for the women. But here Caine has money,
more of a sense of humor, is meticulous not slovenly, and is loyal to
his friend Quinn. He seems less of a loner, and he doesn't work in an
Mason in any movie is a total professional, a top tier actor on either
side of the Atlantic. How he manages to attract us no matter what kind
of a character he plays is beyond my comprehension. I think it's the
voice and delivery of lines, the intelligence combined with the
emotions he is able to convey using his eyes and face alone. There is
one wordless scene here where he sees and recognizes Quinn that's a
good example of this.
Quinn is irrepressible, an emotional actor through and through. He is a
phenomenon, a very "big" actor, a man, often playing an ordinary man, a
rough and unsophisticated man as in "La Strada" and "Zorba the Greek".
In "The Greek Tycoon", he is sensitive, earthy, magnetic and shrewd. In
this movie he's serious and frustrated, not laughing. He's having an
affair with beautiful Alexandra Stewart, but even there he's frustrated
and losing her.
The plot has been juiced up with some action that's not integral but
still adds. The direction is by another complete pro, Robert Parrish.
He likes to take his time and build up the psychological elements.
Overall, the movie is an enjoyable ride. Mind you, it's not done
anything like the kind of movies that came into being starting around
1990 and now predominate.