Bank Shot (1974)

Bank Shot is a 1974 film directed by Gower Champion and written by Wendell Mayes. It was loosely based upon Donald E. Westlake‘s novel of the same name, which was the second book of his Dortmunder series. The film stars George C. Scott, Joanna Cassidy, Sorrell Booke, and G. Wood.

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Vincent Canby of The New York Times was mildly amused: “It’s not a great movie. It’s not worth taking a taxi to see. Yet there are many less invigorating ways to waste one’s time. … The intensity of Scott’s performance is highly comic. His Walter Ballantine has the discipline, self-assurance and narrow vision of the true fanatic. So, too, do most of the other characters in the film… Gower Champion, who has had more success as a Broadway director (Hello, Dolly) than as a maker of films (My Six Loves), seems to have had a great deal of fun with first-rate actors doing Bank Shot — grace of a work by someone who knows exactly what he’s doing.

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Funny, Funny, Funny

7/10
Author: richard winters (rwint) from Chicago, Illinois
5 April 2004

8 out of 10

Completely wacky story involving seven nutty people who decide to rob a bank that is inside a mobile home. They do so by stealing the entire building only to find that trying to open the safe is even tougher.

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This is the type of comedy that works because although it is built around one gimmick it doesn’t just stay dependent on it. Everything is offbeat here. It really is just one laugh after another and it comes at a extremely fast pace. Nearly every scene is diverting and some of it even memorable. It shows a good handle on the absurd with just the right balance of the irreverent particularly with the police and other authority figures. Scott’s escape from his prison camp is good example of all these ingredients. He uses a stolen bulldozer to crash through the gate while the police chief tries to ‘chase him down’ while driving nothing more than a flimsy little golf cart. It all makes for one of the most unique chase sequences you will ever see.

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Of course the actual heist of the bank building is still the best. The innumerable and frustrating attempts at trying to open a most difficult safe comes in at a close second. There are also a lot of other fun ironic twists.

Scott is not necessarily the best person for the part of the cunning and audacious criminal mastermind. He looks very old, grouchy, and tired here. He has your grandfathers big bushy eyebrows and talks with a very strange lisp. Yet he is also at his crumudgeon best and the film makes the most of it. Cassidy with her infectious laugh and very sunny disposition makes for a terrific counterpart. James though probably stands out the most in a over the top caricature of the hard nosed police sergeant. It’s the best role of his career and a part he looks to have been born to play.

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If the film has any faults it is the fact that it tends to be too one dimensionally silly and at points seems almost cartoonish. A little more tension here and there wouldn’t have hurt. It also goes by way too fast and the ending isn’t very satisfying. Still this is a solid comedy that should appeal to anyone with a good sense of humor. It is also fun for the whole family.

Zany heist caper, with agreeably oddball characters and rib-tickling situations.

7/10
Author: Jonathon Dabell (barnaby.rudge@hotmail.co.uk) from Todmorden, England
3 August 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The caper movie was all the rage in the 1970s, especially after the 1972 film The Hot Rock had shown critics and audiences just how good a well-thought-out caper film could be. The Hot Rock was based on a novel by Donald E. Westlake, and it is another Westlake novel that provides the inspiration this time around, as Gower Champion takes to the directorial chair for Bank Shot.

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Criminal genius Walter Ballantine (George C. Scott) is approached while doing time in a desert penitentiary and asked to participate in a bank heist. First he needs to bust out of jail, which he does with a little help from a bulldozer and sexy lady-crook El (Joanna Cassidy). El is just one of a team of villainous oddballs with whom Ballantine will be carrying out his next villainous project. The others include Al G. Karp (Sorrell Booke), Victor Karp (Bob Balaban), Herman X (Frank McRae), and Mums (Bibi Osterwald). Their plan is to rob a bank and, after careful planning, Ballantine comes up with the ingenious idea of stealing the entire building. It seems that the bank in question is a rather small building, rather like a portable wooden home or caravan. With incredible audacity, the team of criminals steal the building one night by putting it on wheels and disguising it so that it appears like a trailer home.

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Having booked their new “house” into a trailer park while the heat cools, the gang of misfits seem to have succeeded with their brilliant robbery. But there’s a final twist in store as obsessed cop Bulldog Streiger (Clifton James) – a long-time nemesis of Ballantine’s – refuses to give in without a fight….

Bank Shot is a short, snappy and frequently very funny film. Scott proves himself a surprisingly capable comedian in a role that is far removed from the likes of “Dr. Strangelove” and “Patton” (the latter of which had earned him an Oscar). In fact, the whole cast sizzle in this wacky film, most notably Clifton James as the persistent cop whose goal in life is to nail Walter Ballantine whatever the cost.

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What really helps the film is the fact that the heist is so unique and unusual – no mere robbery here, but the very clever and very amusing concept of the crooks stealing the entire building. It’s just outrageous enough to add a delightfully zany edge to the proceedings. The film is tightly paced and runs for a mere 80 minutes or so, which may sound somewhat brief but actually works in the film’s favour, making the events move along with urgency rather than dwelling on superfluities. Wendell Mayes deserves credit for this, having done a splendid job of adapting the Westlake novel for his screenplay. There are occasional shades of heavy-handedness, such as a silly final sequence in which Scott is cast adrift in the Pacific Ocean, but these misjudgements are few and far between and do not particularly ruin one’s enjoyment of the film.

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Strenuously daffy…

5 March 2011 | by moonspinner55 (las vegas, nv) – See all my reviews

Incarcerated thief–with a colorful rap-sheet of offenses–is tipped off by a former crony about a little bank near Los Angeles just waiting to be robbed; he breaks out of prison and surveys the bank in question, deciding it would be better to make off with the entire mobile building rather than just the safe. Scrappy adaptation of Donald E. Westlake’s novel (a follow-up to his similarly-themed “The Hot Rock”, itself filmed in 1972), this half-assed comedy-caper is poorly photographed and directed, but does benefit from energetic supporting players and some mild laughs in the opening. It falls apart after an hour or so, with George C. Scott (sporting exaggerated eyebrows and a peculiar, Ed Wynn-like speaking voice) badly miscast in the lead. *1/2 from ****

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Zany heist caper, with agreeably oddball characters and rib-tickling situations.

7/10
Author: Jonathon Dabell (barnaby.rudge@hotmail.co.uk) from Todmorden, England
3 August 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The caper movie was all the rage in the 1970s, especially after the 1972 film The Hot Rock had shown critics and audiences just how good a well-thought-out caper film could be. The Hot Rock was based on a novel by Donald E. Westlake, and it is another Westlake novel that provides the inspiration this time around, as Gower Champion takes to the directorial chair for Bank Shot.

Criminal genius Walter Ballantine (George C. Scott) is approached while doing time in a desert penitentiary and asked to participate in a bank heist. First he needs to bust out of jail, which he does with a little help from a bulldozer and sexy lady-crook El (Joanna Cassidy).

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El is just one of a team of villainous oddballs with whom Ballantine will be carrying out his next villainous project. The others include Al G. Karp (Sorrell Booke), Victor Karp (Bob Balaban), Herman X (Frank McRae), and Mums (Bibi Osterwald). Their plan is to rob a bank and, after careful planning, Ballantine comes up with the ingenious idea of stealing the entire building. It seems that the bank in question is a rather small building, rather like a portable wooden home or caravan. With incredible audacity, the team of criminals steal the building one night by putting it on wheels and disguising it so that it appears like a trailer home. Having booked their new “house” into a trailer park while the heat cools, the gang of misfits seem to have succeeded with their brilliant robbery. But there’s a final twist in store as obsessed cop Bulldog Streiger (Clifton James) – a long-time nemesis of Ballantine’s – refuses to give in without a fight….

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Bank Shot is a short, snappy and frequently very funny film. Scott proves himself a surprisingly capable comedian in a role that is far removed from the likes of “Dr. Strangelove” and “Patton” (the latter of which had earned him an Oscar). In fact, the whole cast sizzle in this wacky film, most notably Clifton James as the persistent cop whose goal in life is to nail Walter Ballantine whatever the cost. What really helps the film is the fact that the heist is so unique and unusual – no mere robbery here, but the very clever and very amusing concept of the crooks stealing the entire building. It’s just outrageous enough to add a delightfully zany edge to the proceedings. The film is tightly paced and runs for a mere 80 minutes or so, which may sound somewhat brief but actually works in the film’s favour, making the events move along with urgency rather than dwelling on superfluities. Wendell Mayes deserves credit for this, having done a splendid job of adapting the Westlake novel for his screenplay. There are occasional shades of heavy-handedness, such as a silly final sequence in which Scott is cast adrift in the Pacific Ocean, but these misjudgements are few and far between and do not particularly ruin one’s enjoyment of the film.piercearrow3fc7-4223

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