Saturday, July 25, 2009

Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson "Hopscotch"

Miles Kendig (Walter Matthau), senior field man for the CIA, has once again outwitted Yaskov of the KGB (Herbert Lom), making the biggest bust of his career. But his by-the-book boss, Myerson (Ned Beatty), is tired of Kendig's liberty taking, and decides to promote him to a desk job. Kendig opts for retirement with his Austrian girlfriend Isobel von Schoenenberg (Glenda Jackson), but on his own terms, and the fun begins.

This delightful, light-hearted and witty 1980 film didn't stand out at the box office, but it does stand the test of time. The plot, which details Kendig's exploits as he settles some scores and manages to avoid CIA and KGB agents who would rather kill him than let him publish their embarrassing secrets, is fast-paced and well constructed with plenty of surprising hi-jinx to which the comedic Matthau is well-suited. British actress (and now Labour party MP) Glenda Jackson is a perfect counterpoint as his love interest, adding class with her Shakespearean skill. Sam Waterston plays Matthau's sympathetic protege who works to bring him in for Myerson, just not too hard. The movie is full of the slapstick comedy at which Matthau was never better. But it works especially well being integrated into Kendig's clever schemes to out-spy and outwit his former bosses and secure his freedom. Here is the article at Wikipedia, avoid the spoilers in the plot summary. The film is available and can be streamed instantly at Netflix.