The Grissom Gang (1971)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Gangster Film, Black Comedy  |   Run Time - 128 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Of all the rural gangster films to come out in the wake of Bonnie and Clyde, this by far is the toughest and darkest. In other words, you have to have a thick skin to appreciate The Grissom Gang, but it offers plenty of rewards for the viewer tough enough to take it on. Leon Griffiths' script avoids romanticizing its subjects, instead hitting the viewer hard with a barrage of stylized brutality and dark humor. Director Robert Aldrich captures the gritty narrative in an inspired comic-book style whose visual hyperbole lives up to the wild storyline, and he also finds surprising moments of tenderness and humanity in this tale in the relationship between Barbara and Slim. The latter element adds a surprising emotional punch that other directors might have overlooked, and this aim is beautifully realized via a pair of excellent performances from Scott Wilson and Kim Darby. Wilson hits the right blend of scariness and vulnerability needed to make Slim a sympathetic villain, and Darby gives a carefully modulated, yet emotionally intense, performance in a difficult role that requires greater subtlety than any of the others. Wilson's and Darby's sterling efforts are nicely backed up by a great supporting cast who offer a variety of stylized turns. The best come from Irene Dailey as the ultimate domineering mother and Robert Lansing as a sardonic detective who turns out to be the film's moral conscience. In the end, The Grissom Gang's unusual mix of action, gallows humor, and tough-guy sentiment isn't for every viewer, but it's well worth a look for crime-movie enthusiasts and anyone interested in Robert Aldrich's finest work.