“THE FORMULA” (1980)
Perhaps the most interesting point of discussion regarding John G. Avildsen’s film “The Formula” is the irony of its presumably unintentionally honest title. If there has been in recent memory a big studio release thriller so laden in an unimaginatively arrogant manner with the baggage of numbing predictability (and that’s saying a lot), its’s likely an example hidden away through the mercy of a process of selective memory witness protection.
George C. Scott plays Lt. Barney Caine, a Los Angeles police detective investigating the brutal killing of his friend and former colleague. Caine is the type of cop who speaks entirely with the the kind of snappy retorts that screenwriters count as impressively faux noir, though he doesn’t seem to have sufficient investigative instincts to notice that every time he questions a suspect they are shot dead within seconds. Could a multinational global conspiracy be afoot? You betcha, and with the full participation of those folks traditionally useful in such movie matters involving tipping the scales of global harmony (?) as we know it: former members of the lost Reich. However, in the agonizing seconds it must have taken writer Steve Shagan (adapting his own novel, which gives new meaning to the phrase “beating a dead horse”) to devise his entirely derivative plotting, little regard seemed to have been given toward incident. Rather the narrative unfolds as a series of interviews, most of which seem to point out the same facts: all involving a German wartime project called Genesis and a process of manufacturing synthetic fuel.
If a thriller surrounding the concept of crude oil price fixing doesn’t seem like the most opportune premise for cinema excitement, that calculation fails to take into account the lethargic method in which events transpire. Seldom can a murder mystery retain a semblance of engagement when the audience is unavoidably far ahead of the characters in the film. (Unless, perhaps, it’s intended as some sort of parody, which considering the laughably somber tone of the film, this most assuredly is not.)
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Another one I missed. I would usually be attracted by that casting, but for some reason I never saw it. Sounds like I didn’t miss much.
Best wishes, Pete.