The Split

  • 1968
  • Movie
  • R
  • Crime

Richard Stark, aka Donald Westlake, wrote many crime novels that were made into some pretty good pictures--POINT BLANK, THE HOT ROCK, and THE OUTFIT among them. This one has a great deal of gratuitous violence and little of the sharpness of the others. Especially missing is the wit and characterization so often found in the author's works. A good cast is...read more

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Richard Stark, aka Donald Westlake, wrote many crime novels that were made into some pretty good pictures--POINT BLANK, THE HOT ROCK, and THE OUTFIT among them. This one has a great deal of gratuitous violence and little of the sharpness of the others. Especially missing is the wit and

characterization so often found in the author's works. A good cast is wasted by the mindlessness of this film's execution, although it did well in theaters where switchblades are sold next to the popcorn machine. Brown is a thief who has just come back to Los Angeles after having been away for

several years. He teams up with one-time pal Harris, also a criminal, and they plan a bold caper: the robbery of the proceeds from a sold-out football game at the Los Angeles Coliseum while the game is going on. (The lie here is that most of the tickets are purchased away from the stadium's box

office, either by mail, through season ticket holders, or at the various ticket agencies that dot the city.) In order to assemble the proper gang for the robbery, Brown has to find people with the right mettle, so there's a 12-minute montage as he physically fights Borgnine, a gym instructor who

is a strong-arm man; has a gun battle with sharpshooter Sutherland; races with Klugman, who will be the driver on the job; and, finally, tests the abilities of Oates, a safecracker-escape artist. The job is carefully planned and goes off like clockwork. Brown hides the money with his ex-wife,

Carroll, who agrees to watch the cash with the provision that Brown end his life of crime so that they might be able to reconcile. Brown swears that this is the final job. Next day, Carroll's psychotic landlord, Whitmore, walks into the apartment and tries to have his way with her. When she

resists, he kills her and steals the money. Hackman is a sleazy cop who is always looking to supplement his income. When he investigates Carroll's death, he recalls that Carroll and Brown were married and makes the connection between her demise and the robbery at the Coliseum. The other gang

members think they've been betrayed by Brown, so they begin to work him over. A battle ensues, and Klugman and Harris are killed while Brown gets away. Hackman tracks down Whitmore and shoots him for resisting arrest, then takes the half-million dollars for himself. Brown figures that Hackman must

now have the cash and threatens to blow the whistle, then suggests that things can be worked out amicably if Hackman will share the money with him. Together, Hackman and Brown have a shoot-out with the other gang members, kill them off, and divide the cash. Hackman decides to give some of the

money to his police bosses, keep some for himself, and make it appear as through Brown has left with the rest. Brown goes to the airport to leave for safety in Mexico with his part of the money, but the promise he made to his late love, Carroll, nags at him as he hears her voice in his mind.

There's a final freeze frame, so we don't know if he headed south of the border or decided to go straight. This was one of the earliest films that used two black stars as the romantic leads. Even the excellent supporting cast could not help this exploitative picture, a lame attempt at replicating

the classic film noir pieces of the 1930s and 1940s. Just another twist on RIFIFI, it did benefit from Jones's driving score as well as three tunes, "The Split" (Quincy Jones, Ernie Shelby, sung by Billy Preston), "It's Just a Game, Love" (Jones, Shelby, sung by Arthur Prysock), and "A Good

Woman's Love" (Jones, Sheb Wooley, sung by Wooley).

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  • Rating: R
  • Review: Richard Stark, aka Donald Westlake, wrote many crime novels that were made into some pretty good pictures--POINT BLANK, THE HOT ROCK, and THE OUTFIT among them. This one has a great deal of gratuitous violence and little of the sharpness of the others. Esp… (more)

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