Reed, one of Britain's finest directors, made his name with this haunting, lyrical masterpiece about a doomed fugitive. In perhaps the greatest performance of his illustrious career, Mason plays Johnny, an IRA leader who breaks out of jail and then plans a payroll holdup of a mill in
Belfast to fund his underground operations. Though he abhors violence, Johnny accidentally kills a man during the holdup, and is himself critically wounded. Left behind by the panicky driver of the getaway car, Johnny stumbles away, descending into a nightmare as he becomes more and more delirious
from his wound. He is harbored by a bunch of strange people who either want to help him or sell him to the British authorities. Sweetheart Kathleen (Ryan) and Johnny's IRA pals are in the meantime searching frantically for him. The man is hidden in deserted buildings and even in a junkyard bathtub
for a while. On another occasion, two spinsters take him in, serve him tea, and then discover he is wounded, bandaging him before he departs. He finally falls into the clutches of an eccentric painter (Newton), who wants to catch the look of death in Johnny's eyes before it's too late. Struggling
free from this madman, Johnny makes his way toward the docks in a final desperate effort to escape. Kathleen finally finds him there, but so do the police. The finale is very powerful.
Mason's performance as the dying fugitive, enhanced by that unique voice, is nothing less than great. Johnny's escalating pain, his lingering pride and the desperate look he gives an uncomprehending child searching for a ball are searingly intense. Ryan, who debuted here, never had the chance to
impact like this again, and marvelous performances are contributed by Cusack and O'Herlihy as Mason's chief lieutenants. The fascinating McCormick steals most of his scenes as a rag-picking bum who hides Johnny, and Newton positively gorges himself on the scenery in a wild portrait of the artist
as a crazed man.
Early on, Reed, aided by Krasker's gritty cinematography, establishes a deeply somber mood in this modern odyssey to doom and death in an uncaring world. Each frame is another lethal step for Johnny as Reed poetically captures his last moments on earth. The plot and character development are
touchingly constructed and enhanced by a magnificent score by Alwyn. Though Mason is initially presented as a culprit, his agonizing plight slowly transfigures him into a Christ-like figure. Visually reminiscent of John Ford's THE INFORMER, ODD MAN OUT also shares thematic concerns with Ford's THE
FUGITIVE, insofar as both films depict an intolerable fate for a man who is basically decent but is condemned for his own altruistic beliefs. A great work of art, ODD MAN OUT is a painting on celluloid, evoking the best canvases of Goya and Velasquez. (Check out the weird shot of what manifests
itself in Johnny's beer bubbles.) Although it was not popular at the box office, the film quickly won worldwide plaudits and established Reed as a great director.
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