Walther Matthau playing crooks and cops in hard boiled movies never seizes to feel slightly bizarre to me. I grew up watching things like Grumpy Old Men and the 90s Dennis the Menace live action movie, so I just automatically associate him with his more comedic roles. But I do like seeing him in these crime movies. Charley Varrick, which Matthau did a year earlier in 1973, for example is a terrific early 70s crime thriller and this works as a great companion piece for it, especially because this time Matthau is the good guy so it has a nice contrast to Varrick where he played a bank robber on the lam.
The atmosphere that the movie has is pretty great. It’s very 70s and old school macho, men are swearing and acting like arrogant assholes towards each other until somebody loses their cool and all bets are off. It’s delightful and made the entire movie be very enjoyable. For some reason I was under the false impression that there was a plot twist where the train hijacking was a case of misdirection, and the hijackers were really after some kind of a gold shipment or something, but of course that turned out to be entirely untrue. Everything is played entirely straight and in a way seeing a heist movie where the plan really is that simple as blackmailing the city a million smackaroons and the master criminal doesn’t actually play that big role in the climax was different and frankly refreshing. I of course saw the ending coming from a mile away, but with a movie of this caliber that doesn’t actually reflect poorly on the movie itself, the ending still works very well. Instead of being boring when you know what’s coming, it was really exciting because you’re waiting to see just how it happens. You had a decent amount of tension through the entire entire scene and the face Matthau ultimately makes when the jig is up and he’s got his man, just before it cuts to black, is just perfect.