The Formula (1980)

Article 3561 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-22-2011
Posting Date: 5-15-2011
Directed by John G. Avildsen
Featuring George C. Scott, Marlon Brando, Marthe Keller
Country: USA / West Germany
What it is: Gizmo Maguffic-style crime thriller

A police detective investigates the murder of a friend, and the investigation leads him to Germany and a secret formula for synthetic fuel. But is he acting as a free agent, or is he a pawn in a game…?

As stated above, the synthetic fuel is a Gizmo Maguffin – that is, a science fiction concept that is rarely used for itself but rather as something to drive the plot of a movie that is really about something else. The cast is impressive and the director was an Oscar winner, but the movie was a flop and doesn’t have much of a reputation. I think the reason may be the very nature of the story; it’s difficult to make movies about business corruption, cartels and finances gripping to the general public, and the movie doesn’t pull it off. There’s also the simple problem that the movie is often rambling and unfocused; all too often the characters will break into “meaningful” conversations that have little to do with the matters at hand. The performances are quite good, though Brando’s combination of eccentricity and slurred speech is a little on the annoying side; you’ll be glad he has only a handful of scenes. The movie got nominated for an Oscar for its cinematography, and for several Razzies. The movie isn’t very good, but it isn’t that bad; it does, however, take quite a bit of patience to appreciate it.


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