Odd Man Out
James Mason is a soldier for “the cause,” which is never specified to be the IRA or the Sinn Féin, but obviously is. He has been in prison, got out, and holed up for many months in a safe house. A robbery is planned, and he is leading it, but the others have doubts, feeling he is a little stir crazy. And he is. In the middle of it all he freezes up. There is a struggle for a pistol and he is badly wounded in the shoulder, at the same time killing a man. He can’t even manage to hop into the getaway car, so his comrades have to leave him on the street.
And for the rest of this movie, he has about as much control over his fate as a ping-pong ball. All of the Belfast police force is out after him, and he is so fucked up he can barely walk. He is handed off from one person to another, some of them sympathizers, others just not wanting to get involved, no one bold enough to turn him over to the cops. It all ends just as badly (for him) as I expected it to.
There are some who rate this as Carol Reed’s masterpiece, even better than The Third Man. Rubbish, says I. It looks great, very Brit noir, the writing is good, and so is the acting. But come on, who really cares if this murdering thug gets away? I didn’t. There are some who say this was James Mason’s best role. Double rubbish. What did he have to do, other than stagger a lot, look severely constipated, and moan?