Duvall's Dark Side
Turning 85 today, Robert Duvall abides and endures on screen with one great performance after another. Last year, coming off his seventh Academy Award® nomination for The Judge, he starred in, co-wrote and directed Wild Horses (his fifth time in the director’s chair) and is still keeping up a pace many younger actors would envy. The Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray library is currently home to two Duvall performances, a supporting role prior to his starmaking role in The Godfather and a lead role just a few years after, each part a sinister walk on the dark side. In the recently released The Detective (1968), he’s a hair-triggered cop in the Manhattan precinct where star Frank Sinatra’s principled lieutenant operates, an edgy racist firebrand not above roughing up criminal suspects to get results – and symptomatic of the corrupt system that empowers unequal treatment in the name of the law. Working for director Sam Peckinpah in The Killer Elite (1975), he’s stone-cold as a CIA-contracted mercenary who betrays and brutally decommissions his longtime partner (The Godfather co-star James Caan), unintentionally turning his painfully injured former friend into his most determined and vengeful adversary, headed for a final showdown among the relic naval vessels in a San Francisco shipyard when both converge on the same quarry – one to protect and the other to terminate. Caan is the picture’s protagonist, but Duvall – with considerably less screen time – generates a considerable sense of affectless menace in a shadow world of corporate chicanery and indifferent downsizing. Forty years later, Tender Mercies Best Actor Oscar® winner Duvall is nowhere near downsizing but continues to enlarge a mighty body of screen work. As film historian David Thomson observes, “Duvall’s good-natured persistence is one of the more comforting things in contemporary film.” Also comforting is that more vintage Duvall will come to TT Blu-ray down the road.