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  Finding Steve McQueen What Did Steve Think Of Nixon, Anyway?
Year: 2019
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Stars: Travis Fimmel, Lily Rabe, Rachael Taylor, William Fichtner, Forest Whitaker, Jake Weary, John Finn, Rhys Corio, Louis Lombardi, Molly McQueen, Ric Reitz, Kenny Alfonso, Jill Jane Clements, Darren Keith Reiher, Joy Libardoni, Kelly Johns, Blair Jasin
Genre: Comedy, Thriller, Romance, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: 1980, and Harry Barber (Travis Fimmel) has arranged to meet his girlfriend Molly Murphy (Rachael Taylor) in a diner because he has something important to tell her. He notes she has changed her look since the last time they met, Debbie Harry, not Faye Dunaway, but he sticks with his idol for his appearance: action star Steve McQueen, which may not be too clever an idea, because what he has to say is connected to that look of his. McQueen is not wanted by the FBI, but Harry is, and he reveals that is his actual name to Molly and that the Feds are after a lookalike for the celebrity thanks to the biggest haul from a bank heist ever stolen having Harry as part of the gang.

Molly is incredulous, but as her boyfriend continues to talk, it just gets more unbelievable... This was yet another true crime tale, though precisely how accurate it was to the real Harry Barber was up for debate, as director Mark Steven Johnson, who had previously made his mark on pop culture helming underwhelming superhero flicks, preferred to keep the tone light more often than not. Well, maybe that's misleading, for we were in no doubt that the crime was serious, but the fact that in 1972 it had been President Richard Nixon's stash of cash - thirty million dollars or so - that the gang Harry was involved with took brought in not only the biggest agents in the land to investigate, but also illustrated the theme that there were degrees of criminality.

And our hero was operating on a level far below anything Nixon had concocted for Watergate, making Harry almost an innocent in comparison with a man who, say, prolonged the Vietnam War. Indeed, so twinkly was Fimmel that his Barber was positively benign, and it was a very strong performance that did not so much bring to mind Steve McQueen, more Burt Reynolds in his heyday when he was in his goofier mode. Fimmel certainly looked more like Steve, but he carried himself with a goodnatured naivety where we were clued up this was a fantasist we were watching, someone who would watch The Getaway and The Great Escape over and over and wonder what it would be like to get away (hah) with as much as McQueen does, only in reality, not the movies.

That Barber's tale had been transformed into a movie as well was an irony the project was not entirely willing to gloss over as this was packed with witty lines and amusing scenes at the expense of the characters, not patronisingly, though, more indulgent of them - up to a point. That was due to our awareness Harry may be a nice guy in way over his head, he does have some talent for crime, so this is not as whitewashed as it might have been; however, take one look at the goons in the gang with him and you'll acknowledge that for all gang leader William Fichtner's railing theatrically against Nixon, determined to make this personal despite the President having no idea who he was, it was all those millions in the bank vault that were really getting him fired up.

To add to the mix, this was a romance as well and Fimmel and Taylor made a cute couple, possibly thanks to them both being Australian and therefore on the same wavelength, hence chemistry. There was a danger this was going to be too soft on the bad guys, pile on the quirks too much, but Johnson sustained a deft balance between a seventies-style humour and reflection that Barber and his quiet, war-damaged brother (Jake Weary) were royally screwed over, and not entirely fairly, either. Also, nice turns from investigating agents Forest Whitaker and Lily Rabe who legitimately wonder why so many high-ups are taking an interest, which helped when their parts of the story began to feel like an intrusion on the Harry-Molly main plot. Music by Victor Reyes, along with a load of seventies rock, some of it heavier than others, which contributes to the wistfully regretful yet nostalgically sunkissed tone.

[Finding Steve McQueen will be available on Digital Download from 16th November 2020 and can be pre-ordered at this link - click here.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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