The Master Touch/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Euro-Crime is a subgenre that represents things that we rarely see nowadays in Hollywood films. They had intense plots, memorable soundtracks and insane car chases. The latter is what made Euro-crime famous among audiences since they usually had exciting, jawdropping stunts showcasing their difficulty and need for highly skilled driving. Keep in mind that these were made on low-budgets and had no CGI at all. You can find great examples of these sequences in films like The Burglars (a.k.a. Le Casse, which I reviewed a few years ago), A Special Cop in Action (which is famous for its score since Quentin Tarantino re-used it for his own car chase music in Death Proof), and, today's presentation, The Master Touch. In fact, that's how I learned about it 5-6 years ago. James Rolfe (a.k.a. Angry Video Game Nerd) did a Top 10 list of his favorite car chases and this film appeared as well. The next thing I did was watch this legendary scene on YouTube. I thought it was so unusual since it had no pumped-up music score or cheesy dialogue like "I'm gonna crash your car, motherfucker!" and there was nothing boring about the sequence at all. It's well-made and clearly lives up to its reputation. We'll talk about this later on for sure. But first, let's get on with the plot.
The story is about Steve (played by Kirk Douglas), an A-class criminal who just got released from prison after three years since his last heist went bad. He wants to start a new life with his wife (Florinda Bolkan) and tries to get away from his past as much as possible. Unfortunately, his old boss, Miller, contacts him and begs Steve to do one last heist. According to the plan, Steve has to steal money from the Big Ben insurance company's safe in Hamburg, Germany. Of course, since Miller realizes it's a difficult job to do because of the state-of-the-art security system (we'll talk about this soon), he wants Steve to do it and get millions of dollars in return. Luckily, Steve gets a new companion named Marco (Giuliano Gemma) for this heist. He's a gymnast in the circus and becomes friends with Steve. It's going to be a thrilling heist. It's going to be a thrilling chase. And it's not going to end very well here...
Let's start with what most people remember about The Master Touch: the car chase. It begins from a subplot of the film in which Marco beats the hell out of Miller's henchman who tries to persuade a confused Steve to go back and talk to Miller (that's how Steve and Marco meet each other for the first time). After that, this henchman is still pissed off at Marco and tries to get revenge whenever possible. First, he goes to the circus to see Marco and a foot chase ensues. Next, he fights Marco in a wine store (of course, they wreck the whole place). After that, the real deal begins. It's a six-minute car chase that's become famous for the wild stunts and unbelievable driving skills that are hard to replicate, even with modern technology. Also, what I like about the film is the heist scene and the confrontation in the end. These sequences are well done and made thrill the audience. Not to mention the fact that Ennio Morricone composed a superb score for the movie. I consider the 11 minute version of The Master Touch score to be one of his best works, along with the themes for The Big Gundown, The Hellbenders, John Carpenter's The Thing and a song called "The Ecstasy of Gold" (from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly).
Unfortunately, this film wasn't as good as I expected. The majority of The Master Touch is boring due to the fact that we spend too much time watching things that don't go anywhere. This includes: Steve's wife begging him not to do the job • Steve's experiments in his sound laboratory • The fight between Marco and the henchman (which I enjoyed).
Combined with bland dialogue, characters that lack of depth (like Marco: it would be nice to give him more background or personality traits), and bad dubbing (I know it's common in most foreign movies, but this is sub-par). I'd be really bored to death if Marco's action-packed sequences hadn't existed in the first place. I know that this isn't a Michael Bay explosion fest, but its redundancy in dialogue and situations is what made me disappointed. It's the same feeling I had when I watched American Sniper. I remember that it got repetitive since the middle part frequently cuts back and forth between the battlefield in Iraq and our hero's phone call to his wife. It drags out the whole film since nothing really happens.
Another thing that I found ridiculous is the high-tech security system at the insurance company. You know how it works? It detects the common sounds that a thief usually makes, like from drilling or even breathing. So Steve uses this to his advantage by playing classical music and other noises to trick the computer. To be honest, I found this unconvincing since I'm not sure why it doesn't detect every sound near the safe instead of picking only certain ones.
To sum up, The Master Touch has thrilling moments and an amazing car chase, but for the most part it's too mediocre.
Nuttawut Permpithak hails from Thailand. He spends his free time watching exploitation films (or any films from the past) writing articles, taking photos and reviewing films for GCDb.