Whenever I watch a Dustin Hoffman movie, I realise he’s a dude I don’t give enough credit. I realise his name isn’t something that makes me want to watch a movie. Then when I do watch a Dustin Hoffman movie, it reminds that he’s a dude I should give more credit and that his name is something that should make me want watch a movie. When I actually stop and think about it, Dustin Hoffman as the star and hero of an action thriller sounds awesome, and he delivers on that hope of awesome in Marathon Man.
Everything kicks off with Roy Scheider involved in some shenanigans as Doc, some variety of spy or government spook. He goes from one clandestine meeting to another, every time arriving just a little bit too late, with his contacts dead or the meeting compromised in some way. He later arrives unannounced at the home of his brother, Dustin Hoffman’s Babe. Why he’s a called Babe, I don’t know. If it was explained, I missed it.
Babe is a male who runs, a Marathon Man, if you will. He’s also an academic working on a dissertation about his father who was also involved in some shenanigans before he died a couple of decades ago. Soon Doc is dead and his visit to Babe makes the baddies think Babe is mixed up in this thing too. For the next hour and a half, he’s double, triple and quadrupled crossed by almost everyone he meets. Including Laurence Olivier as Szell, a Nazi war criminal obviously modelled on Josef Mengele.
As a thriller, Marathon Man really does a great job of ratchetting up the tension and throwing in twists and turns at all the right times. The story is a bit overblown and over the top, but somehow never corny. Hoffman goes from total innocent, to mourning brother, to petrified victim, to gun wielding badass and it never feels lazy or rushed. I believed every evolution his character went through and every decision he made.
I’m still not sure what the title means though. Hoffman’s character runs a lot, but not enough to make it his biggest character trait. Maybe it was addressed in Marathon Man and I missed it. Which is highly possible as I was a few beers in before I started watching it. And if nothing else, this could be the movie that finally makes me remember that Dustin Hoffman is a dude I should give more credit and that his name is something that should make me want watch a movie.