Something of an outlier when discussing great British crime movies, Michael Apted’s The Squeeze seems to have slipped though the net when it comes to streaming; the content of the film is one good reason, as this is a shockingly hard-as-nails urban thriller which provides a rough and ready look at the London underground in every sense. Apted died earlier this year, and while his obituaries found much to discuss in his ground-breaking 7 Up documentary series, or his Bond movies, his first feature film is a fearsome beast, recommended but with the strongest of warnings; this really ain’t a pretty sight.
The poster featured a crim with a head-stocking and a sawn-off shooter, all of which suggests a heist movie, but the robbery sequence doesn’t come until six minutes from the end. Until then, we’ve got a compelling, sleazy narrative concerning alcoholic ex-cop Jim Naboth, played by Stacey Keach, a talented actor who knew his own way around substance misuse by his own admission. Keach brings that expereince to a role that allows him to be utterly convincing as a failing man hitting every rung of the ladder on the way down; the opening scene sees him career backwards down a moving staircase on the Tube. Naboth’s ex wife Jill (Carol White) has remarried ratty tycoon Foreman (Edward Fox), but she’s kidnapped by a gang led by ruthless sadist Keith (David Hemmings). Foreman appeals to Naboth for help, but the detective will have to find a way out of his booze-soaked dwam if he’s to make any headway.
The Squeeze makes a terrific fist of depicting what alcohol can do to a man; this isn’t some careless stroke of characterisation, Naboth feels like he’s tearing himself apart from the get-go. That the voice of reason keeping Naboth on the rails is notorious British comic and professional madman Freddie Starr tells you all you need to know about how off-the-Richter Naboth is. And as if the sordid details of Leon Griffith’s script weren’t enough, both Naborth and his wife are forced to complete involuntary striptease acts at the mercy of gangsters, two painful scenes that add to the stench of moral turpitude here. This kind of sadistic sexual content wouldn’t feature in a mainstream film today, yet was not cut for the ITV tv screening in the 80’s.
A precursor of Guy Ritchie, and the missing link between Get Carter and The Long Good Friday via The Sweeney, The Squeeze is an underrated, no holds barred gangster movie that’s very much testing the limits of what would be acceptable before Star Wars took cinema in a more family friendly direction. Terse and brutal, it features an anti-hero who is prepared to take a school-girl as hostage to get what he wants. The easily shocked should look away, but with a slick Euston Films look, posters of promoting Uriah Heep pasted on street corners, and a wealth of salty performances, The Squeeze is one of the best cop thrillers you’ll ever seen, although the film is probably best viewed between the cracks between your fingers.