In the eruptive, lurid Sitting Target, the inimitable Oliver Reed is an incretionary “animal in a cage” as Cockney convict Harry Lomart. He does push-ups from the pipes above his prison cell. Moreover, Harry is not an alpha male who will be cuckolded during his 15-year sentence. Edward Scaife’s ultrastylish cinematography partitions the reflections during an increasingly moribund conversation between Harry and his wife Pat (Jill St. John) like split-screen panels.
Reed finally unleashes his ire by coarsely punching through the glass when Pat capitulates that she is gravid with another man’s child and stipulates a divorce. It’s the ultimate disfigurement of the frangible male possessiveness. Pat won’t be on retainer until Harry’s parole and Reed’s penis envy is extremely jaundiced.
In solitary confinement, Harry is plagued by the echo chamber of Pat’s infidelity and Douglas Hickox doesn’t mollycoddle the turmoil within Reed. It is a shamefully relatable, neanderthal, quasi-misogynistic sentiment but Harry can only be sufficed through the erasure of the source of his pangs which, in this case, is Pat.
The escape sequence is posthaste, uncompromising and grungy with Harry and Birdy Williams (Ian McShane) deluging guards with urine buckets, climbing over barbwire with bare hands and pulverizing a dog with a brick. Animal cruelty to this degree would be frowned upon in a mainstream movie yet it is apropos for how unflappable Birdy and Harry are.
Plus, how can anyone lambaste a film in which Edward Woodward is the rigid inspector on the trail of the two criminals? McShane is refulgent as Reed’s sidekick. Reed isn’t a nonsensically virile automaton though. He balks at taking advantage of a female hostage when she is drawing a bath for him but he is genuinely sulking from heartache. I’m a sucker for scorching British gangster films and Sitting Target is an unsung gem in the blokes-with-pistols subgenre.
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