The Internecine Project (1974)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 7/23/14
Cast: James Coburn, Lee Grant, Keenan Wynn

"The Internecine Project: A fancy name for multiple murder!"

Sometimes a clever tag line is enough to sell a film, and that's what made me decide to check out this clever and unassuming thriller from the 1970's. Robert Elliot (James Coburn) is a professor of economics and a secret agent who is about to become an advisor to the President of the United States. But before he can accept that position, he has to clear the skeletons out of his closet and sweep away anyone who knows about his shady past. He devises a clever scheme to have his four associates kill each other without him getting his hands dirty, but can he pull it off?

It's a fun espionage thriller that manages to maintain a strong sense of tension and dread throughout. James Coburn is wonderful as the smooth, sinister, and ruthlessly calculating Elliot, and you can't help hoping that his brilliant plan succeeds. Lee Grant plays an antagonistic journalist and former lover, who adds a slight chaos factor to Elliot's plans and bumps up the dramatic tension. The production values are decent and the execution is exceedingly minimalistic, but the film successfully achieves its modest goals. A sparse and spooky music score also adds to the tension and dread. While parts of the film are silly and just a bit too convenient, it never betrays itself and stays focused on the goal. Good stuff.