The Formula (1980)
There seems to have been many interests involved in the making of The Formula, and they all point in different directions, making it an untidy and uneven, but peculiarly interesting film. The direction, by John G. Avildsen, surges the film forward as a classically structured political mystery thriller, with George C. Scott in an industrious lead, whereas the story from Steve Shagan unveils scenarios and hypotheses that at the time of production could seem overly paranoid, but that in contemporary light come off as alarmingly foresighted. Ultimately, there is Marlon Brando, operating, it seems, in a world of his own, apparently mocking both himself, his co-star and the subject material, but arguably drawing the right attention to his character. It is Brando who adds the satire to spice the film up, but next to the straight, realistic performances from Scott and Keller, it makes the film a dramatic paradox. The Formula remains thematically interesting throughout, but the craftmanship is uneven, reportedly due to Shagan and Avildsen pulling in different directions. There's no doubt about the ambition of both, however, and one cannot refrain from thinking that with a tad better editing, and some subtler choices in crucial scenes, the film would have had a much better reputation.