HOPSCOTCH -- Eleven area theaters.
Some surefire movie thrills:
Watching an individual make the government look like a bunch of bumbling idiots.
Realizing that the myopic, homely, middle-aged hero is going to do everything that a handsome, young, macho spy customarily does, and more.
Totaling the enormous amount of money spent when one scene after another consists of endless cash casually being put out for such clever tricks as faked passports and decoy airplines.
These thrills are the ingredients of "Hopscotch," which stars Walter Mattahu as a suave and cultivated ex-CIA agent who is publishing his memoirs in England, thus making himself the object of a no-expenses-spared, no-dirty-tricks-barred manhunt by his former colleagues. In fact, such thrills are surefire. When a CIA boss watches his own property being smashed by his own agents in the reckless fashion he customarily approves; when Matthau, with his bee-stung nose and slipping eyeglasses, not only melts the icy woman but hums Mozart as he does it; when transportation money for a trans-Atlantic chase flows like the Gulf Stream -- it is, indeed, thrilling.
More trouble could have been taken with the film than simply grafting these ingredients onto a news-derived plot of CIA displeasure on post-employment confessions. Instead of presenting any point of view about the ethics of the situation, the film starts its hero off with the shabby motive of personal revenge against a piggy boss, and then has him look up from his typewriter and declare, "As I look at this thing now, I can't believe I was a part of it." Spoken like a true idealist.
While Mattahu's range is demonstrated by his explaining opera to an Austrian border guard, the other chief characters have only one note apiece. Ned Beatty's, as the boss, is more sustainable than Glenda Jackson's, as the unflappable woman, but it means that there is only one role of more than one-adjective complexity.
But what is complexity compared to watching such a nose being thumbed at the CIA?