A funny one, this – but, as it was made by Sam Peckinpah, and it was his last film before his death in 1984, funny peculiar.
His previous work was the Kris Kristofferson ‘vehicle’ Convoy (1978), after which the great director languished in deserved obscurity for a while (Sam, how could you?). At least the iconoclast responsible for such classics as The Wild Bunch (1969) and Straw Dogs (1971) (of which a 2010 remake is on the cards, God save us all) returned with a visually intriguing, straightforward adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s notoriously complex novel.
However, its mixture of styles (media conspiracy shenanigans meets slo-mo action romp) seemed to indicate that even Peckinpah was perhaps unsure in which direction to take the story.
Rutger Hauer plays John Tanner, a talk-show host with an unerring ability to skewer his political guests all of whom, as he reveals, have something to hide. But, when he himself is told by the CIA that the friends he has invited to a weekend in the country are engaged in a conspiracy that threatens national security, his loyalties are divided. Should he trust his own judgement of his lifelong chums, or the assertions of the shady Lawrence Fassett (John Hurt) or Maxwell Danforth (Burt Lancaster), himself a long-time target of Tanner’s?
Convinced by videotape footage (shown to him by Fassett) that Bernard Osterman (Craig T. Nelson), Richard Tremayne (Dennis Hopper) and Jospeh Cardone (Chris Sarandon) are indeed up to no good, he agrees to allow his home to be bugged and filled with CCTV – much to the anger of his wife Ali (Meg Forster). It’s going to be a long weekend…
I don’t often have anything good to say about the Daily Mail (see my recent post, if you need convincing) but, in all fairness to this ‘family’ newspaper, they give away some half-decent DVDs from time to time, of which this film was an example.
Only half decent? Well, you get the impression that the entire cast is cruising its way through the story – Burt Lancaster, in particular, plays the ‘sinister CIA chief’ that seemed to have been his only role ever since the excellent Executive Action (1973) with a certain tired resignation and, although he displays his star quality and bright blue eyes to great aplomb, you never get the impression that this is the same Rutger Hauer of Blade Runner (1982) or The Hitcher (1986) fame.
Never mind – John Hurt, at least, is cast splendidly against type and the action sequences, although incongruous as already stated, nevertheless have a hard-hitting quality that only a Peckinpah could provide.
A shame it was his last film. What might have been…