Tag Archives: anne archer

Phillip Noyce and Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan: Patriot Games and Clear & Present Danger

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan has had a few iterations over the decades, the last two of which were sadly lukewarm efforts, but for my money Harrison Ford and Philip Noyce gave the best version with the explosive double feature of Patriot Games and Clear & Present Danger. Star studded across the board, gifted with long runtimes, huge budgets and intelligent scripts, these are two enduring espionage films that I always have a place for on my DVD shelf and always tune in to if I come across them on TV. Ford is a heroic presence in cinema, and although his actions as Ryan are violently intrepid, he gives the character an unsure edge and resounding vulnerability that is always compelling and offsets the intrigue as great character work. This guy is an analyst after all, not a field agent and the portrayal should reflect that.

Patriot Games kicks off with Ryan in a brutal personal war against a rogue faction of the IRA, a tense conflict that reaps collateral damage on both sides. The two constant characters who ground both Ford and Ryan are his boss and mentor Greer (James Earl Jones) and his wife Cathy (Anne Archer), they keep him humble, human and sympathetic amongst all the chaos and political intrigue. Sean Bean is scary good here as Miller, renegade Irish operative whose plans are foiled early on by Jack, prompting him to swear bloody revenge on his whole family in a courtroom scene that is as chilling as Bean has ever been. Paranoia sets in as countless attempts are made against his and his families life, and even reassuring words from an IRA honcho (Richard Harris) who denounces Miller can’t set Ryan at ease. Only the eventual confrontation puts an end to it, which we get in a spectacular nocturnal speedboat chase across a Maryland harbour. The talent includes Thora Birch as Jack’s daughter, J.E. Freeman, Patrick Bergin, James Fox, Polly Walker, Bob Gunton and a young Samuel L. Jackson.

Clear & Present Danger sees the headstrong US President (Donald Moffat, never one to not devour dialogue like a good steak) declares war on marauding cartels from South America, another conflict that Ryan gets thrown into headlong both on location and back on the home front. Their leader (Miguel Sandoval) is a hotheaded moron, but the real danger lurks in Felix Cortez (Joaquim De Almeida, a spectacularly nasty villain), advisor, assassin and deadly power behind the throne who has ideas of his own. This entry is slightly more epic and action centric but the homeland espionage is played up too, particularly in the corrupt actions of two impossibly sleazy suits back in Washington played by Henry Czerny and Harris Yulin. They are so good in their roles they almost steal the film, especially Czerny as the ultimate prick and absolute last person you’d want making decisions for their country. Ford is less seething than he was in the very personal conflict of Patriot Games, but no less resourceful and violent when he needs to be. Willem Dafoe fills the boots of John Clark, a Clancy staple character and ruthless tactical agent who sometimes functions as a one man army. Further work is provided by Benjamin Bratt, Raymond Cruz, Dean Jones, Ann Magnuson, Patrick Bauchau and Hope Lange.

These two are not only great action spy films but to me represent an oasis of 90’s filmmaking that has never been replicated. Enormous casts, every dollar of the budget onscreen, timeless original scores (courtesy of James Horner here), vivid action set pieces, equal parts focus on story and action, no CGI in sight, character development and all round consistency in craft and production. I grew up with these two classics, watched them countless times with my dad and will always tune right back in whenever they’re around.

-Nate Hill

Advertisements

Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction

Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction left me both a uneasy and appalled. Billed as a sleek, sexy psychological thriller, it showcases Michael Douglas and Glenn Close in an ugly, disturbing cautionary tale regarding adultery and lies, and although well acted it came across as really misguided to me. Keep in mind I didn’t see it way back when, I only got around to it recently to see what all the fuss is about and because I like Lyne’s other work (check out Jacob’s Ladder for an *actual* psychological thriller), so I don’t have yesteryear nostalgia for it. Michael Douglas always seems to be at the whim of women scorned, be it the calculating femme fatale (Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct), the power tripping boss (Demi Moore in Disclosure), the scheming lover (Gwyneth Paltrow in A Perfect Murder), or the hag ex wife (Kathleen Turner in War Of The Roses). Here the female character is startlingly real as opposed to archetypical caricature, splendidly portrayed by Glenn Close but… she’s stuck in the wrong narrative, a lurid, nasty exercise in cheap scares and exploitation that isn’t remotely kind to either character and has no idea what tone or outlook it wants to take. Douglas has a one night stand with her, having no idea who she is or where she comes from, which is already ill advised. Worse? He’s married, to poor Anne Archer, and has both a kid and an adorable bunny rabbit, which obviously doesn’t last long the way the film is headed. Soon after he rejects her further advances, she gets clingy, unstable and downright scary, but here’s the thing: this is obviously a girl who is very sick, as he finds out later, and not just some thinly written psycho-sexual serpent like in many of these films. How does he react? Well, instead of calling authorities or getting help as soon as one, maybe two of those red flags go up, he aggressively spurns her a second time, and has no coherence or intuition to fix the situation, plus he’s a little bitch who wants to keep his indiscretion secret at all costs. I understand that thriller guidelines dictate logic right out the window, but Close’s performance is too realistic and fascinating to be quick-sanded in such a silly, insulting story. Not to mention the fact that once the final act has rolled around, she has devolved into a rabid slasher villain and the script has ceased to care about any semblance of character at all. If the pieces fit a little better with this one, it might have worked, but as is I found myself wishing the whole time that they would ditch the ridiculous storyline and do a serious spinoff of her character. A tasteless misfire.

-Nate Hill

Peter Hyam’s Narrow Margin 


Peter Hyams Narrow Margin is a sleek thriller that attempts to blend courtroom intrigue with a single location white-knuckler, which it does.. mostly successfully. A better way to put it would be that it sandwiches a cat and mouse game set on a speeding train between an intro and epilogue both set in the decidedly more complicated realm of legal escapades. We open as an unfortunate lawyer (J.T. Walsh in a too brief cameo) is assassinated by the mobster scumbag (Harris Yulin, creepy as ever) he had shady ties too. A terrified Anne Archer hides in the shadows, witness to the murder, and therefore a valuable asset to the dogged prosecutor (Gene Hackman) who is trying to bring the kingpin down. The two of them are ambushed on a routine transport via helicopter and escape onto said train, and here’s where the narrative cops out just a little bit. Almost the entire rest of the film is spent on the train, an extended diversion of a set piece that steps in for what I thought would be a more cerebral battle of wills between these factions, in court and out. It’s not a huge deal, I was just expecting a little more, and the bits at either end of the film stand as my favourite sequences. Hackman plays stubborn like no other, having both literal and figurative tunnel vision here, the only one thing he cares about being the life of his witness. They’re harried at every turn by corrupt officials of many kinds, and pursued by a mystery woman (Susan Hogan, my acting mentor in college no less), while the train hurtles through the gorgeous Canadian wilderness, captured pristinely by Hyam’s lens as he dutifully does his own cinematography, the dynamo. It’s a thrilling little piece that benefits from Hackman’s spirited work, the photography and editing backing it up nicely.  

-Nate Hill

The Art Of War


Everyone loves a Wesley Snipes flick. If it’s decent, that is, and these days he’s been churning out some sewer muck. Back in the day, however, he had some bangers, which includes The Art Of War. Wesley heads up an elite tactical team here, secretly employed by the United Nations, hired to do all kinds of cloak and dagger stuff, including securing trade deals, eliminating potential threats and maintaining cooperation from all sides. Run by a well spoken Donald Sutherland and Anne Archer, it’s a low key ‘fight fire with fire’ situation, until it all goes tits up and Snipes is framed for the murder of some bigwig Chinese dirtbag. Forced to contend with Triads, government factions and his own former partner gone rogue (Michael Biehn steals every scene, as usual), it’s a nice set up for a serviceable, above average action yarn. That Oriental influence always seems to make these thrillers seem cooler (ever seen Black Rain or Rising Sun?) which helps as well. Snipes and Biehn are livewires though and have a fantastic silenced pistol duel late in the third act, which is one slick showcase of a sequence. Not a whole lot to this one, but as an entertaining garden variety actioner, it holds up just fine. 

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Mojave Moon


Before Angelina Jolie blew up front and centre, she got her start in some wild and wacky b movies and genre stuff, the weirdest of which has to be Mojave Moon. It’s one of those low rent flicks where not much of anything happens, the characters meander in and out of a non-story and almost everyone is completely nuts. ‘B movie dramedy’ I suppose would be the specific sub-genre. The ‘story’, as it were, follows drifter Al (Danny Aiello), who meets pretty young Ellie (Jolie) in a diner and hitches a ride out to the desert for seemingly no reason at all. As Ellie takes a shine to him, he begins to fall for her mother (Anne Archer). Only problem is, her mom has a boyfriend played by Michael Biehn who is quite possibly one of the weirdest characters I’ve ever seen in a film. Volatile, berserkly unstable and constantly in near hysteria mode, it’s an odd performance that off-sets the quirky tone straight into the twilight zone. That seems to be the idea here though, the dreamy desert climate having a strange effect on these folks, causing all kinds of outrageous behaviour and scenarios. The town offers a rogue’s gallery of characters including Michael Berryman, Alfred Molina, Jack Noseworthy, Peter Macnicol, John Getz, Michael Massee and others, all of whom don’t really do much other than show up, act weird for a bit and then wander off again. I like this type of film though, purposeless other than to languish about with characters who don’t want much, their arcs sputtering in a flatline of small town doldrums and behaviour that only makes sense to them. It’s not for everyone, which is why no one really gives credit to this stuff, but it’s enjoyable once in a while, when you’re in as strange a mood as the residents of this one horse sideshow of a town. 

-Nate Hill

Felon: A Review by Nate Hill

  

Felon is a bitter,and tragic prison drama that’s packed with wrenching injustice, simmering anger and caged animal violence. Loaded with the kind of tough guy elements which make prison films exciting (check out Lock Up with Stallone), it’s also has a tender side brought forth by its extremely thoughtful and well written script, which explores ideas that are both hard to swallow and very sad. Stephen Dorff, a guy who already has the gritty look as soon as he walks into a frame, plays Wade Porter, a simple family man who is just starting out at life along with his wife (Marisol Nichols). Their hopes and dreams turn into a nightmare, however, when a violent intruder breaks into their home one night. Wade strikes out in defence of himself and his wife, accidentally killing the criminal. Because of the backwards ass way the States run things, he is accused of manslaughter and sentenced to serve out jail time. He is then thrown into the dog pit, literally and figuratively. The penitentiary he is sent to is run by sadistic and corrupt Lt. Jackson (Harold Perrineau) along with his brutal enforcer Sgt. Roberts (Nick Chinlund). Jackson organizes vicious fight club style matches between the inmates, totally off the books and beyond any correctional legislations. Wade is forced to adapt, adjust and bring out monstrous aspects within himself to survive, and make it through his sentence with both his life and humanity intact. It’s not an easy turn of events to watch unfold onscreen, but necessary in the sense that this probably happens quite frequently to people in real life, and should be seen. The only solace Wade finds is with his gruff, veteran cell mate John Smith (Val Kilmer) a lifer who once went on a massacre of revenge against individuals who murdered his family. Smith is his guiding light, steering him through the hellish carnage of what he’s forced to do and helping him to keep the candle of compassion alive within him, never losing sight of what is essential in his fight to claim his life once more. Kilmer is a force that will knock you flat in this role, an old bull with dimming fury in his eyes, a man with a bloody history that has forged the weary dog we see in the film. Late in the film he has an extended monologue to Wade, giving him both blessing and advice with some of the most truthful and affecting gravity Kilmer has showed in his career. The writer/director, who appears to be primarily a stuntman, should be commended for such a script, that could have easily been a straight up prison flick without the pathos that drips off its heartstrings. We as an audience view this painfully and prey nothing like this ever happens to us or anyone we know, hoping to see a light of hope at the end of the dark tunnel for Wade. I won’t spoil it, but it’s worth the hit that your emotions will take while watching, and there is hard earned catharsis to be had, and penance for the characters you want to shoot in the face along the way. The extends to brilliant work from Chris Browning, Anne Archer, Nate Parker, Johnny Lewis and a fantastic Sam Shepherd as another seasoned convict. This was correct to video as I recall, which is a crime. It’s up there as my favourite prison set film that I’ve ever seen, a soul bearing piece.