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Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero

If you’ve never seen Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero, drop whatever plans you have this evening and get on it. This is a curious one to review because no description could adequately impart its exact timbre. A hangout film, a low key culture clash dramedy, but more than anything specific or definable it’s just about a few Americans, a few Scots and one hard drinking Russian chilling out together in a small coastal village somewhere in Scotland.

Director Forsyth doesn’t so much construct a thought out script to screen here as he does take an anthropologist’s eye in telling the tale of an American oil conglomerate who sends their top fixer (Peter Riegart) to a small beach community in Scotland with hopes of buying up much of the coastline for an incoming refinery project. This would of course make the townspeople very rich, yet on the other hand take away their homes that have been in the family for generations and leave the natural environment bleeding. This isn’t so much an ‘us vs. them’ thing or any kind of struggle in any way though. Riegart (who is a fascinating dude and who I can only recall in two other projects, the cop opposite Jim Carrey in The Mask and a tiny cameo in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic) and his aloof assistant (Peter Capaldi) simply blend into the local scenery, chill out and get to know these folk on a naturalistic, believable scale of behaviour. Making friends with the local innkeeper (Dennis Lawson) who doubles as the town accountant and pretty much mayor too, singing songs, talking philosophy to the stars and basically unwinding. The oil company’s CEO (Burt Lancaster) has hilariously little interest in developing a refinery and would much rather sit on the beach with a telescope observing the heavens.

Films this subtly pleasant grow on you and are honestly a balm for the soul, an oasis for perception to vacation in for an hour or so when things can get rough, which for the past year has basically been the story of my life. Forsyth sees these people as not just characters in a script, there to serve story, but just that: people, human beings. Riegart’s oil man is nothing like the brash, cocky big city slicker that some filmmakers would have turned him into. He’s gentle, open to new experiences and ultimately in awe of the way of life he finds in this community. The townsfolk aren’t hostile, protective or scornful of him again like some films would paint them, they’re quaint, wrapped up in their elegiac daily rumination and see him simply as another dude they can have a pint with at the end of the day. I love and admire artists who have what they takes to make a film stocked with actual people instead of cardboard characters, and you don’t see that all the time. A wonderfully eccentric microcosm of two factions of society and not so much how they clash, but more how they cordially find themselves in the same place by circumstance and simply make the most out of it. Great film.

-Nate Hill

Sam Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend 


-Nate Hill-
Sam Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend is so strangely plotted, so illogical and hard to understand, that not even John Hurt providing a play by play from an ever present tv monitor can seem to make sense of it. It’s not that it’s a bad film, parts are very well done and there’s that nostalgic Cold War vibe that 80’s espionage thrillers always have, it’s just that somewhere along the way, whether in the editing room, the shot list or scheduling, someone quite literally lost the plot. It’s enjoyable, well acted and supplies some of that classic Peckinpah grit he’s known for, but it’s just one massive loose thread that no one bothered to pull taut, which is a shame when you look at the talent involved. The film opens with the murder of a beautiful woman, the wife of a CIA spook (Hurt). Now, this inciting incident is what spurs on the rest of the plot, but the how and the why seem to be missing, and the matter of his wife doesn’t come into play again until all is almost said and done, and seems to have not a lot to do with the entire rest of the film. The bulk of it focuses on controversial talk show host John Tanner (Rutger Hauer), a man who lives to rub people the wrong way and put men of power on the spot with provocative, candid questions, all from the safety of his brightly lit studio. He’s forced to get his hands dirty though when Hurt contacts him, informing him that his three friends he’s planned to spend the weekend with (Craig T. Nelson, Dennis Hopper and a sleazy Chris Sarandon) are in fact soviet spies in hiding. Forced to bug his weekend home and play host to Hurt as he watches them all via hidden cameras, tensions arise as they try to smoke the three out and figure out… something. But what? It’s anyone’s guess what three potential traitors have to do with a murdered agent’s wife, and I’m sure the novel by Robert Ludlum on which this is based covers that a little more pointedly, but this film is just all over the place. It drags where it should glide, and skips hurriedly over scenes with potential to be great. Nevertheless, they achieved some level of class at least, with a crackling on-air conclusion that cathartically weeds out some corruption and provides almost a glimmer of an answer to what’s going on. There’s a fight scene between Nelson and Hauer that’s excellently choreographed, the performances are committed and engaging, and I’m always a sucker for cloak and dagger theatrics. But the thing just can’t seem to cohesively pull itself together and present a story that makes sense. It’s not even that it doesn’t make sense in a Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy sense, because I’m sure that if I sat down and watched that film like five times in a row, id get it, it has a plot buried under all of it. This one though, it’s like there’s pieces missing, and the ones that are left are either out of order, or from a different puzzle entirely. Close, but no cigar.