Tag Archives: gene hackman

Behind Enemy Lines

I’ve always enjoyed Behind Enemy Lines, a hyperactive, simple minded, highly kinetic Owen Wilson/Gene Hackman war survival flick. It’s lowbrow, full of plot holes and questionable in terms of representing both the military and the Serbian/Bosnian war, but it’s also explosive, jacked up fun that packs a visual and auditory wallop. Wilson is an Air Force pilot who goes awol after a crash, and runs afoul of some Serbian radicals running a sickening genocide operation somewhere out there, while Hackman is the fiery Admiral tasked with coaching him back to an elusive drop point, and helping him avoid obstacles along the way. In pursuit is a nasty rogue general (Olek Krupa), who wants to snuff him out as he’s witnessed the man’s squadron murder his copilot (Gabriel Macht), and also just because he’s the classic stock villain and has nothing better to do. His top assassin (Vladimir Mashkov, almost identical to Niko Bellik of Grand Theft Auto 4) is an Eastern European Bear Grylls with homemade grenades and the pain tolerance of a tank, also chasing poor Wilson. It’s fairly implausible, but oh so cinematic and one I often put on just to work out the sound system of my tv. Crazy souped up editing, jagged freeze frame effects and whatnot ensue, it’s cool and kind of like Tony Scott Lite in a way. Hackman could yell out any dialogue and be convincing, owning yet another role, especially in a scene where he has a wicked shouting match with an A-hole of a UN General (Joaquim De Almeida firing on all cylinders and then some). David Keith has a great bit as another Admiral assisting in Wilson’s plight too. It’s suspenseful, doesn’t take itself too seriously and shouldn’t be subject to too much scrutiny, lest you rob yourself of a pleasurable genre viewing experience. Plus the sequence where Wilson hides in a freaky, mud filled mass grave has stuck with me for years. Good stuff, man.

-Nate Hill

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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

Stephen Hopkin’s Under Suspicion 


If Stephen Hopkin’s Under Suspicion were a meal I was served at a restaurant, I would throw it against the wall, flip the table, walk promptly back to the kitchen and knock the chef out cold. It’s a hollow, pointless piece, like digging into a pie that’s put before you only to find that under that layer of crust there’s no filling, only air. The premise is promising: wealthy businessman Gene Hackman who has political ties is grilled out of the blue by longtime friend and police detective Morgan Freeman and his partner Thomas Jane, regarding the murder of a thirteen year ago old girl in the slums of San Juan. Hackman is a successful, assured alpha socialite, and these type of men always have some type of close guarded secret which comes to light. Freeman is a dogged working man who probes him until it almost seems personal rather than routine. Sounds terrific, right? You would think. The acting is of course fine, as these guys couldn’t miss a beat if they tried, but the way the story is set up just rips the viewer off blind. These two thespians soar spectacularly, but their duel is structured around purposefully unreliable flashbacks, beating around the bush and oodles of red herrings that treat the audience like sixth graders watching a low rent magician at a birthday party. Hackman has a pretty trophy wife (Monica Belluci, underused) and a host of personal demons that he projects onto Freeman’s simple blue collar rhetoric like a defence mechanism. None of these narrative fireworks can save it though, especially when an ending rolls around that is the very definition of a letdown, through and through. In an attempt to explore the forces that drive a man to the edge of admitting guilt whether he is responsible or not, the filmmakers miss the boat on providing a focused treatise that takes itself seriously with these potentially fascinating themes, instead settling on an overcooked, ultimately vacant that could have been so much more.  

-Nate Hill