Looking For Positives In a Quartet of Duds
Generally I hate getting overly critical of films for a number of reasons. One of which is we only see what’s actually on the screen which can become an easy target for a scathing attack. Little do we know sometimes of the care and efforts taken to bring someone’s dream project to life. On the other hand, that doesn’t stop me from poking fun at some films which I’ve done numerous times here and in general conversation with friends and acquaintances who once they discover I love film and am a student of movie history, love to chat about their favorite flicks. (I try my best not to put their favorites down)
So here are ….. films I stuck with to the end though I had to sometimes pinch myself to stay awake or wonder just why the hell am I putting myself through the agony of hanging in till the final scene ends let alone why some of my favorite film stars even bothered to make an appearance. Oh yeah, the paycheck.
I suppose if one was of the right age circa 1982 and couldn’t wait to see Nastassia Kinski starring in Cat People, then this flick which hit theaters the following year might have been on your radar. Kinski was a popular topic with the youngsters I hung out with at the time. Here I am years later watching this and really for two reasons which have nothing to do with Miss Kinski. I noticed that Ian McShane and Harvey Keitel were in it so I thought I’d check it out.
Kinski stars as a Wisconsin!!! farm girl who gives up her Paris schooling and breaks off her relationship with her own version of The Nutty Professor. Back home briefly and off to New York where it seems she can never stop bumping into people on the streets who want to take advantage of her. Exposed sure isn’t painting a good picture of the Big Apple I must say having yet to experience the city first hand. Waitressing leads to being “discovered” and plastered all over photo magazines by camera man McShane. Into her world comes a truly bizarre character played by Rudolf Nureyev. One look at this creepy individual would send any woman I know in the opposite direction. Not Miss Kinski. She succumbs to the mysterious man who plays a violin and uses that bow to play her as well in a not so steamy sexual interlude.
Oh yes, Harvey Keitel. He turns up as a terrorist who somehow has a connection to Nureyev and Kinski finds herself hanging out with some radical characters in Paris who intend to bomb anything in site. Idiotic with way too much dialogue that had me wishing I had dozed off, it’s time to look for some positives.
The best thing of all is practically every character gets killed at the fadeout when the color fades to black and white, pretty much guaranteeing there would be no Exposed 2: What You Didn’t See The First Time. Secondly apart from Keitel and McShane being totally watchable in this James Toback film is the appearance of a character player I’ve always enjoyed, James Russo.
The Golden Child (1986)
Looking back, I believe this could be considered the first misfire in what would become a very long list for funny man Eddie Murphy. I hadn’t seen this one since it’s debut on VHS tape after it’s theatrical run and recalled very little about it other than Eddie mixed up in mystical arts and the fact that it tanked at the box office amidst terrible reviews from the critics of the day. Can’t say I disagree with them after all these years.
Eddie portrays an unlikely chosen one who must save a Golden Child from Tibet. The boy has been taken captive by a wizard of sorts played by Charles Dance. Dance and his army of goons know Murphy will be coming to save the boy after he’s been recruited by leading lady Charlotte Lewis. Eddie takes the whole thing as a farce and for the majority of the film looks bored. Even when trying to bed Miss Lewis. Can you believe that Lewis starred in both this and Pirates in the same year. Had she been a bigger star at the time, she’d have been crucified by those who count the box office dollars and would probably have been labeled the biggest box office poison since Hepburn in the 30’s.
Choppy editing and third rate F/X do little to raise this film to much more than passable and that’s being kind. With the cheesy F/X down the stretch, I couldn’t help but think this Michael Ritchie film would have played far better as a B flick released straight to video starring Bruce Campbell. That might have worked. I grew up in the Murphy era and though this was a misstep, his early years of 48 Hrs., Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop are far and away his best. To bad it’s been pretty much downhill ever since.
Positives? Sure I laughed in spite of myself at some of Eddie’s antics and the fact that both James Hong and Victor Wong make appearances has to be considered a plus. It’s as if they’d just come over from the set of cult favorite Big Trouble In Little China.
The Presidio (1988)
Positives? Easy. Revisiting this Peter Hyams flick reminded me of just how much I like the screen presence of two people. Sean Connery and Jack Warden. And I miss them both. On top of that it pains me to put them in this list but hey, they had long carers and not every effort proved to be a high point.
If memory serves, this one got trashed upon it’s release and while that may be a bit harsh, it’s got a lot to do with the romantic angle between Mark Harmon and Meg Ryan. When a member of the military police is murdered on a base overseen by the stern Connery, the killer(s) flee through the gates and into the city streets killing two more on duty police officers. This puts the whole case in the jurisdiction of Dirty Harry wannabe, Mark Harmon. Harmon is a military drop out and thanks to some keen scriptwriting, was a member of Connery’s force before the fall from grace.
It’s heart palpitations at first site when Harmon discovers Connery has a daughter played by Ryan who it turns out wants to play. How about racing cars around the city as a means of flirting with her newfound boytoy and doing the wild thing on the hood of a car in the dead of night on a public street. They just met! Way too laughable and the duo offer up zero heat in the chemistry classroom.
While the whole plot is kind of hogwash, this romantic tryst is the real killer here. Best scenes in the film belong to the old pros, Sean and Jack. Warden gets the best line in the film while playing tough with some shady businessman’s bodyguard. “You open your mouth one more time, and I’ll shove your head so far up your ass, you’ll be talking out of your armpit” Being the star of the highest calibre, Connery too gets to play tough with a behemoth twice the size of him in a bar to give the impression that he can still “Bond it up” when pushed to the limit.
I hadn’t seen this one since its original release and the one thing it hammered home was my missing new films starring Sean Connery. Modern cinema could use another just like him. For a much better film check out Connerys earlier film with director Hyams, Outland.
Cover Up (1990)
Sure this was a straight to video film back in the day of the weekend rental but as this was my first time viewing, it seemed to fit right in with this topic and of the four featured, I guess it’s the one that you might expect to make the low grade. It’s an action film with an action film star. Dolph Lundgren. The problem with this dud is there’s not really any action and when there is, it’s terribly choreographed. Considering this is a tale of terrorism and the military stationed in Israel, would it not make sense to have Lundgren playing some sort of military figure kicking ass and saving the day?
No, not this time out. It would appear that Dolph was attempting to stretch his acting chops as a writer/journalist on assignment when a military base has been broken into and the theft of a chemical weapon has left a handful of soldiers dead as a result of the infiltration. Into the story comes a C.I.A. bigshot played by Lou Gossett Jr. who of course has a history with Dolph. Both in the film and the fact that they appeared in 1989’s The Punisher together. Thankfully the scriptwriters have let us know that Dolph was at one time in the military so we can read that as he knows how to kick some serious ass. Once again, why not let him do just that!
Included is a romantic interest for Dolph in the form of Lisa Berkley who no sooner loses her betrothed in a car bombing and she’s back in the arms of her old flame Dolph which results in one of those love scenes that isn’t quite The Specialist bad, but it’s a contender. Boredom sets in over the final few reels which just shouldn’t be happening with Dolph on board. That’s not to say I expect a classic but I do expect a certain amount of action.
Enough! Looking for a positive, I guess we have Lou Jr. acting tough and barking orders as if recalling his Oscar winning role but the real highlight comes near the finale when a surprise ending results in a nicely staged stunt put together by Vic Armstrong, author of the self penned autobiography The World’s Greatest Stuntman. A book I highly recommend.
Remember that not every film can be a classic or even remotely entertaining but at the same time there might be something in there that leads you to pause or smile acknowledging a fleeting second or two of film stock that hit the mark.