(director: Arthur Penn; screenwriter: story by Leonard Stern/Howard Berk/Dori Petersen; cinematographer: Jean Tournier; editor: Stephen A. Rotter/Richard P. Cirincione; music: Michael Small; cast: Gene Hackman (Walter Lloyd/Duncan Potter), Matt Dillon (Chris Lloyd/Derek Potter), Gayle Hunnicutt (Donna Lloyd), Josef Sommer (Taber), Herbert Berghof (Schroeder), Victoria Fyedorova (Lise), Randy Moore (Tour Director), Ilona Grubel (Carla), Guy Boyd (Clay); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Richard D. Zanuck/David Brown; Warner Bros,/CBS productions; 1985-in English with some German and French)
“Surprisingly misses the target.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A lethargic Arthur Penn (“Bonnie and Clyde”/”Little Big Man”) film, one of his few bummers, that surprisingly misses the target. The screenplay is by Howard Berk and Don Petersen from a story by Leonard Stern.
Walter Lloyd (Gene Hackman) is a prosperous and staid Texas lumber dealer. His son Chris (Matt Dillon) is a college drop-out and an aspiring stock-car racer, who challenges his materialistic dad as being an establishment cop-out. The family matriarch Donna (Gayle Hunnicutt) is going without her too busy hubby on an escorted tourist European vacation completely planned out, who cheerfully tells hubby to break through to the mixed-up kid when alone with him.
Several days after her flight, the tour guide (Randy Moore) informs the family that Donna has disappeared. The alarmed Walter and Chris get on the first plane to Paris.
It turns out that Walter’s a retired Central Intelligence Agency operative, something not known by Chris, and that Donna has been kidnapped by one of his former East European foes. When informed, Walter’s old pals from the CIA come to his aid, as the beautifully filmed spy story ventures into France and Germany with Walter revisiting his action-packed agent old days of car chases and gun fights.
Josef Sommer plays one of Walter’s former C.I.A. cronies, and Herbert Berghof effectively plays a grief-stricken but irate old Communist agent. Victoria Fyodorova is a beautiful Russian actress, making her American film debut as an espionage agent Walter once had an affair with.
Hunnicutt vanishes from the film completely when she goes missing, and the film suffers without her presence.
The thriller turns out to be an uneven film, but Hackman is good as always and the conventional espionage drama shows a few signs of trying to be more ambitious than the run-of-the-mill mainstream one. But for the talented and respected director, this goes down as one of his few failures.
REVIEWED ON 4/30/2023 GRADE: C+