You'll never believe who wrote this thriller about an efficient but
soulful CIA assassin ... Robert James Waller, king of chick-lit, the
guy who wrote The Bridges of Madison County. Unlikely though it seems,
I can see many parallels between the two stories, especially in the
character of the CIA shooter, Clayton Price, the classic lone wolf
with a hidden romantic streak, who is really not so far at all from
the photographer Robert Kincaid in Madison County. Apart from the fact
that one shoots with a camera and the other with a gun, both are
tough, laconic, world travelers. Neither seems like the type to settle
down. Both have managed to reach half-price-movie age without
taking on a partner, falling in love, or even establishing a home, and
yet they are not hard-hearted men, and there may still be hope for
them if they meet the right woman.
"So is this
film a love story?"
Well, yes and no.
Maybe it is two love stories, both involving the same woman, but one
works better for her than the other. The romance angle never really
dominates, however, but works inside the thriller. It might better be
described as a thriller which really tries to dig into the unique
possibilities within every person. The film tries to turn the gender
conventions upside down. There are two assassins in this film, both of
them said to be cold-hearted and efficient, and yet they both turn out
to be true romantics.
I found it an interesting and worthwhile
watch, especially impressive for a straight-to-vid, but I wasn't as
impressed as Tuna was. I thought Scott Glenn did a good job in the
lead, and I feel that the film has an extremely promising script outline, but that the premise was dragged down by the specifics
and the execution. Some examples:
- I have not read this book, but the
summaries indicate that the book makes it clear why the writer
agreed to drive the assassin to the border, although he was aware
that the man was a killer. On the one hand it was the money, but it
was first and foremost a decision driven by the despair of having
nothing to write about and the sudden elation of being handed a
great yarn by providence. When one looks at it that way, he just
about had to do it, because his writers' block was the driving force
in his life. The movie seems to leave this very unclear, and
therefore makes it hard to understand why the author would allow his
girlfriend to come along on the trip without pulling her aside and
telling her what she was getting into. In fact, I have read
some reviews which did not understand the point at all. One reviewer
wrote, "Pastor and Luz, in desperate need of money, agree,
not knowing that the Price is a former Vietnam veteran and
CIA-trained assassin responsible for the murders." In reality, Pastor
saw Price commit the murders, and knew he was the killer. That's one
of the reasons why he agreed to be his chauffeur - something to
write about. The
intelligibility of that point was lost in the editing room. (The
confusion was not really the fault of the reviewer, but of the
script and/or editing.)
- At one point the three travelers spend a
night in a "tiny village" in the Mexican interior - but they check
out of a hotel that looks very much like the Mexican-style
Doubletree here in Austin, and is nicer than any hotel in nearby
Temple, Texas, where I used to live. In another lost Mexican
village, far from the main road, they stay in a hotel with a clean
swimming pool. One of those hotels appeared to have a four star
dining room. A tiny club in one of those tiny villages had Vicki
Carr performing as a lounge act in the bar, and speaking perfect
English! Hell, according to this story, the impoverished Mexican
interior has tiny villages with far better accommodations and
entertainment than good-sized towns in Central Texas. We should be
moving there, instead of the other way around.
- The three fugitives made no effort to hide
their identities when checking into hotels, despite the fact that
every armed man in Mexico was looking for them.
- The CIA sent a 25 year old rookie to kill
their top assassin, "the best and the brightest"? What made them
think he would succeed?
- Craig Wasson seemed to be completely
inappropriate as the author with writer's block. The man is 50 years
old now, and he's still acting like the same naive hippie wimp
characters he was playing 25 years ago. The story would have worked
better, in my opinion, if this role had been cast with someone who
could have made the character more sympathetic. This guy was such a
dweeb and a loser that I was rooting for his girlfriend to leave
from the first minute of the film.
- I sorta liked Giovanna Zacarias, and her
authentic accent, but she could be very hard to understand - and it
wasn't just me. I watched the film with the English captions for the
hard of hearing, and even the guy who wrote the sub-titles often
misheard what she said. (I was able to figure out the correct words
from the context.)
A sad note: former child star
the guy who played the young assassin,
killed himself shortly after this film was lensed. He was 27.
Critics Vote ...
|The meaning of the IMDb
score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of
excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars
from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm
watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars
from the critics. The fives are generally not
worthwhile unless they are really your kind of
material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics,
or a C- from our system.
Films rated below five are generally awful even if you
like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one
and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less,
depending on just how far below five the rating
A means the movie is so good it
will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
B means the movie is not
good enough to win you over if you hate the
genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an
open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better
is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at
least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial
success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with
good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the
critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also
assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the
box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of
the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people
had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but
will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of
movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are
indistinguishable to you.
means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who
like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others
probably will not.
C- indicates that it we found it to
be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film
rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of
film, but films with this rating should be approached with
caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent
or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C-
and an E are indistinguishable to you.
D means you'll hate it even if you
like the genre.
We don't score films below C- that
often, because we like movies and we think that most of them
have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that,
you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.
Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor
means that you'll hate it even if
you love the genre.
means that the film is not only unappealing
across-the-board, but technically inept as well.
Based on this description, Tuna
says, "This is a high
C+." Scoop says, "Depends on how
you categorize it. As a thriller, I'd call it a
C-: a decent watch as a time-killer, but with many
silly aspects, and forgettable. If the category is "straight to
vids," I'd buy into Tuna's C+. In
this category it's
one of the ten best I've seen, and was photographed beautifully
with a substantial ten
million dollar budget."