The Fourth Protocol – Weapons of Mass Destruction week

This is Weapons of Mass Destruction week. The Fourth Protocol is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Fourth Protocol

PASS: The Fourth Protocol (1987) – Rated R.

“In an effort to shatter NATO alliances, Russian spy Valeri Petrofsky (Pierce Brosnan) plots to explode a nuclear bomb in Britain and blame the act on America. It is up to British agent John Preston (Michael Caine) to foil the plan, despite the skepticism of his superiors. Based on the book by best-selling author Frederick Forsyth, this well-crafted espionage thriller also stars Joanna Cassidy as a second Russian agent.”

“He is armed with a bomb.” – “How big a bomb?” – “Atomic bomb.”

Director John MacKenzie does a capable job here. Unfortunately that is the best that can be said. This is a typical by-the-numbers Cold War spy thriller. There is no particular flair or artistry involved.

Author Frederick Forsyth helped write the screenplay from his novel. The script is very literate but there is very little life or passion in it. It is strange that with so much attention to detail, the antagonists assemble the atomic bomb with their bare hands, including handling the radioactive material.

Gasp! John Preston (Michael Caine) is a rogue agent who does not play by the rules! In one scene he notably stares at a countdown timer as it reaches 007. He is a little past his prime here but always enjoyable.

Pierce Brosnan (post-Remington Steele, pre-James Bond) is our primary antagonist. He drives a  motorcycle with the tag C700 OBL (yet another 007 reference). Joanna Cassidy is his cover “wife”.

Ian Richardson is the only standout in a good cast. He is simply superb in his brief screen-time as Sir Nigel Irvine. While I have not reviewed them yet, his starring role in The House of Cards trilogy is extremely highly recommended.

The rest of the cast is quite good as well though they seem somewhat wasted. Julian Glover is the priggish boss, Brian Harcourt-Smith, who refuses to believe any evidence simply because he hates John Preston. Michael Gough plays outgoing boss, Sir Bernard Hemmings (so we have both of the recent Alfreds, faithful butler to Batman). Ned Beatty plays Borisov.

None of the action is exciting. A car does a 180 degree screech to a halt so Preston can grab a train. A van hits two other cars to pull out of a traffic jam. Ho hum.

There is nothing wrong with this thriller (well other than that it is not very thrilling) but there is nothing special about it either. In spite of the good cast, I cannot really recommend this.

People Watch: Matt (Max Headroom) Frewer has a small part here as Tom McWhirter. He puts quite the twang into his voice. Frederick Forsyth cameos as a radio newsreader.

Exorcist II – Children’s Week

In celebration of the birth of our littlest angel, I thought I’d feature movies about angelic tykes. What’s that you say? There aren’t any? Hrrrrm. I guess we’ll feature the opposite then.

The Exorcist 2

PASS: Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) – Rated R

“Intent on discovering why Regan (Linda Blair) was possessed by the demon Pazuzu, Father Lamont (Richard Burton) travels to Africa in search of another who was once possessed by the same demon — and learns that Pazuzu traverses the world via locusts. But when Father Lamont returns to New York, he discovers Pazuzu has reached Regan again through Dr. Gene Tuskin’s (Louise Fletcher) hypnosis machine.”

“No! Once the wings have brushed you, you’re mine forever!”

“If Pazuzu comes for you, I will spit a leopard.”

Yes, those are actual quotes from the movie. No, they don’t make much more sense in context. Unlike The Exorcist, the script is not written by William Peter Blatty nor is this an adaptation of his book.

This film was not the travesty I’d been led to believe but neither is it very good. The first film was an excellent blend of psychology and religion. Apparently they felt that the only way to top that was to throw in parapsychology and faith healing as well. It is not a good fit.

Richard Burton plays Father Lamont, an amalgam of Father Karras (priest questioning his path and faith) and Father Merrin (learned exorcist) from the first film. Linda Blair plays a mostly grown-up Regan who now apparently has healing powers. Ellen Burstyn as the mom is nowhere to be found and is replaced by Louise Fletcher who gets an upgrade from her Nurse Ratched status by playing Doctor Tuskin here.

The real problem with this film is that John Boorman (normally a good director) clearly didn’t understand what made the first film work so well. He throws in scenes from an exotic land seemingly because of the dig scenes in the original. The locust tie-in could have been interesting but it is merely dumped into the pot with faith/psychic healing and machines that allow merged dream/memory states.

It is best to pretend that this movie doesn’t exist. Exorcist III written and directed by author William Peter Blatty is a good thriller (though not on the original’s level of course) and should be considered the real Exorcist sequel. Sadly it is not available on instant Netflix.

People Watch: James Earl Jones plays Kokumo and Ned Beatty appears as Edwards but the real surprise here is Paul (Casablanca) Henreid is the Cardinal. Sadly this was his last film.