Tuesday, June 18, 2019

In short: McBain (1991)

I don’t believe James Glickenhaus actually knew about irony, not to speak of anything with the post prefix, so he presents this patently goofy transferral of his typical New York vigilante shtick into a Colombia just waiting to be freed from tyranny by some Vietnam vets under the leadership of Christopher Walken(!) as the titular McBain – also including Michael Ironside as their arms dealer frenemie who really needs to feel alive by shooting a lot of people again as well as Steve James for all your action movie needs - and the worst rebel army ever as sort of spearheaded by a Maria Chonchita Alonso who commits to her role with total earnestness. Every cheesy bit of revolutionary kitsch his script comes up with, every dubious speech about the very real horrors of dictatorship and the domination of one Simon Escobar (cough) is done with total conviction, as if the stuff these people spouted had any actual emotional impact.

For a Glickenhaus film, the whole affair is surprisingly awkwardly paced, partly because the film does want to tell an epic tale of Vietnam flashbacks, the death of a friend and the following revolution but only has 107 minutes time for it all instead of the three hours it would probably need to get serious. More curious, even a couple of the action sequences fall flat, perhaps because so little of the film takes place in the grimy New York of the director’s best films. Instead, most of it was shot in the Philippines which do of course stand in for Colombia as well as take on their more typical role as Vietnam for a low budget production.

However, even though the whole thing doesn’t hang together too well, at least Walken, Ironside, James, Alonso and the merry rest of the cast are usually fun to watch, the film’s freewheeling moments of craziness can be pretty great, and from time to time, Glickenhaus comes up with the sort of thing I have by now learned to love him for. Take the scene where our heroes are in dire need of money to buy guns from Ironside, and shoot through a bunch of drug dealers, only to be taught the class politics of the drug war by the lone survivor (Luis Guzmán!), after which they rather steal from a banker (while pretending to be Mossad agents, because why not, right?). That’s not the sort of thing you’ll encounter in many vigilante and mercenary movies, and it is this kind of curveball that makes slogging through the slow bits perfectly worthwhile.

Do I need mention that Glickenhaus’s politics are certainly rather more complicated than those of the filmmakers of your typical flag-waving US action movie?

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