Tag Archives: Blade Runner

The Osterman Weekend (1983)

The problem isn’t that The Osterman Weekend is a bad movie. It certainly is, mind you, but that’s not the main problem. The books of Robert Ludlum are that strange breed of airport literature that often seems perfect for film adaptation but rarely manages to translate well, and by that criteria Osterman isn’t even that bad – this first adaptation was followed by the godawful Michael Caine-starrer  The Holcroft Covenant in 1985, an equally shitty made-for-TV version of The Apocalypse Watch in 1997, and then nothing until the Bourne movies finally showed up and allowed the Ludlum Estate to wipe its collective brow. The Ludlum Lens (heckuva title for his biography!) isn’t what we’ll be viewing this film through, but if it were this might actually turn out to be a favorable review.

Instead: The Peckinpah Perspective. The problem with The Osterman Weekend is that Sam Peckinpah directed it – the issue there being that the final film barely resembles what one would come to know as a Peckinpah film. At one point in time, that phrase was gold – it’s a Peckinpah film. It meant violence in a somewhat hyperbolic sense, but it also meant well-drawn characters with muddled motives, it meant ugly people doing ugly things under a microscopic lens. A Peckinpah film, at best, meant an insanely detailed story, and most importantly it meant a story unlike any you’ve seen before. There’s a reason people shake their heads and grind their teeth and comment cynically on message boards across the internet about how nothing in Hollywood is original anymore, about how Michael Bay makes the same movie over and over. It’s because they just watched a Peckinpah film, and because they’re hard up to think of any other film to compare it to.

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Young Ones (2014)

These days future-set postapocalyptic fables are so common that anything such a movie can do to make the idea fresh and original is more than welcome. Cormac McCarthy’s popular The Road and John Hillcoat’s ensuing adaptation with Viggo Mortensen helped to cement the profitability of the genre after a distinct lag since the Mad Max/Blade Runner heyday, and now dystopias seem to be coming through the woodwork. The fact that both Mad Max and Blade Runner will be getting new treatments soon should attest to that desire to recapture the glory days of the genre.

One of the latest entries is Jake Paltrow’s Young Ones, set in a world where water has finally become a scarce and precious commodity. The film is divided into sections focusing on different characters, starting with Michael Shannon’s Ernest Holm, continuing with Nicholas Hoult’s rogueish Flem, and ending with Kodi Smit-McPhee’s son-of-Ernest Jerome Holm. They’re all changed irrevocably by the drought, guarding what little they have with violence and ruthlessness, and most shades of innocence are gone by the time Young Ones takes place. As in most dystopias, it’s the state of things that causes this darker and more animalistic aspect of humanity to come to the surface.

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Witness (1985)

Peter Weir’s first American film was the Harrison Ford vehicle Witness, released to commercial and critical acclaim in 1985. The Australian director was originally set to make his stateside debut with The Mosquito Coast, but a last-minute loss of financing would leave time for Weir to make a very different kind of picture first.

As a “Harrison Ford movie” — a label which immediately evokes Raiders and Blade Runner — Witness probably falls flat. John Book ain’t an adventurer, an action hero, or a possible cyborg (or is he?) and Witness ain’t a popcorn blockbuster. You can imagine the studio executives wincing as they reluctantly finance something that, frankly, looks excruciatingly boring as an abstract. Man goes to Amish country. Protects small boy. Woohoo.

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Nighthawks (1981)

Oh man! If you’re looking for a New York cop movie that absolutely screams “1980s”, you’ve found it in Nighthawks. The hair! The outfits! The slap bass-laden soundtrack! The lack of anything resembling actual police protocol! The Billy Dee Williams! The hair!

Sylvester Stallone stars as macho cop DaSilva, who spends his nights catching the bad guys “his own way”. He’s smart, say his superiors, but he’s got an authority problem. Shocking, says anyone watching the movie. Absolutely shocking. When famed and feared foreign terrorist Wulfgar makes landfall in the United States with a mind to kill UN delegates in NYC, it’s DaSilva (of course) who somehow gets put on the case.

Frankly, Rutger Hauer as Wulfgar is the only thing that saves Nighthawks from being 100% trash, and in fact his portions of the film are really pretty great. He’s having an absolute blast with the role, a perfectly evil-looking actor in a perfectly evil character, and his scenes seem totally at odds with the stupid “detective work” scenes (note that quoted term is used lightly). When Hauer’s Wulfgar takes hostages on the Roosevelt Island Tramway and parades around the car amidst the startled passengers, telling them in a menacing tone to “Back up against the window!” as he brandishes his gun, he’s sure to add to one man in particular, “I like your hat!”

Considering Blade Runner came a year later and The Hitcher followed in 1986, Rutger Hauer was basically the best villain of the 1980s. The way he slithers through a locked door in the final scene of Nighthawks is nothing short of terrifying.

Frustrating, then, that the police work that ultimately brings him down seems devised by an adolescent. The procedure of catching the terrorist quite literally consists of agreeing to the ludicrous claim that the killer “is known to frequent night clubs” – as if shooting the shit with the mass murderer in between tequila shots were a common occurrence – and then happening upon the one club in the entirety of New York City in which Wulfgar happens to be jamming out.

Meanwhile, there’s also a half-assed romance subplot for your viewing pleasure. An imminent terrorist threat in the heart of NYC is a big deal, but DaSilva’s gotta think about his own needs, too.

Once you accept the horrendous script and learn to kind of gloss over the macho bullshit at the precinct, Nighthawks is certainly enjoyable enough as a mindless action movie. There’s probably a reason Bruce Malmuth only directed a few other projects, though, and the directing here would be forgettable if it wasn’t so glaringly bad. Now scroll back up and bask in that glorious lion’s mane – if anyone on the crew deserved to use Nighthawks as a platform to fame and fortune, it’s the hair stylist.