Tagged in: 17 years too late

Thunder Point (1998)

A lost Nazi secret is found – and everyone wants it. Well, duh. Enter Sean Dillon, IRA enforcer turned British 51QLO29a1wL._SY300_ secret agent, as created by veteran thriller writer Jack Higgins.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

This review was written 17 years too late

Jack Higgins has spent best past of a lifetime churning out a thriller a year, and good luck to him for doing so. After a decade of doing this, he hit literary pay dirt with “The Eagle Has Landed” back in the 70s, which was swiftly filmed with Michael Caine. Films of his other books have been sporadic. Mickey Rourke hammed it up as a guilt-ridden IRA gunman in the “A Prayer for the Dying” (1987), while in 1972 his “The Wrath of God” saw Robert Mitchum and Rita Hayworth up to revolutionary mischief in 1920s South America. More adaptations have been made as TV movies, and it is this dread category that “Thunder Point” falls into.

Made-for-TV usually means a pilot or a mini-series (remember them?). “Thunder Point” is a bit different in that it is not particularly TV friendly, with its mild violence, a spattering of bad language and sufficient T&A to keep the pervs happy. It features Kyle MacLachlan as Higgin’s literary hero of the past 20 odd years, Sean Dillon. Reformed terrorist, he now somewhat unlikely helps a discreet branch of the British government sort out unpleasant messes.

The mess in this case is the discovery of Hitler’s plans for a Fourth Reich, despatched from the Führerbunker just before his suicide then lost on a submarine. When an explorer finds them decades later, he entrusts them to his daughter, but the bad guys come after her. Enter Sean Dillon.

It’s pretty poor stuff, made on the cheap by moving the book’s Caribbean location to low-overhead Canada. MacLachlan does not attempt an Irish accent, which is a relief, while the rest of the cast are unremarkable except for dear old Kenneth Welsh (MacLachlan’s “Twin Peaks” alumni) doing his usual evil boss thing.

MacLachlan had played Dillon once before in 1996’s “Windsor Protocol” and shared the role with Rob Lowe who was Dillon twice as well, in “On Dangerous Ground” (also 1996), and “Midnight Man” a year later. I don’t know if any of these are connected and I couldn’t give a toss either after sitting through this turgid mess.

Watch the trailer, just for the line, “I’m not here about your toilet.”

Waterworld (1995)

Cover of "Waterworld (Ws)"

Costner looks like this throughout the film. No smiles.

Famous flop full of downright stupidity but also had a certain amount promise until it all went soggy…

Rating: ★★½☆☆

This review was written 17 years too late

Way over budget, a fired director, Mother Nature chipping in with ravaging storms, “Waterworld” is one of those films where everything went wrong to compound a dreadful script that should probably have never been written let alone greenlit.

Like many films with a troubled production history, there are flashes of a good film in there somewhere. A futuristic tale where Kevin Costner‘s lone sailor and man-mutant – he has webbed feet, gills and can survive under water – The Mariner coasts around a completely flooded Earth in a gadget-equipped catamaran. When he reluctantly gets involved with a woman whose daughter has a map to dry land tattooed on her back, his life-on-the-ocean-waves solitude is sunk by cackling, nasty baddies intent on skinning the girl.

Ah, the baddies. Called Smokers and led by a hilariously OTT Dennis Hopper, there are times during his performance where you think Waterworld is a really bad comedy. Hopper plays The Deacon, leader of hundreds of brigands who reside on the rusting hull of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez. They zip about on jet skis, old planes, speedboats and anything else they can power with the remains of the oil, and generally behave like extras in a Monty Python film.

As Costner’s Mariner tries his best to protect little tattooed Enola from the big bad Deacon, we get to see the good side of Waterworld – some stylishly directed scenes of sailing ships racing at speed, sails bulging, wake crisping. Like sailing itself, you find yourself caught up in this empty, blue world where there is just wind and sea and nothing to distract you.

Sadly, you get interrupted by Hopper and co. zooming in on jet skis, snarling and giggling as they hunt the girl down, snapping you out of any peaceful reverie you might have found yourself in and plunging you back into the midden of the script.

That’s pretty much all there is in terms of actual plot. So what, exactly, fills the two hours+ run time (and let’s not even visit the nearly three-hour director’s cut)? Holes, that’s what. Enormous, gaping plot holes. It’s never explained why Costner’s mutant Mariner chooses to sail everywhere on a boat when he can, easily, survive under the sea. What else? It’s ignored that the Smokers (who do smoke a lot) seem to happily laugh about stray ash and butts falling into the ship’s oil reservoir, yet when the Mariner makes the same threat, they panic like nervous girls. Or why The Deacon requires a mic and loudspeaker to speak to his deck-bound crew from high up on the bridge of the ship, yet the Mariner way below can easily have a two-way conversation with him without a voice being raised.

Director Kevin Reynolds, who got booted off the set (the same sets destroyed by an impromptu hurricane), handles the action and sailing sequences really well, and these give the film its best moments. It’s just a shame he never managed to rein in Hopper (well, many have tried, let’s be honest), stop the film from going USD 75m over budget, or deep-six the turgid script his old pal Costner gave him.

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