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Philippe de Broca
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In our digital, high-tech world today, just about any chimp with a relatively inexpensive camera has the ability to go out and ape a tale in the vein of directing idols like Tarantino, Scorsese or, hell, Chris Columbus. And thank God most of these efforts are never seen by the majority of a viewing public. But 3 decades ago, one actually had to get a bit of funding to nab a star like James Mason or Jean Seberg. Quite a lot of moolah was needed up front to gather a competent crew and pay for exotic locales. So somebody please tell me what possessed "Superman"-producer Alexander Salkind to fund one dime on this absolutely incompetent, horridly amateurish production?
Since the story centers around the drug trade, one can only assume a lot of this substance crept up at the craft service table. How else can you explain the incoherent directing and Grade Z acting of this international production? In a nutshell, James Mason is a head hitman honcho for a global drug crime fighting unit, headed by the lumbering piece of granite known as actor Curd Jurgens. Mason methodically has shot down some of the world's leading drug kingpins for the safety of us all. Jean Seberg, acting like Ann Heche on a bad day outside Fresno, plays his bored wife who darts off to Pakistan and falls into the arms of the lumbering piece of petrified wood known as actor Stephen Boyd. Boyd is a renegade hitman, having severed his ties with the do-gooder crime unit, and is on a mission to route out a double agent within the organization. Based on this simple description alone, if you haven't figured out who the double agent is going to be, perhaps this movie's 110 minutes will keep you in suspense.
Director Romain Gary's pathetic work on this film renders it not only a bad movie, but unfortunately, one that does not improve with "Mystery Science Theater"-like derisive commentary as you sit and watch it. (I don't know, maybe MST has already tackled a version of this flick). The editing is so needlessly choppy, perhaps Salkind only gave Gary unexposed trims of five seconds to film this lackluster narrative. Supposedly shot in Spain, Tunisia, and Afghanistan, we never really know where the hell we are, because an establishing shot is rare, and relativity of any locale to the plot is even rarer. It just looks like the same dusty trail road being used over and over, and a backroom at a Spanish studio being redressed to look like a hotel suite, a safehouse, etc.
The acting is downright sad. When Stephen Boyd first encounters Seberg, he interrogates her by simply spinning her around and around under some low-level gel lights, causing her to get...a little dizzy? Gary has the actors scream at each other, directly into the lens, and the glazed, wide-eyed hamming they do at the camera makes you want to jump out of the chair and go slap their agent, or their manager, somebody! Boyd, in particular, appears so depressed to be in this car crash of a film. Unshaven and wearing an all-leather outfit, he morosely behaves like Jim Morrison hanging over the balcony on Sunset Boulevard after dropping some bad peyote. On the flipside, James Mason doesn't say much in his early scenes, and I started to think, "thankfully he had the smarts to know to cut his own lines so he won't come off as horrendously as the others." But, oh, no, Jimmy starts barking the dismal dialogue about 20 minutes in, and one only hopes he had a decent guest house on location in Kabul or wherever the hell he was dragged to, to compensate for how bad he comes off in the film.
I cannot effectively describe the ineptitude and lack of talent displayed in this movie. My jaw literally dropped open in stupefaction several times. The only person that comes away from this compost heap of celluloid somewhat unscathed is ace stunt driver Remy Juliene who does what little he can to enliven the halfway mark with a typical (but needless, plotwise) car chase across the Afghani wasteland. The movie's finale reaches a pinnacle of laughability and dumbstruck awe when several individuals engage in a shootout. The whole thing is staged like Monty Python's hilarious tennis bloodbath sketch lampooning Sam Peckinpah films. And a fantasy sequence showing an ascension to heaven and hell has got to be seen to be believed. Conceived by technical advisor "Frank Fantasia", I simply slipped off the sofa convulsing with laughter, along with a sense of horror realizing people actually sat in a screening room somewhere and said, "Oh yeah, Frank, that sums it up. That's great!"
Even a one star rating would not convey how awful this movie is, so my rating: 0 out of ****.
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