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Executive Action
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Executive Action More at IMDbPro »

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40 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

This holds up very well

Author: zorro6204 from Seattle, WA
15 November 2002

I forgot about this movie until I saw it on tape in a cut-out bin. I don't know why it isn't a well-known film, it's very good. The cast is excellent, and the straight-forward tone is unique. There's no judgement provided by the movie makers on the plotters, who are on one hand presented as earnest men doing what they believed to be in the best interest of the country, and on the other as lunatic facists, discussing eliminating "excess population" as if it were an everyday thing.

The purpose of the movie is to educate, it seems, presenting a lot of facts or what are presented to be facts, about Oswald as a patsy. I've read enough to know that not all of what is presented as factual is true (the phone system being cut out in D.C. is a well-known canard, repeated in "JFK"), but the movie uses this approach to lay out a very logical scenario regarding how it could have been done. The political background, and the details of the lapses of the Secret Service are used to good effect.

Finally, there is the presence of JFK himself as a counterpoint throughout the movie. Films of some of his best lines combined with the haunting musical score lend an air of melancholy appropriate to the subject matter, a feeling that is shared by the plotters. There is a quote from Shakespeare given by Robert Ryan that sums it up; ". . . and nothing can we call our own but death . . . let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings." It's one fine moment of many in a well-crafted film.

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38 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

To the point; ahead of its time; overlooked

9/10
Author: streetbb from Emporia, KS
11 July 2001

With a running time of less than half of that of Oliver Stone's also excellent "JFK," this movie is more to the point. It doesn't bombard you as much with facts/theories as "JFK," leaving some to the imagination of the viewer. It was released in the fall of 1973, while the 10th anniversary of the assasination approached, and the Watergate scandal was in full swing. I was 13 when it came out, and the idea that there even could have been a conspiracy was frightening. Almost thirty years later, it still is, although with all the subsequent revelations and scandals in D. C., it does not suprise me anymore.

The movie moves along rapidly, and the acting by the late trio of Landcaster Ryan, and Will Geer (grandpa Walton as a bad guy, I love it!)is excellent. This was Robert Ryan's last film. It was an excellent final cinema performance by one of Hollywood's most under-rated actors. One can tell were Oliver Stone got his inspiration to cutting back and forth between black-and-white and color sequences. In that respect, Executive Action was ahead of its time. For almost twenty years, it was THE movie on the assassination. It is still an excellent companion piece to "JFK," and for those less interested in the subject this movie might actually be preferable, and it's theories are not dissimilar to Stone's. Unfortunately, the movie did not get it's due at the time of the release. At only ten years removed from the assasination, it was was still too painful a subject for many at the time. Finally, how Leonard Maltin finds this move "excruciatingly dull" is beyond me.

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34 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

did it really happen this way?

Author: dtucker86 from Germany
5 July 2002

This movie was made almost twenty years before Oliver Stone's JFK so of course people are going to say that it is trite, inferior and dated. I really enjoyed it though because it is a good thriller. Was the Kennedy assassination planned by a group of disgruntled rich guys who didn't want him to obtain cival rights and pull out of Vietnam? Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan are both superb as the big bosses. They honestly believe they are doing the country a favor by killing Kennedy. They believe they are being true patriots. Its really suspenseful watching the plot unfold and come together. The liberal use of newsreel footage adds to the realism and the scenes leading up to the assassination are particularly good and suspenseful. You can feel your pulse raising as the president rides to his doom. Sadly, Ryan died shortly after this film came out. Also, its fun seeing Will Geer, the lovable Grandfather Walton, in a slightly sinister role.

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33 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

A moment in history

8/10
Author: sol from Brooklyn NY USA
15 November 2003

Interesting and effective film about the JFK assassination released ten years after the tragic event and seventeen years before the far more popular movie "JFK". With hardly any of the controversy of the Oliver Stone & Kevin Costner version.

A number of big oil-men get together in June 1963 to plan to assassinate JFK because his policies, domestic as well as foreign, are a threat to their money and power. The oil men start to put into effect the plan that eventually led to the tragic events of November 22, 1963. Good acting and directing makes this movie grab your attention and see it through it's tragic ending. Even though everyone watching the movie knows what the ending is which is anticlimactic.

What really makes the movie is the build-up and plans that lead to the events that happened in Dallas on that fateful November day. One of the most chilling scenes in the movie is when Farrington, Burt Lancaster, meets up in a diner with Operations Chief played by actor Ed Lauter. Farrington explains to him what he'll get for the "hit" in money and expenses without telling him who is to be "hit". Lauter realizes who it is without Farrington even telling him just by the money and effort involved and tells him surprisingly as well as shockingly "You've just told me who's going to get to hit!": Which is the President of the United State John Fitzgerald Kennedy without even once mentioning him!

Also very effective, besides the scene when the actual assassination takes place, is how the killers planned the "hit" and how they came to the conclusion, after hours and hours of practice shooting on a moving and difficult target, that one shooter doing it would be impossible. The killers instead opted to use at least three riflemen in different places. Unlike the version what we got from the official report by the by now totally discredited, by almost 90% of the American public, Warren Commission of a one man one gun assassin. "Executive Action" was also Robert Ryans last major role.

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27 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

Overlooked, but a solid companion piece to JFK

7/10
Author: virek213 from San Gabriel, Ca., USA
20 February 2002

Released in November 1973, near the tenth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, EXECUTIVE ACTION is often overlooked as a film because of Oliver Stone's extraordinarily controversial 1991 film JFK. It obviously doesn't have the high-budget gloss or the montage that Stone's film does, but what it does have is a hard-hitting inside look into the individuals who might have had a direct hand in plotting this hideous crime.

Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan (in one of his final movies), and Will Geer are the conspirators, right-wing businessmen with an axe to grind. As in Stone's film, the motivations for the assassination are disgust with the way Kennedy handled Fidel Castro and the possibility that he would have stopped our involvement in Vietnam before it ever got to the ground troop stage. Based on Mark Lane's book "Rush To Judgement", scripted by former blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo, and directed by David Miller (LONELY ARE THE BRAVE), EXECUTIVE ACTION is very somber and cold-blooded, but superbly constructed. It is amazing to think that three actors with ultra-liberal political credentials like Lancaster, Ryan, and Geer should be so icily convincing in their portrayals of fascists. The film makes very plausible the banality of evil. And like JFK, it also blows holes in the Warren Commission report big enough to drive a truck through and make apologists like Gerald Posner apoplectic.

Whether seen on its own terms or as a companion piece to the much better known JFK, EXECUTIVE ACTION is worth viewing--and, like Stone's film, asks us to consider the nightmarish chain of events that seem to have resulted directly or indirectly from what happened on that dark day in Dallas in 1963.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A Closer Look at Some of the Background

Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
15 August 2010

What makes the Kennedy assassination so fascinating to me is the conflicting evidence both for and against a lone assassin. This film develops one version of conspiracy theory, and a fairly plausible one if you believe the evidence weighs in a conspiratorial direction.

The version here, i.e. ruthless right-wing oligarchs, has had historically to compete with the also popular organized-crime-did-it theory. However, the two don't have to be mutually exclusive, though combining them may be too unwieldy to be plausible. Nevertheless, this version does appeal to the ruthlessness with which power is known to be wielded in our upper echelons. As some historians point out, the assassination itself marks the end of America's post-war age of innocence.

Judged strictly as a movie, the sinister intrigues come across as darkly entertaining. I can understand that lone-assassin defenders would despise the contents and the assurance with which they're served up. Nonetheless, the movie presents a fascinating narrative of deadly machinations at the highest levels. If the acting seems restrained, that's likely so as not to compete with the storyline, which of course remains uppermost. Taken strictly as entertainment, Leonard Maltin's "Bomb" and "dull" thus come across as judgments based on political opinion instead of movie-making art, and should be an embarrassment to his professional reputation.

Perhaps some background to the movie would be helpful to younger viewers. By 1973, the year of the film's release, critics, such as Mark Lane's 1966 Rush to Judgment, had shredded much of the Warren Commission Report (1964), putting the government's lone assassin theory on the strictly defensive. District Attorney Jim Garrison's independent New Orleans investigation in 1967 also lent legitimacy to critics of the Report. Just as importantly, government's credibility on matters of state had been undermined by events in Vietnam, especially as exposed in the Pentagon Papers of 1971. In short, many Americans were ready to believe in 1973 what they weren't ready to believe in 1963, namely that the official Report was an expedient cover-up, and that the true facts surrounding Kennedy's murder had yet to be revealed.

Executive Action stepped into the breach, hoping to reach the non-book reading public and alert them to what critics on the left felt was a likely version of the true facts. Note that except for the positioning of the shooters, other details—especially the network connections beyond Ryan and Lancaster—remain unspecified. Thus, this film version provides a framework in which elements of the CIA or other rogue elements of government, or even organized crime, can be slotted. Wisely, the movie doesn't provide more than this generalized, non-specific framework.

My recollection is that the movie never got beyond a limited release, and mainly to urban centers. So the goal of reaching a broader American public was likely not realized. I also recall information sheets being passed out to ticket-buyers, detailing some points made in the movie. But, whatever the reasons, this independent production failed to reach the numbers of Oliver Stone's 1991 recounting of the Garrison investigation. However by that time, a new generation and three decades had intervened and memories had faded.

But, if films like Executive Action continue to tantalize, it's because the government has never had an interest in really pursuing the case. That's understandable in the instance of the Warren Report. Keep in mind that because of Oswald's supposed communist connections, there was a real possibility in 1964 of nuclear war breaking out if a Soviet plot were exposed. Better a cover- up investigation that might otherwise go who knows where than millions of atomized dead. Yes, indeed, that's understandable. But what about the finding of 1979's House Select Committee on Assassinations, convened because of renewed public interest in the case. The Committee concluded rather shockingly that "… on the basis of evidence available to it (meaning the Committee) that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy." !! "Probably a conspiracy"-- Quite an official declaration after years of asserting otherwise.

On the other hand, it's revealing that there was never any follow-up by an agency of government following the House's nominal overturning of the Warren Report. In fact, I think few people are even aware of the government's now paradoxical position on the 20th century's leading unsolved murder. The House finding was simply shoved under the rug and forgotten. Thus the crime continues to haunt the nation's background like a wandering ghost too toxic for the government to finally track down. As a result, movies like Executive Action, for all its speculative dimension, will continue to entertain and provoke and, within limits, inform.

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17 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Well worth a look

7/10
Author: Bruce Corneil from Melbourne, Australia
24 February 2003

Entertaining and interesting film which puts forward a seemingly plausible theory as to why JFK was assassinated.

The main thought seems to be that President Kennedy's ideas in regard to nuclear disarmament, racial equality and ensuring a square deal for America's most lowly paid workers were just too radical as far as the country's hard line conservatives were concerned.

I've read dozens of books about Kennedy, his years in office and his untimely death. This movie appears to have been generally well researched and non sensationalist.

It is a fair criticism to say that some of the finer points of period detail are slightly shaky. For example, some of the hairstyles and fashions definitely belong to the '70s rather than the early '60s. We have a '61 Chevy coupe with a tattered rear back seat which has obviously been parched by a decade of sun exposure. But these are minor points.

Don't worry too much about nit picking as this movie is most certainly well worth a look.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Cold, emotionless, and gripping

7/10
Author: tomgillespie2002 from United Kingdom
13 October 2011

David Miller's conspiracy-theory 're-enactment' shows the plotting by several oil-barons and intelligence officers to murder the then- President of the United States John F. Kennedy. Kennedy's pushing of the Civil Rights movement and plans to withdraw U.S. forces from Vietnam proves a threat to these emotionless rich folk, and the removal of Kennedy will benefit their business and, to them, their country. Farrington (Burt Lancaster), a black ops specialist, plans out the assassination in minute detail, with the backing of Foster (Robert Ryan), an oil baron. The action cuts between meetings between these men, the preparations of the gunmen and their target practice, and the recruitment and actions of a Lee Harvey Oswald lookalike.

While not being a fact-based and detailed account like the portrayal of Jim Garrison's investigation in Oliver Stone's excellent JFK (1991), Executive Action makes no claims to be historical fact, but instead a theory of how Kennedy's assassination could have been planned. How much is based on fact I don't know, as I had trouble finding much information about it. While it is certainly very interesting from a conspiracy- theorists point-of-view, the film works far better as a straightforward thriller, and certainly manages to build up plenty of tension regardless of the fact that we know what is going to happen, and that what is being played out in front of us is unlikely to be true.

It's a cold and emotionless film, which made me like it more. Lancaster's Farrington prepares the assassination as if he is preparing a holiday - matter-of-factly, routinely. The terrifying thing is that these men believe that what they are doing is patriotic and for the good of the country. Because of this, the film can be seen as a damning commentary of American values - the pursuit of money and desire for security is held in higher regard than doing the right thing, or equality. The film's low budget is certainly noticeable, and some of the supporting acting is often questionable, but this is a riveting thriller that contains many qualities that made the 70's the greatest era for American cinema.

www.the-wrath-of-blog.blogspot.com

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

As speculation this movie is interesting

8/10
Author: pvbklyn from Brooklyn, NY
8 January 2010

As a film this may not be very gripping to an audience who only knows about the assassination of JFK through history. I have read many theories about the assassination and have dismissed most but I don't believe in the lone gunman theory. I also was 19 when it happened, was in fact on board a U.S. naval ship tied up to a dock in VA and was on deck watch at the time. I discovered shockingly that many of the crew on board was actually pleased when it happened while the other half were of course stunned and dismayed. In any case, I found the most compelling parts of the film to be the original footage that is spliced into it. To this day it is the first time that I have seen some of it. I found of course that with two terrific actors like Lancaster and Ryan (at the end of his career) could make the conspiracy more believable than not. Yes the pacing is slower than even I would like. But I would say don't watch this film for entertainment. Watch it because it provides a slant on history that you won't read about in high school and perhaps may wet your appetite to look into this further. Spending our time being merely entertained is just wasting time. And history is always written by the victors.

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14 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Well done examination of JFK assassination conspiracy.

9/10
Author: Kenneth Robinson (kennygrob@sympatico.ca) from Colborne, Ontario, Canada
5 September 2001

Although as I recall, this film did not do well in theatres, but it is every bit as good as Oliver Stone's JFK. Obviously, the producers did not have Stone's clout. A strong cast makes this a very believable account of how JFK was set up. Executive Action did not have JFK's budget, nor was it as fancy, but the message was very clear. Conspiracy at the highest levels of government, business and the intelligence community coupled with a believable cast. Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan are very effective and the principle planners. If I remember correctly, this was Ryan's last film. Under-rated, this movie is a must see for all.

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