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Midnight in Saint Petersburg (1996)
One outing too many for Harry Palmer
Every film series runs it's course eventually. Sometimes it's the audience that gets fatigued and votes with it's wallet by not attending the latest sequel and other times the latest sequel runs out of ideas and falls flat.
Harry Palmers audience did the first in 1968 with the ''Billion Dollar Brain'' - a smart adaption of Deighton's novel which itself was quite outlandish in comparison to the film versions of the ''Ipcress File'' and ''Funeral in Berlin''.
The second time a rejuvenated Harry Palmer series ran out of steam was in this film during which the latter happened.
Come the mid 1990's with dwindling good acting opportunities for Michael Caine and a new appetite for spy thrillers from cinema-goers two more Harry Palmer films were committed to celluloid. The first ''Bullet to Beijing'' was a nice if flawed reunion movie for an older Harry Palmer but it's sequel here ''Midnight in St. Petersburg gets swiftly derailed by a bankrupt script and lower budget.
The problem is that it very much plays like a remake of it's immediate predecessor only with a much smaller scope and budget. It even revolves around a film studio location in it's later stages...
The plot is Harry Palmer has set up a private investigation agency in Russia and he has to search for some stolen Plutonion as well as his assistants ballerina girlfriend who has been abducted. The two story strands come together in the films finale at midnight in St. Petersburg.
Michael Caine is always entertaining as Harry Palmer but he looks bored here. Some of the supporting actors are quite good and some are just plain bad. The dialogue is very poor at times and it's all quite forgettable.
That said if you don't compare it to the other films in the series it is reasonably entertaining overall and there are a few genuinely good scenes in the film. But it was definitely a sequel too many for Harry Palmer I'm sure most would agree.
Wild Geese II (1985)
Better than it's reputation
So Wild Geese II, Nearly every review I have ever come across regarding this film has been very negative and to be honest from reading a lot of them I don't even think many had watched the movie to begin with...
The original Wild Geese - these days a Sunday afternoon guilty pleasure classic that when looked at objectively is actually a fairly routine action film with a join the dots script and pedestrian direction. What makes that film work I suspect for most people is the actual African location photography and seeing a lot of mainly washed-up actors hamming it up ridiculously to pay their bar tabs.
Wild Geese II is very different from that movie, new cast, mainly new crew and made nearly ten years later - Wild Geese II is more of a spy thriller than action film. It offers a much more intelligent script, Great location work in Cold War era Berlin and some genuine storyline surprises. One aspect of the film that I think it really shares with the original is that any of the main characters can get killed at any time although it is a bit more edgy this time around.
Another aspect - in this case bad unfortunately is seeing another washed-up actor hamming for the alcohol bills, Edward Fox in this case who is just plain awful here taking over from what would have been Richard Burton's role. He plays second fiddle here to Scott Glenn - at the time flavor of the month upcoming star to appeal to the American market. Glenn although usually good in other movies is positively catatonic here. The interesting thing is that bad as the two leads are they do not bring the film down as the rest of the cast is filled out with mainly good supporting actors - the standouts being Barbara Carerra in a pretty thankless role as the love interest, an actor who plays an IRA gunman and another actor who plays a British Sergeant-Major. Also Peter Hunt the director deserves credit for keeping the fairly convoluted story moving along at a brisk pace.
So overall not as dated as the original but still dated, better story and better direction but with a bad rep - I think this is an unusual case of a sequel surpassing the original but audiences seem unwilling to give it a chance probably because the first just wasn't that good to begin with.
The Last Run (1971)
Atmospheric and Solid throwback to Bogart's Crime World
This film almost should have been in black and white! Very solid throwback to the gritty film-noir gangster films of the 40's. The ever brilliant George C. Scott tackle's the Bogartesque protagonist with style - a retired gangland getaway-driver lured out of retirement by personal reasons for one 'Last Run' in Spain in which he has to transport a escaped killer and his moll across the border to France.
Of course nothing ever goes quite as planned and Scott soon find's his assignment calling for him to make some tough choices in the face of mounting odd's and hidden dangers. This film benefits from it's strong cast, fantastic camera-work by the great Sven Nykvist(Bergmann films), great location scenery in Spain and an economical screenplay from the talented Alan Sharp(Night Moves). Underrated director Richard Fleischer gives the film a great Hemingway type atmosphere and does a good job with the action scenes. Interestingly John Huston started this film and left after three weeks into the production following rows with Scott, Sharp and the producers over wanting to have the script re-written by his eighteen year old son! Overall this is a good solid thriller that works and is waiting to be rediscovered.
The Last Days of Patton (1986)
Patton 2 is Excellent!
George C. Scott is excellent as is the rest of the cast in this compelling and very well made film. Most of the other posters seem to have missed the point of the film though. "Patton" 1970 was an epic war film which played on Patton's mythic status and personality extremes. Scott played it with such skill that he made it become more than just a war film and it took on the quality of a Shakespearean tragedy. Sequels in general have a hard time usually because they are lazy and thinly-veiled remakes of the original film they follow. The very few excellent sequels that I have seen take a new direction to the original and explore new territory e.g. French Connection 2. This is probably why "The Last Days of Patton" receives such low ratings - this film is not a war film at all, is not epic in scope or budget(being made for t.v.) and concentrates instead upon Patton's personal friendships, family, his youth and also the softer side to his character that was not really explored in "Patton". The story is quite sensitive and moving - very different to the original but in it's own way just as good. An excellent companion piece that complete's the Patton story.