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‘The Fourth Protocol’ (1987)

‘The Fourth Protocol’ (1987) I’m a big fan of Michael Caine’s Len Deighton films – ‘ The Ipcress File ‘ (1965), ‘ Funeral in Berlin ‘ (1966) and ‘ Billion Dollar Brain ‘ (1967) – even *if* the films got worse as they went along.

Even though it’s based on a Forsyth book, it’s practically a ‘return to form’ for Harry Palmer – a conceit that’s easily swallowed if you allow that Sgt. Palmer might have to assume more than one paper identity over the course of his career. Sir Michael is in top form here, as is Pierce Brosnan and one of my favorite British actors, Ian Richardson of ‘House of Cards’ fame.

In fact, it’s an altogether plausible thriller – until you get to the American actors. Sure, Ned Beatty and Joanna Cassidy are great actors – but whoever thought that Russian Intelligence agents, save for Brosnan, should sport American accents should be forced to spend a month in some inarticulate American suburb. [Read more →]

‘Strange Hearts’ aka ‘Roads to Riches’ (2001)

‘Strange Hearts’ a/k/a ‘Roads to Riches’ (2001) I caught this film almost by accident this morning on cable, in just about the last place I’d expect to find it: HBO.

This film is an easy match for anyone who enjoys any of Paul Thomas Anderson’s early films, as it revisits some of the territory of ‘ Hard Eight ‘ and Lodge Kerrigan’s ‘ Claire Dolan ‘. Sorry, no Gwyneth Paltrow-as-a-hooker here, but this film explores a sort of strange, alternate universe at the center of our fickle, ADD American culture. This seemed to me a gritty, IFC -type film, rather than the sort of thing HBO might run, thus my surprise.

The inimitable Robert Forster stars here as a sort of con-man (Jack), living off of the fringes of televised Game Shows and other short cons. He lives in a ‘resident motel’, as he works toward a big payoff scheme, his ‘Rat in a Can’. I won’t describe it here – you’ll just have to see it for yourself. [Read more →]