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  Presidio, The Military Purlease
Year: 1988
Director: Peter Hyams
Stars: Sean Connery, Mark Harmon, Meg Ryan, Jack Warden, Mark Blum, Dana Gladstone, Jenette Goldstein, Marvin J. McIntyre, Don Calfa, John DiSanti, Robert Lesser, James Hooks Reynolds, Curtis W. Sims, Rick Zumwalt, Rosalyn Marshall, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson
Genre: Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: It seemed like any other night in San Francisco for the Military Police based at The Presidio, but it was not, for when one of their number (Jenette Goldstein) went to investigate a disturbance she was abruptly shot dead by the two criminals, who left in their car at high speed. Back at base, they were aware something had gone badly wrong, and sent cars after in pursuit, but these men were evidently professionals and managed to evade the law, leaving crashed vehicles in their wake. The man sent to investigate this, and solve the murder, is Jay Austin (Mark Harmon), and to his reluctance he will have to work with the man who got him drummed out of the Army...

That man being Sean Connery playing Lieutenant Colonel Alan Caldwell, a tough, no-nonsense fellow who would not dream of apologising to Austin, so you know what that means, don't you? That's right, we have a buddy movie on our hands, and director Peter Hyams was coming off one of those with the cult hit Running Scared, a far more overtly comedic exercise. But The Presidio did not take that route, as this was serious, goddammit, which you could tell by the amount of time characters said "Goddammit!" and referred to other characters' "asses" in a non-sexual manner. It also meant the tone was punishingly dull throughout, especially after the low-level car chase excitement died down.

That opening sequence appeared to set up a far more suspenseful effort than actually showed up, because after a brief amount of time it was apparent Hyams and his screenwriter, Larry Ferguson, were more captivated by relating their knowledge of the minutiae of military law enforcers and their duties than it was presenting even the most perfunctory of thriller plotlines. Even so, perfunctory was the best way to describe this when it got down to the action bits and pieces, which were cheeseparing in their generosity, with about the only mildly entertaining element the scene where Connery beats up a barroom bully using just his thumb (except even there, he uses more than that to fight).

So what did take up most of your precious time should you choose to watch this? For reasons best known to itself, the film wanted to explore the tensions between Austin, Caldwell and Caldwell's daughter Donna (Meg Ryan), a randy and rebellious young lady whose over-exuberance and lack of boundaries is put down to her losing her mother when she was two years old. That was the sort of material that passed for character development in this movie, but it was so tediously shallow that it was purely the charisma of the lead actors that would provide any excuse to sustain your interest; Jack Warden appeared as well as an old Army cohort of Caldwell's, seemingly to flesh out his backstory (Connery had a drunk act sequence where he bared the Colonel's soul to groaning effect), but with more to do later.

Nothing particularly useful, as a function what they did with Warden was just silly, but then that was the film all over - if only it had been amusingly silly and not apt to prompt Liz Lemon-style epic eyerolls. With a mystery that you didn't give a shit about, stars who had proven themselves elsewhere but were merely picking up their paycheques, and a leaden lack of actual tension, The Presidio came across like a project that had been in development Hell for too long and had gone through many hands before emerging as a neutered and basic space filler for the then-burgeoning multiplex market. Which was precisely what it was, a production all the potential enthusiasm for had been steadily drained from as it went through its rewrites and cast changes. And yet, it does have its fans, people for whom this succeeds on its own terms, so if you're easily pleased, maybe it will satisfy you. Music by Bruce Broughton.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Peter Hyams  (1943 - )

American director, writer and cinematographer, mostly of standard genre movies: action, sci-fi, thriller, etc. After a career as a TV newsman (he was a Vietnam War reporter) he moved into films, writing and producing T.R. Baskin. A couple of TV movies later, on the big screen he made Busting, Capricorn One, Hanover Street, Outland, 2010, The Presidio, a remake of Narrow Margin, Stay Tuned, Timecop, Sudden Death, The Relic, End of Days, The Musketeer and A Sound of Thunder.

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