Thursday, June 3, 2021

Kevinography, part 15 - No way out (1987)

This is part 15 in a series in which, for reasons not really clear, I watch all watchable movies with Kevin Costner. And maybe even some unwatchable ones. I will then comment on them here for you, including a synopsis in case you aren't familiar with them.

Synopsis: Navy officer Tom Farell (Kevin Costner) gets an assignment as personal liasion to the shady Secretary of Defense Brice (Gene Hackman) and his slimy assistant, Duvall (Will Patton). Things get complicated when Farell falls in love with the same woman that Brice has enlisted as his mistress, Susan Atwell (Sean Young). In a fit of jealous rage, Brice kills his mistress - not knowing who her lover is. Farell knows, and he's now an integral part of the investigation - an investigation that Brice is trying to steer into the direction of fingering an unknown Russian agent. Said agent would be Farell, who needs to prove his innocence before Brice finds out who exactly is leading his "investigation"...

Analysis: The setup of this thriller is very solid. There's a love triangle (if you want to call what Brice and Susan have love) that animates the characters and motivates them, political subplots complicate everything, and the plot is tightly constructed, with twists, turns and betrayals.

And the plotting is definitely good. After some solid yet uninspired setup (Costner is introduced as a bona-fide hero by risking his life to rescue a fellow sailor and being nice to Filippino kids), you think you have an idea where it goes, but after the murder of Susan - that is more or less obviously telegraphed - things go haywire.

The developments are coming in hard and fast, and Farell is never ahead of them, always playing catch-up. However, so are Brie and Duvall, who have no clue who they're searching for, either. This creates in an inordinate amount of suspense that makes this a great thriller.

Where we are getting into problematic territory are not the plot developments, which pan out really well. The level of suspense is still very high and recommends itself to a watch. The performances are solid across the board, but here we start narrowing in on the problem.

Gene Hackman is good and nuanced as Secretary Brice, providing bluster, raw nerves, vulnerability, despair and evil all in the same movie.

Problems start with Sean Young. She is playing a sex-hungry mistress, part time damsel in distress and part time femme fatale - until the damsel thing takes front row. However, her reactions and actions are not exactly that of a person, rather of a plot device.

Kevin Costner is a very 80s leading man. That means that what is framed as romantic would be outright predatory behavior today. Think of Harrison Ford and Sean Young in "Blade Runner", and you get the picture. It's not quite as rape-y, but it isn't really a class apart, either.

It gets even worse with Will Patton, who plays his bad guy as a (barely) closeted gay man, which might have counted as a wee bit progressive back in 1987 but is really problematic from today's point of view.

Verdict: If you can look look over the Reaganite sensibilities of the movie and the cringe-worthy gender dynamics and gay represenation, this is still worth it very much.



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