In the year 1973, Bobby McBain (Christopher Walken) was an American POW, fighting for his life in a North Vietnamese prison camp that was run by a general so evil that he wore a necklace of human ears. Luckily, on the last day of the war, McBain was rescued by Roberto Santos (Chick Vennerra). When Bobby asked how he could ever repay Santos, Santos gave him half of a hundred dollar bill and told him that someday, Santos would give him the other half. McBain swears that he will be ready when the day comes to get the other half. I guess he’s like Caine in Kung Fu, waiting for the chance to snatch the pebble from his master’s hand.
15 years later, McBain is a welder in New York. One day, while sitting in a bar, he watches as Santos is executed on live television after a failed attempt to overthrow the dictator of Colombia. Shortly afterwards, McBain is approached by Santos’s sister (Maria Conchita Alonzo), who asks McBain to help her finish Santos’s revolution. McBain tells her a long story about attending Woodstock and then reunites with his Vietnam War buddies, Frank (Michael Ironside!), Eastland (Steve James), Dr. Dalton (Jay Patterson), and Gil (Thomas G. Waites). After killing a bunch of drug dealers, stealing their money, and harassing Luis Guzman, the gang heads for Colombia.
I wonder how many people have watched this movie over the years with the expectation that it would be a live action version of the famous Rainier Wolfcastle film that was featured in several episodes of The Simpsons. Unfortunately, this movie has nothing to do with the Simpsons version of McBain. (Sorry, no “Bye, book.”) Instead, it’s just another strange and overlong action film from director James Glickenhaus. The film mixes scene of total carnage with dialogue that often seems to be going off on a totally unrelated tangent, like McBain’s musings about what Woodstock ultimately stood for. Walken doesn’t seem to be acting as much as he’s parodying his own eccentric image. Walken takes all of his usual quirks and trademark vocal tics and turns them up to 11 for this movie.
Even though the movie is twenty minutes too long, it still feels like scenes are missing. Alonzo leaves Colombia on a mule and then is suddenly in New York. (The mule is nowhere to be seen.) We don’t actually see Walken recruiting the majority of his team. Instead, they just show up in his house. Once the action moves to Colombia, it turns out that overthrowing the government is much simpler than it looks. While the rebels lay down their lives while attacking the palace, McBain and his crew pretty much stroll through the movie without receiving even a scratch. Maybe welders should be put in charge of all of America’s foreign policy adventures. It couldn’t hurt.
With its hole-filled plot and confusingly edited combat scenes, McBain isn’t great but 80s action enthusiasts should enjoy seeing Michael Ironside and Steve James doing their thing. Others will want to see it just for Christopher Walken’s characteristically odd performance. He may not be Rainier Wolfcastle but, for this movie, Christopher Walken is McBain.