A Movie A Day #118: Navy SEALs (1990, directed by Lewis Teague)


While rescuing hostages in the Middle East, a team of Navy SEALs discover that terrorist leader Ben Shaheed (Nicholas Kadi) has a warehouse full of stinger missiles.  Hawkins (Charlie Sheen) wants to destroy the missiles but his superior, Curran (Michael Biehn), orders him to concentrate on saving the hostages.  As a result, Shaheed has time to move the missiles to another location.  With the help of a Lebanese-American journalist (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer) and the CIA, the SEALs must now track down the new location and destroy the missiles before they are used by Shaheed’s organization.

Navy SEALs is mostly memorable for the amount of James Cameron alumni who appear in its cast.  The cast not only features The Terminator‘s Michael Biehn and Rick Rossovich but Bill Paxton as well.  Of course, the main star is Charlie Sheen, still technically a serious actor at the time, who gives a wide-eyed and histrionic performance that suggests Hawkins may have snorted a little marching powder before reporting for duty.  24‘s Dennis Haysbert plays a SEAL who is engaged to marry Law & Order‘s S. Epatha Merkerson.  Haysbert spends so much time planning his wedding and talking about both the importance of both duty and love that the only shocking thing about his role is that he manages to survive half the movie before getting killed.  Neither Val Kilmer nor Cary Elwes is in the cast, though it seems like they both should be.

Navy SEALs was a box office bust in 1990 but, after the death of Osama Bin Laden, it experienced a sudden upswing in popularity and even appeared on primetime television a few times.  The scene where the SEALs blow off some steam by playing golf is a classic but, otherwise, this is a largely forgettable Top Gun rip off.

A Movie A Day #28: Scandal (1989, directed by Michael Caton-Jones)


scandal-posterLondon.  1961.  Doctor Stephen Ward (played by John Hurt) is an artist and an osteopath.  He counts among his patients some of the most distinguished men and women in British society, including the Minister of War, John Profumo (Ian McKellen).  After meeting two young dancers, Christine Keeler (Joanne Whalley) and Mandy Rice-Davies (Bridget Fonda), Stephen becomes their mentor, the Henry Higgins to their Eliza Doolittle.

Under Stephen’s watchful eye, both Christine and Mandy are soon having affairs with some  of the most powerful members of Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government.  Christine becomes the mistress of both Profumo and KGB agent, Yevgeny Ivanov (Jeroen Krabbe), along with maintaining off-and-on relationships with drug dealer Johnny Edgecombe (played by singer Roland Gift) and musician Lucky Gordon (Leon Herbert).

When a disagreement leads to Johnny slashing Lucky’s face and then getting arrested for firing a gun at Stephen’s flat, the public learns the details of Christine’s affair with Profumo.  With the scandal rocking the British government, Stephen is a convenient scapegoat and soon finds himself on trial, charged with making a living off of “immoral earnings.”

Based on the real life scandal that led to the eventual fall of Harold Macmillan’s government, Scandal is remarkably faithful to the facts of the Profumo Affair, even if it did leave out some of the more interesting allegations.  (For instance, no mention is made of an alleged encounter between Mandy Rice-Davies and President Kennedy.)  Though it may seem tame by today’s standards, when Scandal was first released in 1989, it was considered to be something of a scandal itself and it initially got an X rating when it was released in the United States.  (The scandal over Scandal is one of the things that led to the MPAA adopting the NC-17 rating to distinguish between films for adults and “adult” films.  Of course, it didn’t work as a potential NC-17 still carries the same stigma as the X rating did.)

scandal

Scandal holds up well as both a recreation of London on the verge of the sexual revolution and a look at contrast between private and public mores.  Both Joanne Whalley and Bridget Fonda are excellent in the roles of Christine and Mandy.  Fonda gets to deliver the most famous line of the whole Profumo Affair when Mandy is told that Lord Astor has denied having had an affair with her.  “He would, wouldn’t he?” she says.  After I watched Scandal last night, I did some checking and I discovered that Bridget Fonda has not made a film since 2002.  She is missed.

Not surprisingly, Scandal‘s best performance comes from John Hurt, who plays Stephen Ward as a naive and well-meaning social butterfly who ultimately gets in over his head and pays a steep price for trusting that his friends would remain his friends.  Scandal is just one of many movies that proves what a great talent was lost when the world lost John Hurt.

RIP.

SCANDAL, John Hurt, 1989

A Movie A Day #19: Kill Me Again (1989, directed by John Dahl)


killmeagainFay Forrest (Joanne Whalley) and her boyfriend, Vince Miller (Michael Madsen), make their living stealing from the mob.  After their latest job results in the death of a made man, Fay decides that she needs to escape from the abusive Vince.  She runs away to Las Vegas, where she looks up a small-time, financially strapped P.I., Jack Andrews (Val Kilmer).  She hires Jack to help her fake her death, offering to pay him $5,000 upfront and $5,000 after she’s dead.  Jack is reluctant to get involved but he also has a loan shark threatening to break every bone in his body.  Jack helps Fay fake her death but then Fay leaves town without paying him the second $5,000.  Even worse, both Vince and the mob quickly figure out that Fay is not actually dead and join Jack in trying to track her down.

Predictable but entertaining, Kill Me Again is an early example of the type of modern neo-noir that would become extremely popular in the 1990s.  In his directorial debut, John Dahl shows some hints of the style that he later brought to films like Red Rock West and The Last Seduction.  Val Kilmer was miscast and a few years too young for his role but Joanne Whalley (or Joanne Whalley-Kilmer as she was known when Kill Me Again was filmed) fully inhabitanted the stock role of the sultry femme fatale who can never quite be trusted.  Michael Madsen goes all out as Vince, giving an early version of his performance in Reservoir Dogs.