Shaker Run (1985, directed by Bruce Morrison)


Judd (Cliff Robertson) is an aging stunt driver who has been reduced to doing minor car shows in New Zealand.  He’s having trouble paying the bills and his young mechanic, Casey (Leif Garrett, looking like he’s a few days away from checking into rehab), is on him to do something — anything — to bring in some extra cash.  The opportunity presents itself when the duo are hired by an enigmatic woman named Christine (Lisa Harrow) to drive across New Zealand with a mysterious package hidden away in their trunk.  Christine will be accompanying them on their trip.  Sounds simple, right?

The only problem is that Christine is a research scientist who has developed a deadly new virus that she doesn’t want to get into the wrong hands.  She fears that the military might want to use it as bioweapon.  It turns out that she’s right and no sooner has Judd tapped the accelerator than they’re being chased across New Zealand by different factions, all who want the weapon for themselves.

Usually I love car chase scenes but Shaker Run didn’t really do much for me.  Some of the stunts are impressive but there’s also a lot of slow spots, especially at the start of the movie.  As I watched the chase scenes, I wondered why, if Christine is trying to sneak the virus out of the country, she would be stupid enough to hire someone who drives an incredibly conspicuous pink race car.  It’s not as if it’s going to be difficult for anyone to spot them on the road.  As well, one of the biggest chase scenes takes place during the dark of night, making it next to impossible to discern what’s actually going on.  The film also features Leif Garrett, giving a performance that’s obnoxious even for him.  What’s bad is that Garrett’s character probably could have been removed from the film without it making much difference.  If you’re going to put Leif Garrett in your movie, you better have a good reason.

One thing that the movie does have in its favor is Cliff Robertson in the lead role.  Robertson was a good actor whose career as a leading man was pretty much topedoed in 1977 when he discovered that David Begelman, who was the head of Columbia Studios, was using Robertson’s name and forging his signature to embezzle money from the studio.  Though the studios pressured Robertson to keep quiet, he went to the police and later spoke publicly about the incident.  Though Begelman was the one who had committed the crime, Robertson was the one who was subsequently blacklisted.  While Begelman paid a fine, did some community service, and remained a member of the Hollywood community, Robertson was blacklisted for five years.  When he finally did start appearing in movies again, it was almost always in supporting roles.  Shaker Run gave Robertson a rare leading role and, even if the movie isn’t good, Robertson is still good in it.

Unfortunately, even after people finally started to acknowledge that Cliff Robertson was mistreated, it still didn’t do much for his career and he continued to be cast in mostly forgettable movies.  Fortunately, before he died in 2011, he did get offered one iconic role and, as a result, a whole new generation of filmgoers got to know him as Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben.  If anyone could make you believe that “with great power, comes great responsibility,” it was Cliff Robertson.

Horror Film Review: Omen III: The Final Conflict (dir by Graham Baker)


Omen_III_the_final_conflict

Originally, it had been planned that the Omen franchise would be made up of six or seven films and that each movie would check in on another year in the life of Damien Thorn, a bit like an apocalyptic version of Boyhood.  However, after Damien: Omen II failed to perform up to expectations, plans were changed.

Instead of continuing the story of Damien’s adolescence, the 1981 film Omen III: The Final Conflict jumps straight into Damien’s adulthood.  Now 32 years old and played by a very young (and handsome) Sam Neill, Damien Thorn is now the CEO of Thorn Enterprises.  With the help of his loyal assistant Harvey Dean (Don Gordon), Damien has become one of the most popular and powerful men on the planet.  Thorn Enterprises, having followed Paul Buhler’s scheme from the second film, is now responsible for feeding a good deal of the world.  Damien is seen as being a humanitarian and a future President.  When the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom reacts to spotting a black dog in the park by committing suicide, Damien is appointed to the position.

(Needless to say, everyone in London is happy to see Damien.  Nobody says, “I just hope you don’t end up going crazy and dying a violent death, like everyone else in your family and immediate circle of acquaintances.”  But they’re probably thinking it…)

Now in London (and also appointed to be head of the United Nations Youth Organization, which just goes to show that your crazy uncle is right and the United Nations is a conspiracy), Damien pursues a rather creepy romance with journalist Kate Reynolds (Lisa Harrow) and makes plans to prevent the Second Coming by killing every single baby born on the morning of March 24th.  (But Harvey’s son was born on March 24th — wow, could this lead to some sort of conflict?)

Meanwhile, a group of priests (led by an embarrassed-looking Rossanno Brazzi) have recovered these damn daggers of Megiddo and are now all attempting to assassinate Damien.  Unfortunately, none of them are very good at their job.  (“You had one job, Father!  One job!”)

Bleh.

The Final Conflict is not that good.  It’s boring.  The plot is full of holes.  For instance — and yes, these are SPOILERS — why have we sat through two movies listening to characters insist that Damien has to be stabbed by all seven of the daggers when apparently, just one dagger will do the job?  Why, after being told that Jesus is going to be reborn as a child, does he then appear as an adult at the end of the film?  And finally, why does nobody ever seem to find it strange that everyone that Damien knows end up suffering a freak accident?

I will say that there are two good things about The Final Conflict.

First off, Sam Neill gives a good performance as Damien Thorn.  He’s handsome, he’s charismatic, and he’s not afraid to be evil.  But, unfortunately, Damien’s just not that interesting of a character anymore.  In the first Omen, he was interesting because he was an evil five year old.  In the second Omen, he was at least occasionally conflicted about his role.  In the third Omen, Damien is just evil and evil without nuance is boring.

Secondly, there’s that sequence where Damien’s followers go after the babies born on March 24th.  Oh my God, that was so disturbing and it was one of the few moments when The Final Conflict actually became horrific.

Otherwise, The Final Conflict is a thoroughly forgettable sequel to a memorable film.