(US - 1983)
Directed by Sam Peckinpah. Written by Alan Sharp and Ian Masters. Cast: Rutger Hauer, John Hurt, Craig T. Nelson, Dennis Hopper, Burt Lancaster, Chris Sarandon, Meg Foster, Helen Shaver, Cassie Yates, Sandy McPeak, Christopher Starr, Jan Triska, Merete Van Kamp, Tim Thomerson, Buddy Joe Hooker. (R, 103 mins)
The legendary Sam Peckinpah's final film was a typically troubled production that saw him clashing with producers and having the film recut without his involvement. A very loose adaptation of Robert Ludlum's 1972 novel, THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND stars John Hurt as Lawrence Fassett, an embittered CIA agent whose obsessive investigation into his wife's murder leads him to uncover evidence that three men--TV writer Bernard Osterman (Craig T. Nelson), plastic surgeon Richard Tremayne (Dennis Hopper), and hotheaded stockbroker Joseph Cardone (Chris Sarandon)--are really Soviet agents who have been operating in the US since their college days. Fassett convinces their old college buddy John Tanner (Rutger Hauer), now a successful liberal pundit in the political talk show arena, to host a weekend reunion with the guys and their wives. With Tanner's home filled with hidden surveillance cameras and Fassett in regular communication, it's the perfect set-up to expose the alleged KGB agents and in exchange for helping out the US government, Tanner gets an exclusive, one-on-one interview with controversial CIA chief Maxwell Danforth (Burt Lancaster), infamous for his extensive authorization of all manner of high-tech surveillance.
battling ninjas to keep it interesting. As with that film, the producers removed all the comedy, so maybe OSTERMAN's inconsistent editing and the varying mustache lengths were all part of unsung satirist Peckinpah's master plan. There's some effective bits, especially once Peckinpah lets the film fly off the rails in the last third. Peckinpah uses a peculiar technique in his action scenes here, with a lot of slow-motion and drawn-out, quick-cut editing that, in context, works well, especially in the late-going with the exploding RV, plus he gets a genuinely terrific performance out of Hurt. There's a lot to like here--irate Lancaster at his most assholish (is there any way a guy named "Maxwell Danforth" won't be a complete prick?); gratuitous nudity; Meg Foster decking Helen Shaver; and a hilarious bit involving a dog's head in the fridge--but at the same time, it feels like a missed opportunity. There's a pronounced lack of focus and the disconnect between the director and his producers is apparent. It's a mess, but a consistently intriguing one.
"Too Late for Goodbyes." Peckinpah died of heart failure at just 59 in December 1984, a little over a year after THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND's November 1983 release.