Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Osterman Weekend

The Action Mutant…
enjoys weekends with Shannon Tweed…look-alikes. Ok, not really.

The Osterman Weekend

review by Joe Burrows

It’s odd because I would have certainly thought I would have reviewed another Sam Peckinpah film first. Maybe it would have been something like his best film (The Wild Bunch or Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid) or my personal favorite (Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia). It would certainly not be something from the tail end of his career, when his best days were clearly behind him. But, this film fell under my “On Demand rule” (i.e. It was On Demand and I had never seen it), so on it went. Surprisingly, (aside from it being better than I thought it would be) it was fitting for me to review a Peckinpah film that encapsulated what the man was about as far as his mystique goes. Obsessive paranoia, a streak of misogyny, and a basic foundation of how to entertain, yet make one feel a tad uncomfortable at the same time.

The Plot, as it was:
Rutger Hauer (Blind Fury, Blade Runner) plays John Tanner, a TV talk show host that isn’t afraid to call out members of high ranking politics (think Bill O’Reilly…if he was working towards the Left). That status has made him a wealthy man with wealthy friends, friends who he gathers together for an annual weekend of fun at his home. However, this weekend is different because Tanner is being forced by a shrewd CIA agent named Fassett (John Hurt) to tape his friends (Craig T. Nelson, Dennis Hopper and Christopher Guest) because it is believed they are Russian spies. Having to keep everything in the dark from his friends and his wife (Meg Foster and her scary eyes) & son, Tanner doesn’t realize that the greatest threat to his well being just may be the man giving the orders. Fassett has an axe to grind with his employer over a personal tragedy and is willing to play some messed up mind games to get what he wants.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
There’s no mistaking it, despite the pedigree behind the camera: The Osterman Weekend is pure trash. It has a nasty, vile tone to it and its voyeuristic story seems to be an excuse for a good amount of tits, ammo, and Peckinpah’s signature slow-motion artistry. As far as basic Peckinpah goes, it works though it is nowhere near his early 70s masterpieces. Despite its slick looking veneer, Weekend is pretty lurid at times (the opening credit sequence is especially infamous, though tame by today’s standards) and is slow moving and needlessly complicated for the first half. Fassett’s indictment of Tanner (and the audience, in general) is the film’s main message but it’s really only used as a means to turn him into the heavy and nothing meaningful. Hurt has fun in this role, ranging from being snidely effete to coldly distant in reacting to his tragedy. The rest of the cast does uniformly well, as Nelson, Hopper, Guest and Burt Lancaster (as the CIA head) all have their creepily effective moments. The ending is pretty well predictable and the film will seem a bit dated with the Cold War being old hat and all. However, Peckinpah is still able to paint a portrait of comfortable, high powered people at their most dressed down and vulnerable. That alone puts The Osterman Weekend slightly above the usual time killing thriller.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Tim Thomerson, most notable as Jack Deth in the long running Trancers franchise, is a motorcycle cop.

Body Count/Violence: 13. Though not the raving blood-fest his better known efforts are, TOW delivers after a slow start. There are a few of Peck’s trademark bloody slo-mo shootings, arrow shots, slo-mo baseball bat beatings, car windshield impaling, explosions, etc. My favorite: Tanner emerging from his pool and shooting an assailant with a miniature bow and arrow, sending him into the gasoline soaked pool he just lit on fire.

Sexuality/Nudity: It is a veritable tit fest in this film! Breasts are shown by Helen Shaver, Cassie Yates and Merete Van Camp (with Shaver going full frontal during the video watching group scene and Van Camp showing her behind). Even Meg Foster (and her creepy eyes) shows side boob during a dressing scene. There are a few sexual scenes that involve the women being either topless or in skimpy clothing, as well. And there is John Hurt’s pasty British ass, for those who go for pasty British asses.

Language/Dialogue: Not as strong as you would think, though there are a few F bombs.

How bad was it?:
Critics didn’t view Peckinpah’s work from 1975 to 1983 (this was his last film before his death in ’84) with great fervor and that included this film. Part of the reason was that many felt the master had lost his way (to which they were somewhat right). Others felt that adapting a complicated Robert Ludlum novel was not the best choice for a Peckinpah project. Either way, the reviews were mixed.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
20th Century Fox execs were dismayed by the 116 minute cut Peckinpah had submitted to them, a version that led people to walk out on the film after the controversial opening credits. Even after the studio cut it to 103 minutes for theaters, they only released it to 670 theaters during its highest point of release. Though no budget figures were released, the film was not a smash as it only grossed $6.5 million during its brief run. (Note: The Anchor Bay DVD release includes both the theatrical version and Peckinpah’s rough cut transfer of his 116 minute version. Reviews were mixed on the latter, as well.)

Film: **1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ***1/2/*****

Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.

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