The plot mechanics of this would-be thriller creak like a rusty box spring, and the characters are shallow and unbelievable. Frank Collins (Timothy Bottoms), an American reporter living in Sweden, suffers a near-fatal heart attack during the opening credits. Although this occurrence has
little to do with the rest of the film, it sets the tone for the jumpy editing and confusing dialog that follow. Collins' young stepson receives a videocassette from his real father, a Turk. While the cassette appears to be home movies of the clan in Istanbul, it's accompanied by a dire warning to
Collins not to lose the tape. Curious, Collins journeys to Istanbul to see what's up, but, fearing impending danger, he leaves his stepson behind. Nevertheless, Collins brings his adolescent daughter with him. Naturally, much mystery does indeed await them; anonymous letters, stealthy searches,
phantom intruders, and dead bodies are all in the offing. Turkish officials are unwilling to talk about the people who appear the videocassette, but Collins strikes up a warm relationship with Maud (Twiggy), another guest at the hotel at which he and his daughter are staying. With Maud's
assistance, Collins finds his way to Atkins (Robert Morley), who is in the process of spilling the beans about a weapons-smuggling racket when thugs burst in and knock Collins unconscious. He awakens to find his daughter missing, Atkins murdered, and the hotel staff pretending Maud never existed.
It's all because of the tape, of course, which holds evidence of an assassination. After a number of chases, the film ends in an unsatisfying, downbeat muddle.
A Swedish production for the international market, ISTANBUL is a sort of low-rent version of Polanski's FRANTIC or Hitchcock's THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, though there is no danger of mistaking Bottoms' Frank Collins for a man who knows too much about anything. He's a clownish dullard as the movie
begins and a terrified dullard when it ends, having spent most of the intervening time running through the streets of Istanbul calling his daughter's name--even before she is kidnaped. "Why can't you be like normal people?" Collins' daughter asks at one point. "Because I'm not like normal people!"
Collins replies, balancing precariously on a hotel balcony. No kidding. It's suggested that a mid-life crisis has induced his annoying behavior, but whatever his motivation, Collins is a pretty hopeless hero. Morley and Twiggy, eminently watchable performers, have been shortchanged by the script.
There are revealing views of Istanbul's back streets and markets, but its people are reduced to sinister-dark-foreigner cliches. Needless to say, there are better ways to spend your time and money than on this less-than-thrilling thriller. (Violence, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: The plot mechanics of this would-be thriller creak like a rusty box spring, and the characters are shallow and unbelievable. Frank Collins (Timothy Bottoms), an American reporter living in Sweden, suffers a near-fatal heart attack during the opening credit… (more)