Writer-director James Glickenhaus's action-adventure record is a pretty good one, and its high point is SHAKEDOWN, with Peter Weller and Sam Elliott, which goes from one over-the-top setpiece to another without pausing to catch its breath. MCBAIN, unfortunately, represents the other end of
It starts, as so many stories seem to, in Viet Nam. A prisoner of war, McBain (Christopher Walken) is rescued by a group of weary American troops led by Santos (Chick Vennera); McBain swears that if Santos ever needs his help, he'll be there. Years pass and the debt comes due, but it's not Santos
who comes to collect. He's been betrayed by the CIA and killed in an abortive Latin American coup d'etat; his sister Christina (Maria Conchita Alonso) has traveled to New York to ask McBain to help her mount a people's revolution against the corrupt and loathsome El Presidente (Victor Argo).
McBain doesn't need to be asked twice. He quits his job as a steelworker and gathers together the members of Santos's squad--including, conveniently enough, multinational arms dealer Frank Bruce (Michael Ironside)--who likewise abandon their dreary civilian lives to do what they've got to do. And
they do it with relatively little trouble, considering the stupendous illegality of it all. If MCBAIN has a lesson to teach, it seems to be that with connections, a little luck and the right attitude, you too can engineer a full-scale revolution in a banana republic.
While Christina marshals the local guerrillas, McBain and his companions fight off El Presidente's army and make their way to the capital. They invade the presidential palace and successfully topple the dictator, presumably clearing the way for a democratic government by the people.
MCBAIN is wildly ambitious, taking on revolution in Latin America, US government corruption, the CIA, the Mafia, international arms trafficking and drug lords, aiming to be hiply ironic yet at the same time take its lone-men-against-the-corrupt-oppressors-of-the-world story with utter
seriousness. Sadly, it fails on both counts.
The action sequences, while well staged for a low-budget picture, can't match the RAMBO standards audiences have been conditioned to expect. And its attempts at wit and satire don't go very far or cut particularly deeply: the sight of McBain's amateur commandos desperately trying to operate
sophisticated military equipment with the manuals in one hand is good for one chuckle, maximum ... after that, it's a joke that's worn out its welcome. Impassioned speeches on such topics as the politics of contemporary drug dealing fare even less well--they're unwelcome from the word go.
Star Christopher Walken has done the rounds of war-haunted psychos, from the Russian roulette champ in Michael Cimino's THE DEER HUNTER to the mercenary adventurer of John Irvin's THE DOGS OF WAR, so he brings some history to the part of McBain. But the older he gets, the less he looks like
anything of this earth. From cheekbones to icy eyes to profoundly scary hair, which stands up in spikes sharp enough to prick your finger, Walken is every inch a visionary martyr. In MCBAIN, he's as peculiar as he's ever been--and that's saying a lot, when you consider such films as COMMUNION--but
peculiarity doesn't necessarily constitute a performance. It's more like a state of being, and it's not really the right state for a movie that wants you to believe he's able to inspire half a dozen apparently rational men to do something ludicrous, like depose a foreign government for no better
reason than that they owe it to an old buddy.
Maria Conchita Alonso is desperately sincere, and Canadian actor Michael Ironside growls with some conviction. The rest of the cast fades into an anonymous blur, like the revolutionaries outside El Presidente's palace who seem to exist only so there's someone he can threaten to crush under his
MCBAIN proceeds in fits and starts, and by the time it gets where it's going the audience is too worn out to care. Only its absurdities stand out: one has to wonder about a Latin American crowd that cheers a coup that ends with Christopher Walken, gringo extraordinaire, appearing on El
Presidente's balcony. (Violence, adult situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: Writer-director James Glickenhaus's action-adventure record is a pretty good one, and its high point is SHAKEDOWN, with Peter Weller and Sam Elliott, which goes from one over-the-top setpiece to another without pausing to catch its breath. MCBAIN, unfortun… (more)