Imagine that Costa-Gavras, who has become expert in politically correct rabble-rousing, had become temporarily unhinged from exposure to radiation and had decided to expose the pro-Nuke movement. TOUCH AND DIE might be the end product of his delirium. Hotshot American news bureau chief Frank Magentz (Martin Sheen) sniffs out a scoop when handless corpses...read more
Imagine that Costa-Gavras, who has become expert in politically correct rabble-rousing, had become temporarily unhinged from exposure to radiation and had decided to expose the pro-Nuke movement. TOUCH AND DIE might be the end product of his delirium.
Hotshot American news bureau chief Frank Magentz (Martin Sheen) sniffs out a scoop when handless corpses start turning up all over Europe. Aided by his new assistant Carlo (Luca Venantini) and his visiting daughter, Emma (Renee Estevez), Magentz tracks down an African sailor who handled stolen
plutonium on the vessel Black Mamba. While trying to implicate shipping magnate Steuben (Jacques Perrin) in international, wholesale nuclear theft, Frank falls for a pro-Nuke physicist, Catherine (Veronique Jannot), of the European Atomic Commission. Busy Frank also agrees to help an Italian
secret police chief, Aquan (Franco Nero), in proving crooked cop Morelli (Paolo Bonacelli) has a "hand" in the conspiracy.
Traveling to Lutesh, Africa, Frank trades barbs with corrupt officials but manages to disrupt a nuclear flea market with the help of Limey (Horst Bucholz), a friend of a friend. Threading through this narrative that might have taxed Dickens's memory are the following events: Morelli pushes Carlo
in front of a subway train but the kid escapes harm; Davis (Kent Broadhurst), the nuclear sales mastermind, threatens to kill everyone and formulates plans to kidnap Emma; Steuben commits suicide after telling Frank where the money trail leads; and Catherine takes an unplanned trip out of her
hotel window after returning from Lutesh.
Why were the nuclear materials stolen and sold to the highest bidder? So that Davis and the atomic advocates could funnel money into the campaign fund of the candidate most likely to favor nuclear power when he becomes president. Incredibly, the duped politician is John Scanzano (David Birney),
who just happens to be a close personal friend of Frank Magentz. After Scanzano fires his campaign manager, the nuclear lobby conspiracy is squelched, and Magentz writes the prize-winning expose of his career.
Perhaps if the vertiginous plotting that characterizes director Piernico Solinas and John Howlett's screenplay for TOUCH AND DIE were matched by a hallucinogenic directorial style, the film's paranoia might have had some impact. Hampered by perfunctory direction and bland cinematography and a
ludicrously inappropriate musical score, the film emerges as even more preposterous.
The film's rabid anti-nuclear power stance is so poorly presented, most viewers will begin to feel sympathy for plutonium pushers everywhere. For one thing, actor Sheen needs to take a vacation from earnestness. For another thing, the film stockpiles so many storylines that even when they're tied
together at the climax we feel oppressed by the over-plotting. Do we need the subplot of Franco Nero ferreting out a crooked cop? And isn't the news chief's daughter in the film only to provide a possible roadblock to his bringing the conspirators to justice quickly; if so, why is this subplot
never developed? Have there ever been so many villains in one thriller?
Instead of concentrating on intertwining a few plot threads, the modus operandi of TOUCH AND DIE is to keep adding more principals and more conspiracy theories. Not only will this thriller fail to win over any converts, it will probably alienate those dedicated to blocking atomic power. A bad
movie doesn't promote anyone's cause. (Violence.)
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