Overall, John Frankenheimer's YEAR OF THE GUN is an entertainingly trashy, occasionally even thought-provoking, political thriller.
The story takes place in Rome, in 1978. David Raybourne (Andrew McCarthy) is an American journalist who becomes involved in the terrorist activities of the Communist Red Brigade, who plot to overthrow the government by kidnapping Prime Minister Aldo Moro. His rich lover, Lia Spinelli (Valeria
Golino), is tied to this group as well. Hotshot photojournalist Alison King (Sharon Stone) arrives on the scene in time to shoot the bloody robbery of a bank and get romantically entangled with David, who she suspects knows more about the Red Brigade than he lets on. It seems that everyone feels
this way, including the Brigade themselves. They hound David and his associates at every turn; many pay for their acquaintance with him with their lives.
If casting could ever ruin a movie, it surely did here. The lightweight, eternally sub-collegiate McCarthy is a ridiculous choice to play this former counterrevolutionary and oh-so-serious writer. His every line-reading rings with inauthenticity and he retains his trademark two expressions: the
Peter Lorre-like bulging of those baby blues to signify stormy anger and the gaping of that rosebud mouth to indicate tragedy. However, director John Frankenheimer springs to life in certain scenes of action and menace, making you recall that he is, after all, the man who made THE MANCHURIAN
CANDIDATE, one of the indisputably great American films, as well as the impressive SEVEN DAYS IN MAY.
Aided by Blasco Giurato's handsome, dynamic photography and a surprisingly effective, synthesized music score by Bill Conti, he keeps you watching and absorbed, despite innumerable inanities in the script, editing and performances. The real-life incidentals of the plot provide some good, strong
underpinnings for this pulp, and the blinding suddenness of terrorist attacks is grimly conveyed. Frankenheimer manipulates his rioting crowds deftly, and the bank robbery sequence is quite stunning in its use of cleverly intercut freeze frames as Stone clicks away. He's less good in the romantic
interludes, which feature a lot of "steamy," rather maladroit soft-core footage. McCarthy is a peculiarly unconvincing love object to be fought over by these two strong ladies.
Valeria Golino's (RAIN MAN, THE INDIAN RUNNER) sorrowing beauty can become a little monotonous; it's good that she gets to speak in her native Italian at certain points. Freed by her own language, she evinces a bit more energy and a less studied naturalism than she has in her American films.
Stone (TOTAL RECALL, SCISSORS) is saddled with some of the worst lines, especially a long account of her cub-reporter experiences in 'Nam ("My job was to bring back the bad news and keep the body count"). She's some looker, though, and has a teasing wittiness to her that recalls the young Lauren
Bacall (but only when directed by Howard Hawks).
It should be mentioned that a large part of YEAR OF THE GUN's appeal stems directly from the hilarity inspired by some of its worst scenes. During a guerilla attack on an elegant party, Stone slyly slips her costly watch into McCarthy's pocket to avoid its being stolen. Later, he tells her (with
pop-eyed fury), "I could have gotten killed for this!" She blithely answers, "Sorry, it was important to me," before launching into an inane account of why. Then there's McCarthy's definitive recounting of his life: "The 60s were ten years of phoniness, a decade-long circle jerk. I didn't move to
Marin County. I didn't drop out. I dropped in. I moved to Italy." Later, he excitedly describes the book he's writing, "It's gonna be like Day of the Jackal: DeGaulle mixed up with everything else!"
The film's ending, which features a groan-inducing appearance by the ineffably fatuous Dick Cavett, in a satellite broadcast interview between McCarthy and Stone (on assignment in the Middle East), is, however, redeemed by the final moment: McCarthy peers into a television screen at her, as she,
in turn, looks piercingly for him, somewhere out there. It's a small romantic epiphany that is far more effective than all the heavy breathing and nudity which has preceded it. (Violence, sexual situations, adult situations, nudity.)
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Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: Overall, John Frankenheimer's YEAR OF THE GUN is an entertainingly trashy, occasionally even thought-provoking, political thriller. The story takes place in Rome, in 1978. David Raybourne (Andrew McCarthy) is an American journalist who becomes involved i… (more)