Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This came out in 1996, and I saw part of it for some reason. Watching the complete film on Hulu gave me a revised perspective. It’s The Juror, starring Demi Moore as Annie Laird, the juror in question. It’s a crime thriller, along the lines of Experiment in  Terror from 1962. It’s from Columbia Pictures, and details are from Wikipedia.

It’s the kind of situation any citizen can come up against. You’re a juror in a trial against a violent and powerful criminal, and there is the temptation on the part of the accused to sway your opinion using means available to such people. That’s what this film is about.

In the opening scene a hired killer murders a gang member, and then he kills the man’s grandson before departing. The police have  wiretap evidence. There is a trial. Jurors are being selected. Annie Laird, a single mother, agrees to serve. She becomes an immediate target.

The hired killer is not on trial. His identity is not known to police. The person who hired him is on trial. That leaves the hired killer, Mark Cordell “The Teacher” (Alec Baldwin), available to pick up some extra cash by fixing the jury vote. He zeros in on Annie. Posing as an art dealer, he purchases a number of her sculptures and introduces himself. After a little romantic foreplay he reveals his true purpose. She will be required to vote “not guilty,” or she and her son will be killed. The Teacher has already planted listening devices in Annie’s house so he can keep close tabs.

The Teacher works from a rented storage facility, and when the owner gets too nosy he figures it’s necessary to eliminate him. This he does, and he forces Annie to watch.

Now the arguments at trial are over, and jury deliberations begin. Ten jurors vote to convict. Annie and another vote to acquit. Now The Teacher changes the rules. Annie must turn the jury completely around, else the threatened consequences will accrue.

And she does. Hour after hour Annie makes the argument for acquittal, eventually wearing down all opposition. The gang boss is acquitted.

Naturally the prosecutors are interested in Annie. They haul her in. She tells them they cannot help her. She has her safety and that of her son, Oliver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), at stake. The prosecutors have no such commitment.

But this catches the attention of The Teacher. Only, he has developed an attachment toward Annie. She is an attractive woman (hey! Demi Moore), and she is strong and capable. So he goes after her friend Juliet (Anne Heche), a doctor. He seduces Juliet and murders her in bed after a rousing sexual romp.

That is the straw that breaks Annie’s resistance. She takes her son to a remote village in  Guatemala and returns to work with the cops. She insists on wearing a wire in a meeting with The Teacher. But, unknown to the cops, Annie tucks another device deeper into her clothing. Meeting The Teacher, Annie discloses the first wire and removes it. Then, alone with The Teacher, she gets him to reveal his plans to overthrow his boss. Then she plays the recording to the boss.

The boss takes action, summoning The Teacher to a meeting that is held on some mud flats in New Jersey, upstream of the George Washington Bridge. An excellent place to dispose of a body.

But The Teacher has anticipated the plot, and he turns the tables on the gangsters, killing them all. Then he turns his vengeance on Annie.

Then he makes a mistake. He underestimates Annie. He tells her of his intent to go to Guatemala and kill Oliver. Then he catches a flight to Guatemala City. Annie is  too late. She can’t get on the flight. The Teacher is on his way to kill Oliver.

But there is a second flight. Annie is still behind The Teacher’s schedule. At the airport in Guatemala City The Teacher hitches a ride, then kills the driver and drives his car to the remote village. It’s a long drive. Too long.

Annie arrives in Guatemala City and cannot hire a car. She hires a plane, instead. Arriving in T’ui Cuch ahead of The Teacher. The Teacher spots Oliver in a crowd celebrating a local festival. Oliver lures The Teacher to an ancient structure, where local  gunmen are waiting. Annie fires the final, killing rounds into The Teacher. There is a certain amount of glee.

There is a certain moral dilemma here. Yeah, I can save my own skin and my son by playing along, and I am agreeable, in exchange, to accommodate the deaths of the rental dealer, the best friend, and the driver in Guatemala. Truth be known, the mobsters were never destined to be safe as long as Annie was still alive. And why not kill Oliver along the way?

There are some disconnects in the plot.

The gangsters decide to kill the hapless chump in the car by rolling over a cliff. In front of God and everybody? There could have been up to 50 witnesses to this crime.

Annie knows The Teacher is heading to Guatemala to kill Oliver. She can’t pick up a phone and tell the police? An official  call from the NYPD would have Guatemala police waiting to take The Teacher into custody when he stepped off the plane.

The Teacher carries two loaded handguns aboard an international flight? And passes through Guatemalan customs with them? No.

No, the movie needs the dramatic shootout in the closing scene to show good triumphing over evil in the biggest way possible. Even if much credibility needs to be stretched in between.

I first recall Demi Moore from Wisdom, the tale of a social dropout who resorts to crime as a protest against his life’s consequences. She is the hapless girlfriend of John Wisdom (Emilio Estevez), ending the film getting shot and killed as police close in. I have a copy of Striptease, about a single mother who earns a living taking off her clothing. My only regret about that movie is it does not involve more of her fabulous body, once featured au naturale on the cover of Vanity Fair. Opposite Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, she is foil to Cruise’s dominating character. Her Wonder Woman persona shines in G.I. Jane, where she gets to show off both her tough and her sexy sides. With an emphasis on tough. I will do reviews of these films when they become available.

Alec Baldwin created the film embodiment of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October. More recently he has moved to television comedy, lampooning President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.

I love Anne Heche in Six Days and Seven Nights, a comedic thriller played opposite Harrison Ford. It’s a romping adventure with the unforgettable scene that features Ford feeling around in  her crotch area for an wayward fish. A review is due.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Again, another I am viewing for the first time. It came out in 1990 and is based on Tom Clancy‘s first published novel of the same name. It’s The Hunt for Red October, and it stars  Alec Baldwin as CIA analyst Jack Ryan in the character’s premier appearance. This was distributed by Paramount Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

Opening scenes, as the titles roll, show a massive Soviet nuclear submarine, Red October, leaving the port of Murmansk and heading out on its maiden voyage. The captain is Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius (Sean Connery). The air is ominous.

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Meanwhile, Jack Ryan is in London, and he is poring over some drawings he has been given to analyze. He shortly says goodbye to his lovely wife and his daughter. He boards a plane for Washington, D.C., ignoring the stewardess’s advice to sleep on the flight. He is met at the airport and driven immediately to CIA headquarters. At the Patuxent River Naval Base he receives evidence that the new Soviet sub is powered by a magneto hydrodynamic propulsion “caterpillar” drive. Such a drive has no moving parts, allowing the submarine to move under water almost silently. It’s a major breakthrough.

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The Soviet plan is a surprise attack on the American East Coast, and Captain  Ramius’ plan is to circumvent this plan and defect, along with the sub and officers aboard. He starts by murdering the boat’s political officer, Ivan Putin (Peter Firth) after the two of them open the mission’s sealed orders.

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The captain  has previously left behind a note to his superior telling of his plan. When the note is delivered the Soviets immediately put into operation a mission to find and destroy Red October.

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Word comes through intelligence channels of the unfolding events, and Jack Ryan deduces the captain’s scheme. He has a Navy helicopter deliver him to the American SSN Dallas, which has been tracking the Red October. A crafty sonar operator aboard the Dallas has devised a means for tracking the silent Red October.

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Ramius’ scheme involves getting the enlisted crew off the boat without their knowing of the subterfuge. This he accomplishes through the ruse of a phony radiation leak. An American ship rescues the sailors while the officers remain aboard Red October to complete the defection. Jack and an American Navy captain board the Red October by means of a submersible rescue vehicle and negotiate the surrender. The plan is almost undone by a saboteur, who stays behind after the remainder of the sailors leave. A gunfight settles the matter, and the Soviet sub that is sent to destroy Red October, is destroyed by its own torpedo. The subterfuge is complete. Red October is apparently down in deep water with all its officers aboard. The disappearance of the soviet attack sub remains a mystery only to the Soviets.

Ryan and Ramius talk as Red October sails into hiding up the Penobscot River in Maine.

My own experience with anti-submarine warfare and sonar systems leaves me unable to make a critical assessment of the tactics involved in the plot. My first assignment as a software developer involved a system to automate (computers) the tracking of submarines with existing sonar gear (sonobuoys). That was in 1982, two years before Clancy’s book came out. Aboard the Dallas there is a master operator, Sonar Technician Second Class Ronald Jones (Courtney B. Vance), who has ears of gold. No computers are used to automate the tracking.

Red October defeats an attacking torpedo by heading directly down its path. This works because the torpedo strikes the nose of Red October before it reaches its arming distance. Clay Blair’s book Combat Patrol recounts tragic incidents from World War Two when American torpedoes ran wild and circled back toward the sub that fired them. An earnest assessment is that the Soviet torpedo should have armed long before striking Red October. It makes for good drama, however.

The destruction of the Soviet attack sub is unrealistic. The sub is hit by a lone torpedo and goes up in a cataclysmic explosion under water. No. That’s not what happens when a torpedo hits an underwater target. What should have happened was a significant underwater explosion from the torpedo warhead, followed by flooding of critical compartments aboard the sub, followed by rapid sinking and likely breakup of the boat on its way to the bottom. Not what viewers of the movie paid to see.

Alec Baldwin has since moved from impersonating CIA operative Jack Ryan to Saturday Night Live, where he is enjoying commercial success scewering President-elect Donald Trump.