1991, PG-13, 99 min. Directed by Nicholas Meyer. Starring Gene Hackman, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Kurtwood Smith.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 25, 1991
So, the Cold War has de-escalated into a Big Chill. The question is: where does that leave the old spy guys? The answer: in less of an espionage thriller than a modern buddy caper. An over-the-hill CIA operative (Hackman) is now reduced to piddling corporate espionage. (In the dark of night he risks life and limb to break into buildings to recover critical trade secrets like stolen cosmetics formulas -- secrets that any desk-bound computer hacker could ferret out with the flick of a few buttons.) When the nuvo-CIA boys offer him an opportunity to dance one last waltz in the fast-disappearing old Berlin he, of course, consents to the task. He's to trade a couple million dollars (fronted to the U.S. by Colombian drug cartels) to the cash-hungry Soviets. A seemingly straightforward spy swap of one Russian for one American is also part of the scheme. Baryshnikov is the Russian spy who's been imprisoned in the U.S. for a number of years. But the plan begins to unravel and Hackman and Baryshnikov discover that the only players they can trust are each other. The spy plot continues at a steady move/counter-move pace but gradually what becomes more dramatic is the slow growth of kinship between the two principals. It's really standard buddy fare though its development between two Cold/Old Warriors is a nice twist. Hackman as always, believably inhabits his role while Baryshnikov is serviceable, though none too memorable. And here I digress...I've been noticing this new bonding rite in recent male buddy pictures. It involves two men leaping together across great (and somewhat ludicrous) heights. Remember Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman being catapulted over the high castle walls in Robin Hood? And Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson leap from atop a tall building into the far-flung safety of a swimming pool in Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. So too, Hackman and Baryshnikov jump to safety from a high window to the distant water below. I don't pretend to understand it yet. I just report it.