Year of the Gun

1991, R, 111 min. Directed by John Frankenheimer. Starring Andrew Mccarthy, Valeria Golino, Sharon Stone, John Pankow.

REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., Nov. 8, 1991

It didn't take a genius of casting to come up with McCarthy as a lightweight journalist hiding out from commitment and hard work in Rome in the 1970s. Unfortunately, just being a lightweight doesn't qualify anyone to play a lightweight. McCarthy's journalist gets swept up in dangerous intrigue when he meets a beautiful photographer, Stone, on the trail of the Red Brigade. He's been using Rome, its paranoid industrialists, streets and squares full of demonstrating students, and Red Brigade terrorists as background for his novel. Accidentally, this reluctant investigator comes too close to the truth and his novel crosses over into reality with the kidnapping of Aldo Moro. Sadly, Frankenheimer as filmmaker is doing the same thing as McCarthy's journalist. He's using a period in history when choosing sides seemed a life and death decision solely as a backdrop for a silly little love triangle between McCarthy, Golino and Stone. Golino, as McCarthy's mysteriously connected, and practically bed-ridden mistress, seems content to look petulant. When she gets more to do, we're not really surprised, but we haven't been prepared. Stone is never believable as a gutsy photographer, rather she seems a meddling fashion model who just happens to get in the way. As a point in history, the Red Brigades were an important landmark. Their activities, the contradictory feelings they confronted all of us with, began our modern era of hideous political complexity. Just being on one side or the other was not enough, it was necessary to examine motives and tactics when terrorism suddenly came into play and finally, the brutal killing of Moro put it into perspective. That moment saw the eclipse of the Red Brigade, but not of terrorism nor of oppression. The complicated questions brought to light in those days are still with us, yet Year of the Gun reduces it all to a travelogue. Frankenheimer is an action director, but as the director of Seven Days in May, The Young Savages, Black Sunday, he has had better luck tackling complex human interactions. Perhaps the biggest problem he faced here was that his humans -- the actors and their roles -- just aren't very complex.

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More John Frankenheimer Films
The Manchurian Candidate
Decades before U.S. intelligence got hip to the notion of "sleeper agents" in our midst, The Manchurian Candidate successfully tried out the idea in this post-Korean War setting. (Last year it was re-made in a post-gulf war setting.) The result is a chilling story about brainwashing, secret political agendas, power-hungry moms, and psychically ravaged veterans.

Marjorie Baumgarten, June 24, 2002

Reindeer Games
At one point in John Frankenheimer's Reindeer Games, harried casino boss James Banks, played by a frothing Dennis Farina, complains to a pair of Native ...

Marc Savlov, March 4, 2000

More by Kathleen Maher
Incident at Oglala
British filmmaker Apted makes a carefully reasoned, yet passionate statement about the legal system that has ensnared American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier.

July 10, 1992

Titicut Follies
Wiseman filmed conditions in the Bridgeport Mental Hospital with a bare minimum of crew and equipment, which resulted in a devastatingly candid view of life behind the high walls of a state mental hospital for the criminally insane.

July 10, 1992


Year of the Gun, John Frankenheimer, Andrew Mccarthy, Valeria Golino, Sharon Stone, John Pankow

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