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.