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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: McBain

Starring: Christopher Walken, Maria Conchita Alonso
Director: James Glickenhaus
Rated: R
RunTime: 104 Minutes
Release Date: September 1991
Genre: Action

*Also starring: Michael Ironside, Steve James, Jay Patterson, Thomas G. Waites, Victor Argo, Chick Vennera

Review by Dragan Antulov
2 stars out of 4

The audience in mid and late 1980s knew what to expect from an average American action films - heroes were almost always Vietnam War veterans, able and willing to use their deadly combat skills in order to exterminate drug dealers similar vermin and thus make the world a better place. One of the last titles to employ this formula was MCBAIN, 1991 action drama written and directed by James Glickenhaus.

The plot begins immediately after the end of Vietnam War when the group of retreating US Special Forces, led by Santos (played by Chick Venera), seeing the Viet Cong camp still containing American POWs, decide to break the armistice, raid the compound and liberate their comrades. Mc Bain (played by Christopher Walken), one of liberated POWs, promises that he would return the favour when the time comes. Eighteen years later, Santos is fighting another war, this time leading the impoverished masses of Colombian workers and peasants in a revolt against evil El Presidente (played by Victor Argo) and his oppressive and corrupt regime, backed by narco-cartels. His last desperate charge against El Presidente's palace ends in failure, and Santos is quickly executed in front of TV cameras. Santos' sister Christina (played by Maria Conchita Alonso) travels to New York and seeks McBain's help in continuing the fight. Being bound by honour, McBain quickly begins collecting the Vietnam War veterans and getting financial resources in order to set up a small army that would bring down Colombian dictator.

MC BAIN is a very odd film because it combines right-wing military jingoism of Reagan era with the images and views usually associated with the left-wing ideology. This is most evident in the character of Santos, who starts as someone determined to stop Communism from spreading in Southeast Asia, and ends like guerrilla leader whose methods, ideology and image is indistinguishable from Che Guevara. Ideological surrealism doesn't stop there - one of the characters is a greedy, Machiavellian arms dealer who suddenly sees the errors of his ways and embraces socialist love for his fellow man, while US government, far from being defender of Free World values, consists of clueless incompetents unable to clean up their own back yard. However, surrealism of MCBAIN goes way beyond ideological content - best seen in the scene featuring one of the most original (and, in the real life, highly impractical) methods of downing the hostile aircrafts.

Of course, all that means that MCBAIN could have been an almost unbearable film if everyone takes it seriously. However, action scenes, involving a lot of explosions and thousands of cheap Filipino extras, are reasonably well directed. The real worth of this film could be found in its therapeutic nature - every now and then we need to see a film which gives us something that real life lacks. In this case these are the scenes of poor and weak overcoming rich and strong, forces of Good triumphing and evil-doers getting what they deserve. This purpose is served even when the standards of quality film-making aren't met, yet this is the reason why the phrase "guilty pleasure" was invented in the first place.

Copyright 2002 Dragan Antulov

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