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August 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
"Bryan D. Mccann" <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 9 Aug 1994 23:44:22 EDT
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Please Post:
Clear and Present Danger is an insipid, stupidly predictable, hackneyed
Hollywood vehicle, which should come as a surprise to no one. The narrative
is formulaic, the characters are thinly-drawn and unconvincing and the dialog
is so wooden it is frequently laughable ("It's that old Potomac two-step,
Jack..."--"Sorry, Mr. President...I don't dance.") when it is not nauseating
("Remember, Jack, you took an oath to your boss...not the President, but his
boss...the American People!"...this from James Earl Jones, gurgling and
spitting on his death bed).
     Even more irritating is the way this film falls back on the same
insidious contrivances that destroyed Patriot Games. Many of you have
probably read Q. Tarantino's wicked reduction of that schlock-fest, from an
interview by Dennis Hopper, reproduced in last month's Harper's. Tarantino
waxes vitriolic about the climax, in which the arch-villain dies by falling
on a sharp anchor. Tarantino correctly observes that "You should go to movie
jail for killing your villain by having him fall on an anchor. You have
violated the rules of good cinema." (Paraphrase.)
      Well, it happens again in Clear and Present Danger, or nearly so. I
will refrain from giving away the plot, even though there is absolutely
nothing suspenseful about this eminently derivative climax. Suffice to say
that Harrison Ford escapes his nemesis through the unconscious agency of
   This miserable plot resolution arises out of the perceived need for two
plot elements: one, Ford must fight hand-to-hand with the villain; and two,
Ford must not dirty his hands or conscience by directly killing the villain.
When forced together, these elements destroy any potential thrill of the
denoument. Needless to say, however, the bulk of the audience adored it,
hanging slack-jawed and glassy-eyed through every unspeakably trite segment.
   Another sour note: Ann Magnuson, the formerly brilliant performance artist
and member of the seminal postmodern punk outfit Bongwater, plays a giddy,
brainless secretary too busy gushing over her latin romeo to think about the
security of her drug-addled nation. What is more depressing, that they
offered her the role, or that she accepted and played it so sickeningly
straight? I fear that this proves again that the so-called counterculture is
nothing more than a training ground for the big-money league. Magnuson will
probably return to the arts circle and do a scathingly witty performance
piece about her dreadful, but disturbingly alluring days in Hollywood. But
the inevitability of such a piece does not negate the very real evidence that
Magnuson has sold out in the most demeaning manner.
Any thoughts?
Bryan McCann