of the Gun" on DVD
High Caliber Thriller
Director John Frankenheimer
has made some pretty nifty political thrillers over the years. His 1991
"Year of the Gun" doesn't reach the standards of "the Manchurian
Candidate" or "Ronin,"
but it's entertaining enough.
Andrew McCarthy as a young American journalist in Italy, working in his
spare time on his first novel - a political thriller based on the "Red
Brigade" group of Italian terrorists.
been using the names of real people in his draft and his main plot involves
a plot to kidnap Italian Premier Aldo Moro. Life in this work of art imitates
art far too closely, because it turns out that the Red Brigade is planning
to kidnap Moro, so when McCarthy's book falls into the wrong hands the
terrorists think he's on to them - and all the people named in the story
have real life stations (including the CIA) as outlined in the work of
the Hitchockian plot device of an innocent man caught up in a situation
not of his making - though movies like "North By Northwest"
did it much better. Still, it's hard not to feel empathy for the guy,
who just wants to live his life and make a hugely commercial novel without
being shot at - or worse.
Sharon Stone is very
good in her role of a photo journalist who lives to catch on film violence
unfolding around the world. She and McCarthy are thrown together - and
tarred by the same mistaken brush, though in Stone's case her innocence
of the situation isn't for a lack of trying to get involved.
Perhaps the most interesting
casting choice is that of John Pankow, Paul Reiser's cousin Ira from his
"Mad About You" sitcom. Pankow is an Italian professor who's
also part of the Red Brigade - at least on the periphery. He appears to
speak fluent Italian and while his character is quite likeable, it's definitely
a change of pace from the sitcom.
Valeria Golino plays
McCarthy's love interest, a woman who has the biggest secret of any of
them. She sucks you in, too, until a scene about halfway through the film
where she appears almost as a "Godmother" (a female Mafia Don),
chairing what's undoubtedly an important meeting of "we-don't-at-the-time-know-who."
The story is dated
now, but it holds up reasonably well. Frankenheimer's experienced hand
guides the film surely through its twists and turns, and he handles the
action and the violence well - never dwelling on the latter but making
it merely a part of the situation like any other.
The DVD is only in
"full screen" for some reason. It doesn't look panned and scanned,
though a disclaimer when you start the film tells you they've lopped off
the sides. The digitally mastered picture quality is very good. Audio
is Dolby digital and it sounds good as well, though it isn't Dolby Digital
There aren't a lot
of extras, either. You only get some production notes, via a liner note
essay, as well as chapter stops and a couple of extra Sharon Stone trailers.
Year of the Gun, from
Columbia Tristar Home Video
111 minutes, Fullscreen (1.66:1), Dolby Digital stereo
Starring Andrew McCarthy, Valeria Golino, Sharon Stone,
Produced by Edward R. Presman, Written by David Ambrose
Directed by John Frankenheimer
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