The chief problem here was one of miscegenation - the film was the result of an unholy experiment which had mated Le Carre with Hitchcock and then threw a sizeable chunk of Cubby Broccoli in for good measure. Clearly those involved hope there will be further offspring from this mad breeding programme. Discerning viewers will hope that the ungainly result is as sterile as a mule. It was certainly as stupid - assaulting the audience with an unending succession of impossibilities. Hitchcock, whose spirit made unhappy appearances in the story's appetite for McGuffins and red herrings (most notably a sinister dwarf), occasionally complained about viewers who nitpicked over implausibilities. But Hitchcock knew that you could only get away with them if the headlong rush of the story carried you past quickly enough. Here, they loom so large that the plot has no chance to build up momentum; no sooner is the train in motion than common sense has pulled the emergency cord again.
Jason plays an old Cold War spy coaxed out of retirement to assassinate an ex-KGB man as a favour to the Americans. The target is an old adversary who murdered Jason's lover (cue melancholy flashbacks) but who has now made good in the land of the free and is planning to run for the Senate. Quite why a tweedy irascible Brit would be hired to pull off a task of this sensitivity is never explained but, far from wanting to distance themselves from their contractor the Americans actually give him a police escort for the duration of his stay (there was an embarrassing attempt to pass this astonishing development off as a cunning ruse - hiding a thing in plain sight, etc - but it obviously takes place only so that some culture-clash banter can be added to the already curdled mix).
Affairs are then complicated by the fact that the target's daughter is kidnapped; the result, it transpires, of some incomprehensible double- trick on the part of the FBI. They should have left the job to the CIA, who usually undertake such murky operations and would have known that it is not a good idea to photograph your victim against a backdrop of local landmarks. But absolutely nothing made sense here, not even the way the film was cut together - which so mangled the basic grammar of editing that you were left with numerous unfinished sentences and non sequiturs. Then again, perhaps they simply wanted it to match the script - a charitable but ill-organised outing for the frail inhabitants of the Home for Retired Cold War Cliches.
Modern Times, currently in vigorous good health after the last series' mid-life crisis, delivered another strong film with The Generous Rich, Mark Phillips' exploration of plutocratic charity in New York. His film was Bonfire of the Vanities without the policemen - a wry examination of the ecosystem of the very rich, with its dependency on mutual favours and competitive display. Occasionally the questioning could have been a bit tougher - the woman who sighed and said how sad it was that she couldn't give more might have been asked how much she had spent on the floral centrepieces for her charity dinner (snow in Kansas had wiped out the flowering artichokes but, thank the Lord, relief supplies were being airlifted from Holland). I also thought Phillips was a little hard on Leon Levy, a Wall Street tai-pan who was obviously much smarter than he was allowed to appear. But you could forgive a lot for the awesome scenes of ego-grooming and moral peacocking which Phillips had captured on film - richly enjoyable in every sense.Reuse content