My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.

This week focuses on three films featuring actor Gene Hackman.


Under Fire (1983)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Rewatching Under Fire (it has been at least a decade since I last saw it), I asked myself why I admired the film so much. During the first third, the film flounders about from one conversation between journalists to another, establishing the characters but in no real emotional/personal way, and poses the question, “Where is this going?”

And then the story starts to take hold, the quest to find Rafael, the budding romance between Nick Nolte and Joanna Cassidy, and the internal struggle within Gene Hackman’s character. As the film continues, the scenes grow increasingly intense and sometimes disturbing. Jerry Goldsmith’s brilliant score carries us through the Third World war and Roger Spottiswoode captures the feeling of being on the ground in such situations. Nolte and Cassidy are both good. Cassidy especially feels like a tough woman who could survive in that line of work. Attractive but not Hollywood gorgeous, I wish the actress had been given more opportunities to lead pictures with her grounded, earthy quality. But both of those performers are overshadowed by Gene Hackman in one of his most under-appreciated parts.

Hackman’s character is the complex one, struggling with his love for Cassidy, his friendship with Nolte, his desire to quit these troubled countries and settle in a prominent TV position. The actor, one of these best we’ve ever had, balances all of this. His scene at the statue is moving and not overplayed. His other scene, you know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen the film, is devastating. Ultimately in a world of madness shown through the cyclical lives and work of its characters, from the journalists (do they really learn anything?) to the Ed Harris played mercenary (he’s also terrific), Hackman is the only one who sees the truth of the situation, who speaks with reason. And he is the reason to see the movie.

Watched on Tubi.


Under Suspicion (2000)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I always steered away from this late period Hackman thriller because of the negative reception it received and the scenes I’d caught on TV which looked overly flashy. I’m glad that I finally dispelled that bias because it’s actually a good movie.

Under Suspicion is worth watching just to see Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman in the ring again. These two sparring is cinematic candy, even if I think the casting of Morgan is an uninspired choice. Freeman is good but it feels like a role he’s played a hundred times. On the other hand, though Hackman is no stranger to playing forceful/dominant characters, the psychological and emotional journey of this one is unique.

Director Stephen Hopkins does overshoot and over-edit the hell out of this movie. It would be stronger if it had no flashy shots and cuts but even that can’t ruin a good and thought-provoking story. I love the ending especially, one that makes you ponder the process of our justice system.

Watched on Tubi.


Power (1986)

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

It seems that Sidney Lumet was trying to riff on his success with Network. Though I don’t adore that film the way most do, Power is even less underwhelming, despite a great cast.

It begins with a lot of promise, presenting Richard Gere in the kind of high energy role he plays best. The great Gene Hackman shows up as a drunken campaign manager, a part he’s not quite right for but he’s Hackman so of course he does it well. And then there’s a bunch of other solid supporting players (most underused) from Denzel Washington to E.G. Marshall to J.T. Walsh, Julie Christie, and Kate Capshaw. So Lumet has great people to work with but the problem is that nothing in this movie is unpredictable.

The film’s greatest sin is that it’s obvious. I saw every twist and turn of the story coming from a mile away. If it’s trying to say something about politics, the movie feels like it’s quoting too many others that said it better. For that reason, Power loses steam by the end of the first act and then plods along. The only juice left are the performances, which still make the movie worth watching. I’m glad I finally saw it.

Watched on Tubi.