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John McTiernan

The Thomas Crown Affair – John McTiernan (1999)

  • crime

In the time that Pierce Brosnan also played James Bond, he also played Thomas Crown. A similar part, but in a way, here he is the ‘bad guy’.

Thomas Crown is an extremely rich business man with a love of art. As a sort of game, he decides to steal a painting of Monet from a museum that he visits daily. One of the investigators of the heist is Catherine Banning (Rene Russo), a self-certain employer of the insurance company that insured the Monet for $ 100 million that they rather not pay.

Banning quickly finds out that Crown got his hands on the painting and in a way of testing who is the most cunning, the two start to grow closer and closer. The film is not so much a ‘whodunnit’, but rather a ‘who is going to win’. The result is an amusing crime movie.

Last Action Hero – John McTiernan (1993)

Even though 46 at the time, a young looking Schwarzenegger is the main character in a series of action movies. The teenager Danny is a huge fan and a magic ticket transports him into a movie in which Jack Slater is that main character.

I found this film because it supposedly combined comic book elements with film. There is -indeed- a cartoon cat in two scenes. For the rest the film is a bit of a screwball action film. The story is better than the film itself. Schwarzenegger is actually quite funny, but I am not too fond of kids in major parts.

McTiernan took the opportunity to experiment with filming going from 1950’ies black and white to hip action stunts. Also he opened a can of (then) famous actors towards the end.

Basic – John McTiernan (2003)

I usually have some ‘spare films’ for when I did not receive my rental films yet. A while ago I bought a box with four thrillers from the early 00’s. “Basic” is the second that I watched.

John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, that could be something, right? “Basic” certainly is not a boring film. A group of rangers disappear during a training. They appear to have attacked each other. Hardy (Travolta) is sent to investigate the matter, mostly the role of West (Jackson), a brutal trainer. The story is told in flashbacks as the survivors are interrogated and while Hardy and Osborne (Connie Nielsen) try to reconstruct the events.

The conclusions twist and turn until the viewer no longer has any idea ‘who dunnit’ and then comes the knockout.

Not bad, but not much better than similar films from this period.

The 13th Warrior * John McTiernan * 1999

This is indeed a very old film and -like myself- you have probably seen it a few times already, but just in case you don’t or you want a litle bit of background information…
The director of the “Die Hard” films has made a film about Vikings. This is interesting in a way, especially now that this whole Germanic history has had my interest for a while. On the other hand, when you know ‘too much’ about the subject, the story of this film has a few definate flaws.
The film is about a Muslim pain-in-the-ass who is send to the Northern parts of Europe to be ambassador. Early in his trip he runs into a group of “Norsemen” who apparently sailed the rivers of the Baltic area scaring the local peoples. This IS possible, because the Vikings came as far as the Black Sea. Somehow the ship of Vikings hear that a small tribe somewhere in Scandinavia needs their help. A weird woman (probably meant to be a wise woman or “Völva”) says that 13 warriors have to go to help the tribe in need and the 13th warrior cannot be a Norseman. So the Arab travels with the Vikings. During the trip the Arab speaks English and the Norsemen Swedish (I think), but by listening “Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan Ibn Al Abbas Ibn Rashid Ibn Hamad” learns Swedish and from then everybody speaks English (to the viewer of course). The small community is terrorised a ghost-like warriors which they call “Wendol”. I don’t know where these “eaters of the dead” are supposed to go back to, but they are fashioned after the famous “Berzerkrs” of the Nothern mythology. The Wendol are black, inhuman (ghostly) and dress in boar skins. Their ‘symbol’/goddess is a head- and limbless statue of a fat woman, much like the Kostienko or Willendorf statues, but without a head. The two statues that I name are some 23000 years old and were found in Russia and Austria and they probably represent mother earth or at least fertility. The Wendol worship their goddess in a cave and with the aid of a priestess. The heads of the people they killed are offered to the goddess. This headhunting is (as far as I know) more something of the far East. You can see, the film is a bit of a mishmash of elements. Better are the Viking honour elements. Ahmed is surprised to hear how his Viking friends think about life/fate (everything is predisposed), death (death in battle a crown to life), honour, comradship and the like. These parts give a nice view on the Viking way of life and make the film worth to watch. It is handy to know what is ‘no-so-Viking’, so here you have a few of my thoughts.