Tag Archives: Steven Bauer

The Beast (1988, Kevin Reynolds)

The Beast has a lot going for it, so its failure to connect–which is wholly director Reynolds’s fault–is a bit of a disappointment. The second half of the film has an accelerated pace. While the whole thing takes place over a couple days, the second half is an odd combination of summary and real time. Reynolds can’t pull it off. Peter Boyle’s fine editing can’t hide it either.

And some of the problems are writer William Mastrosimone’s fault. After establishing this wonderful antagonism between George Dzundza (as a Russian tank commander in Afghanistan who starts to lose it) and Jason Patric (his sane, and humanist, subordinate), Mastrosimone fails at establishing the camaraderie between Patric and Steven Bauer (as a Mujahideen). Patric and Bauer are both good enough to create said camaraderie and Reynolds certainly tries to engage it. But then acting and directing aren’t enough and the relationship needs the script and Mastrosimone’s too busy playing Patric’s dimwitted fellow tankers, played by Stephen Baldwin and Don Harvey, for laughs. It’s strange, especially since the first half of the film is able to balance it all out.

All of the acting in The Beast is strong. Dzundza gets the flashiest role, but Patric’s great, Bauer’s surprisingly strong (especially since once he and Patric cross paths, he takes a backseat in all his scenes). Baldwin, Harvey (especially Harvey). The supporting cast–Erick Avari, Shoshi Marciano, Kabir Bedi–all real good. When The Beast peaks and starts to slide in the third act, it isn’t the fault of the actors.

Reynolds shoots either close-ups or long shots. Whenever he does a medium shot, it’s a surprise; he’s composing for the eventual home video, pan and scan release, which is simultaneously unfortunate and also the only way he could have done The Beast. The desolate backdrops and the close-ups of the tank’s moving parts set to Mark Isham’s minimalist score work towards a certain transcendence.

Except, of course, Douglas Milsome’s photography is shockingly flat. Coupled with Reynolds’s impatience, the film’s visual sensibilities works counter to Isham’s score and the acting tone.

The Beast makes an intense impression throughout, but not much of one as the end credits begin to roll. It’s very close to being successful.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Kevin Reynolds; screenplay by William Mastrosimone, based on his play; director of photography, Douglas Milsome; edited by Peter Boyle; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Kuli Sander; produced by John Fiedler; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Jason Patric (Koverchenko), George Dzundza (Daskal), Steven Bauer (Taj), Stephen Baldwin (Golikov), Don Harvey (Kaminski), Erick Avari (Samad), Kabir Bedi (Akbar), Shoshi Marciano (Sherina) and Chaim Girafi (Moustafa).


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Running Scared (1986, Peter Hyams)

Jimmy Smits is pretty good in Running Scared. He’s a believable bad guy, intimidating even.

I don’t know why I’m opening with Smits, maybe because I’m in a good mood and want to be generous with praise for an unlikely recipient.

Running Scared is a delightful action comedy; I didn’t realize how much I missed the genre until I watched this film again. I haven’t seen it in years–I think I watched my laserdisc copy once before the advent of DVD and it didn’t impress me as much as I thought it would, seeing it widescreen. I hope I’m remembering the details wrong, because Peter Hyams was such a great mainstream director, it’d be a shame if I was such a foolish youth I didn’t appreciate it. Running Scared is it for Hyams–after this one, he cooked one turkey after another. But this film has such wonderful direction–Hyams doesn’t just know how to compose a Panavision frame, he also knows how to do an action scene in one. He knows how to move the camera. Running Scared is a great example of the lost art of action direction. It’s got a distinctive style all its own (it doesn’t look like a bevy of nondescript music videos) with Hyams really making the Chicago locations (and Florida ones) essential to the picture.

Hyams is responsible for the film’s (effortless) artistry in filmmaking–I always forget the guy hasn’t always been a punch line (and his much maligned cinematography is quite good in Running Scared). But the film’s a success because of stars Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal (I kept thinking, as the film progressed, they had a stupid argument at one point but they never do, their friendship’s always perfectly in pitch–I was waiting for this imaginary scene as a pitfall… maybe it’s a post-end credit scene or something). They each have fabulous dialogue (the screenwriters went on to nothing else of note, which makes me suspiciously Hines and Crystal might have ad-libbed some of it or there’s some fine comedy writers who anonymously doctored their material) and Hyams, who never made another good comedy, knows how to cut it all together. This long conversation they have, cut into different scenes, works beautifully.

Running Scared is an example of a film excited with itself. It offers its audience a 107 minute diversion and it knows it’s working (if the film weren’t connecting with the characters and the humor throughout, it wouldn’t be able to carry itself to the conclusion, which is one of its major successes).

Hines and Crystal create these personalities–they’re characters too, but they’re somehow different. It’s a mix of characterization and comedic personality… like Crystal and Hines did a bunch of movies together (but they only did this one) playing these types. Running Scared feels like they must have done more; it’s a shame they didn’t.

The supporting cast is uniformly solid. They don’t have a lot to do (Crystal’s love interest, a fourth billed Darlanne Fluegel, is simply a blonde ex-wife, while Hines’s, played by Tracy Reed, gets to create a fuller character), but they’re good. Dan Hedaya is sturdy as the boss, Joe Pantoliano is sturdy as a scum bag–these are early examples of the roles both would go on to play for years (though Pantoliano doesn’t make quite the impression he made as Guido the Killer Pimp).

Running Scared was more than a pleasant surprise–about a half hour in I realized it was a heck of a lot better than I remembered it being. It’s just too bad about Peter Hyams though. He never should have left MGM.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Hyams; screenplay by Gary DeVore and Jimmy Huston, based on a story by DeVore; director of photography, Hyams; edited by James Mitchell; music by Rod Temperton; production designer, Albert Brenner; produced by David Foster and Lawrence Turman; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Gregory Hines (Ray Hughes), Billy Crystal (Danny Costanzo), Darlanne Fluegel (Anna Costanzo), Joe Pantoliano (Snake), Dan Hedaya (Captain Logan), Steven Bauer (Det. Frank Sigliano), Jon Gries (Det. Tony Montoya), Tracy Reed (Maryann), Jimmy Smits (Julio Gonzales), John DiSanti (Vinnie), Larry Hankin (Ace) and Don Calfa (Women’s Room Lawyer).


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