Saturday, January 22, 2011

Canon Movie Review: The Presidio

After watching and reviewing Sleepless in Seattle, a reader named Paul S. requested that I review an earlier Meg Ryan film. Well, I aim to please, so I decided to watch a Meg Ryan from 1988 titled The Presidio. In this film, Meg Ryan plays Donna Caldwell, the daughter of Lt. Alan Caldwell (Sean Connery), the Provost Marshal at the titular Presidio. In the Presidio, a break in leads to the murder of a Military Police officer, and San Francisco Police detective Jay Austin (Mark Harmon) is sent in to investigate. To complicate matters, he and Lt. Caldwell have had issues in the past, as Austin was a MP under Caldwell in the past, but after a case involving the arrest of a colonel, Caldwell did not back Austin, and the two have shared a dislike ever since. Also, Jay meets Donna, and the two start a romance of their own, much to the chagrin of Lt. Caldwell. Despite all this, the two are forced to work together to solve the murder, even if each man wants nothing to do with the other. Directed by Peter Hyams, The Presidio also stars Jack Warden, Mark Blum, Dana Blackstone, and Jenette Goldstein. A few notes about this film, and there are SPOILERS, so read with caution.

- There's a lot of storylines going on in The Presidio, from the murder case, to the uneasy partnership between Caldwell and Jay to Donna's relationship with and her feud with her father to the whole story between Caldwell and his friend Russ McClure (Warden). In fact, there was probably too much going on, and it doesn't help that the plot has some serious pace problems. For example, it seems as if the movie spends 15 minutes or so detalining Donna's story, then forgets about her for a half hour or so while the case is being investigated, then bam, there's suddenly like eight scenes in a row with Donna in them.

- This film is chock full of cinematic cliches, I tell you what. Since the movie is set in San Francisco, the movie has a Bullitt-like car chase full of cars driving down the hilly roads. There's the two cops that hate each other storyline between Connery and Harmon (even though one's a military officer, he basically acts like a cop in the film). Also, there's a shootout at a factory, which just about every other action film made in the 1980s had. There's also a surprise twist at the end that seemed to be thrown in just for the sake of having a surprise twist at the end, as it didn't make a whole lot of sense and wasn't really explained that well, and there's also a bar fight scene for no good reason at all (although at least it was somewhat different, as Lt. Caldwell beat up generic loud-mouth tough guy #24 just by using his right thumb).

- You would think that a movie titled The Presidio filmed at the actual location of The Presidio would be primarily set at, you know, the Presidio. But after the first few minutes or so, the Presidio is barely used at all as a setting for the film. Instead the movie just turns it into another typical whodunit case where the two cops travel all through San Francisco, the only real difference being that most of the characters are involved in the military. However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, as Hyams is a talented cinematographer and uses his setting of San Francisco to maximum effect through his cinematography. Every scene is well lit and nicely shot. But it is kind of odd that the actual Presidio wasn't utilized that much in this film.

- As for the acting in The Presidio, well I didn't think it was too bad, even though the script didn't give them too much to work with. Connery does an excellent job as Lt. Caldwell, although he plays a rather similar role in the Untouchables. Still, his acting gives this film some needed credibility. Harmon is decent in the role of Jay Austin, but one wonders how Kevin Costner would have done with this role, as it was rumored that he was once signed on to star in this project. While Harmon is able to hold his own in scenes with Ryan and Connery, his attempts to give his character an edge didn't exactly come across that well, especially his first scene where he stares down a criminal with a gun pointed at him and disarms him with tough talk and his bare hands. To me, it seemed stupid, but whatever. Ryan is pretty good in this film, although her character isn't exactly that well-written. Nevertheless, she's able to make the best out of it and makes Donna seem likable, whereas other actress given a similar character could not make her sympathetic towards the audience. The supporting actors weren't too bad, although I didn't really see Mark Blum (who played former CIA Agent Arthur Peale) as a convincing bad guy.

While The Presidio isn't too bad, I suppose, but it does seem to be suffering from an identity crisis. The Presidio is part action flick, part romantic flick, and part cop drama, all with a military overtone over the storyline. Instead of concentrating on one element, the writers and director decided to pack this film with many different narratives that hardly intertwine with each other, almost making it seem as if it was two different films. But the acting, cinematography, and score are all above-average, and make this film somewhat enjoyable.

Overall, while The Presidio got a great performance from Connery and had some high points, there are too many issues with the plot that keeps the film from being great, and drags it down into run-of-the-mill territory. I'd give it a 5.3 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this or other posts, or ideas for future posts, than let me know about them either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

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