The Films of Peter Hyams
Goodnight, My Love
The Star Chamber
The Presidio (July 13/16)
The Presidio casts Mark Harmon as Jay Austin, a San Francisco police detective who's forced to team up with a military commander (Sean Connery's Alan Caldwell) after a murder is committed on the title army base - with the film detailing the pair's efforts at solving the crime and also Jay's burgeoning romance with Alan's fetching daughter (Meg Ryan's Donna). Filmmaker Peter Hyams opens The Presidio with an impressively exciting car chase that, when combined with the rousing introduction to Harmon's character, seems to lay the groundwork for a fast-paced thriller, and yet the movie quickly segues into a less-than-engrossing midsection devoted primarily to the mismatched protagonists' rather routine investigation. (It's clear, too, that the erratic narrative suffers from an ongoing emphasis on Jay and Donna's somewhat tedious relationship.) There's little doubt, then, that the film benefits substantially from Connery's typically magnetic performance and the sporadic inclusion of unexpectedly engrossing sequences, with the best and most obvious example of the latter a thoroughly captivating foot chase through San Francisco's Chinatown. (And one can't help but get a kick, of course, out of the interlude in which Alan takes down a barroom bully with just his thumb.) The lack of a compelling villain doesn't help the movie's uneven atmosphere, to be sure, although it's certainly hard to deny the effectiveness of the gleefully over-the-top shootout that closes the proceedings - which ultimately does confirm The Presidio's place as a watchable, occasionally enthralling '80s thriller.
End of Days
The Musketeer (September 5/01)
With The Musketeer, Alexandre Dumas' novel The Three Musketeers returns to the big screen for this umpteenth adaptation. But aside from a few creative wrinkles, this is just the same old story - as the film follows D'Artagnan (Justin Chambers) as he finds himself caught up in a complex story of intrigue and danger. Directed by Peter Hyams, The Musketeer certainly looks like no other adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' classic ever has; nothing is pretty in Hyams' world - bedrooms are dirty, tunnels are dank, and pubs are downright unsanitary. And to make all these places look even grungier, Hyams' has chosen to use natural lighting for most scenes. A sequence that finds the Musketeers skulking in a pitch-black tunnel has been lit only with the torches carried by the characters. When you get right down to it, though, this is just a talky drama; aside from a few brilliant action sequences, The Musketeer often resembles one of those low-budget historical chamber pieces you might find on PBS. The acting is uniformly good - Tim Roth, cast as an evil henchman, steals every single one his scenes - with the only real weak spot acting-wise being the lead. But those action sequences - the movie is almost worth seeing just for the final duel between Chambers and Roth - are stunning. Much has been made of the fact that the action choreographer also worked on The Matrix, but there's no obvious wire kung-fu here - just some kinetic, ballet-like action scenes. With its booming score by David Arnold and sweeping camera shots, it's obviously Hyams' attempt at an old-fashioned swashbuckling adventure. And while it mostly doesn't succeed, the few sword fights make this worth a trip to the theatre on a Tuesday.
A Sound of Thunder
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (May 18/11)
After a run of disappointing efforts like The Musketeer and A Sound of Thunder, Peter Hyams bounces back with an entertainingly absurd thriller that boasts several genuinely exciting interludes and an expectedly riveting performance from Michael Douglas. The film follows struggling reporter C.J. Nicholas (Jesse Metcalfe) as he becomes convinced that the local district attorney (Douglas' Michael Hunter) has been planting evidence to secure his convictions, which eventually leads C.J. to frame himself as a murder suspect to catch Hunter in the act. It's an almost jaw-droppingly ludicrous premise that is, for the most part, employed to better-than-expected effect by Hyams, there's little doubt that the movie does take a while to wholeheartedly get going - as Hyams offers up an underwhelming, thoroughly meandering opening half hour that's exacerbated by the film's palpably low-rent atmosphere (ie it's rather obvious that Hyams didn't have a tremendous amount of money to work with). The less-than-engrossing vibe persists right up until C.J. begins setting his plan into motion, after which point it becomes more and more difficult to resist the inherently compelling nature of the film's unabashedly outrageous narrative (ie the viewer is essentially forced to abandon all logic and embrace the ridiculousness of Hyams' screenplay). And although the movie does run out of steam towards the end as C.J.'s lawyer girlfriend (Amber Tamblyn's Ella Crystal) launches her own investigation, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt generally comes off as an above average thriller that seems to have been unfairly dismissed by most critics.